Crape Myrtles Are The Essential Summer Tree

If you live in the southern half of the country, you know just how brilliant Crape Myrtles can be. Their colorful blooms just light up summer gardens in a variety of colors and shades. Even in winter, their colorful trunks and multi-stem habit provide welcome interest when not much else is going on in the landscape. They are easy to grow and have few pest problems. Just about the only real problem with Crape Myrtles is that they tend to be over used which may diminish their uniqueness. Still, a plant that has so much to offer deserves a place in your garden.

Growing Crape Myrtles

Crape Myrtles do best in Zone 6-10. They require full sun (at least 6 hours a day) and well-drained soil is a must. One of the true benefits of Crape Myrtles is that they actually thrive in humid conditions. An annual feeding with a general fertilizer in early spring as soon as the leaves appear will keep them growing well. Do not over fertilize them. This will cause excessive leaf growth and fewer blossoms. We do not want that now do we.

Pruning A Crape Myrtle

This is an important topic to cover. For far too long the practice of hard pruning Crape Myrtles back to the same height year after year. This has been called “Crape Murder” as it causes the plant to have a distorted look over time.

Crape Myrtles flower on new growth so it is important to prune them early in the season as to not cut off developing buds. January through early March prior to growth is the best time.

To achieve a nice multi-stem form, remove all but 3-5 main trunks. Next, remove an crossing branches and branches that are growing through the plant. Finally, prune tips back to below last year’s spent flowers. Performing these pruning tasks will assure a nice, open and full Crape Myrtle.

Pests of Crape Myrtles

Although Crape Myrtles have few pest problems, there are a few issues to be on the lookout for.

Powdery Mildew is probably the worst of Crape Myrtle’s problems. Look for a white-gray dusty coating during hot, humid days. Powdery Mildew is easily treated with a mixture of one tablespoon baking soda and one-half teaspoon of liquid, non-detergent soap with one gallon of water, and spray the mixture liberally on the plants. There are several fungicides that will work as well.

Sooty Mold is a dark gray-black coating caused by the secretion of insects such as aphids. Get rid of the aphids and the sooty mold will eventually go away. Treat for aphids using insecticidal soap or horticultural oil at a summer rate.

Leaf Spot is a fungal issue resulting in yellow, orange and/or black spotting on the leaves. A sulfer or copper based spray will take care of leaf spot.

Varieties of Crape Myrtles

There are dozens of Crape Myrtle varieties in a multitude of colors and varieties available. Here are some of our favorites:

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Tuscarora’

  • Probably one of the best known varieties.
  • Flower Color: Bright Pink
  • Mature Size: 14’-16’
  • Form: Multi-Stem Tree

 

 

 

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’

  • Flower Color: White
  • Mature Size: 19’-21’
  • Form: Multi-Stem Tree

 

 

 

 

Lagerstroemia ‘Pokomoke’

  • Flower Color: Pink
  • Mature Size: 2’-5′
  • Form: Rounded Shrub Form

 

 

 

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Powhatan’

  • Flower Color: Purple
  • Mature Size: 15’-20’
  • Form: Multi-Stem Tree

 

 

 

Lagerstroemia ‘Zuni’

  • Flower Color: Dark Lavender
  • Mature Size: 8’-10’
  • Form: Multi-Stem Small Tree

 

 

Lagerstroemia ‘Yuma’

  • Flower Color: Dark Lavender
  • Mature Size: 6’-20’
  • Form: Multi-Stem Tree

 

 

 

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