Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday's Trees- Crape Myrtle

This week's tree is a very versatile plant...both tree and shrub depending on variety. Once again our friend Les at A Tidewater Gardener did a wonderful post on some of the Crape Myrtle around town. It is truly a plant used in the landscape in the south.

There are multiple colors and sizes from which to choose. Every year there are more cultivars coming onto the market. When I first planted Crape Myrtles in my Texas landscape there were few small varieties available, now there are quite a few. Crape Myrtles, Lagerstroemia indica, are available in miniature shrub form to medium tree. The mistake many people make is trying to put a medium tree in a space where they want a small tree.

Too much pruning or incorrect pruning is hard on a tree. Many landscape companies pollard Crape Myrtles and this is an invitation to shorten the life of this plant. I was schooled in the Master Gardener course work under Jim Orband, York County Cooperative Extension. Proper pruning techniques are taught to and by the Master Gardener group. A great publication was put together in direct application for pruning and caring for Crape Myrtles.

In our Learning Garden we have two of the small shrub varieties of Crape Myrtle. Both are nicely shaped shrubs that require little if any pruning.

Both are about 4 or 5 years old. Chickasaw has a smaller leaf than the Pocomoke.

Besides pruning errors, incorrect placement in the garden impedes blooming.

This poor little tree has seldom bloomed. You can see how shaded it is from the oaks in the same yard.

Crape Myrtle are prone to powdery mildew, though newer varieties are being advertised as mildew resistant. I have one of these varieties. Dynamite is a super red and very disease resistant.

This beauty is in my ballet teacher's garden. Mature Crape Myrtles are wonderful, they give beauty in the summer with their blooms, fall with their foliage color and in the winter you see exfoliating bark many varieties have.

As I said earlier, Crape Myrtles are used in the landscape -- sometimes with multiple plantings of the same color....

And sometimes with many colors...

In addition to the York County publication mentioned above, there are some wonderful websites to explore all the different colors and sizes of this plant.

One is http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/trees/crapemyrtle/index.html click on the link Variety Characteristics by Name and the link Variety Characteristics by Size. These are two links that have pictures of groupings of various colors and size.

http://www.fast-growing-trees.com/CrapeMyrtles.htm is another site that gives information on individual trees.

Many of the Crape Myrtles have Indian names. These are cultivars developed in the United States and are some of the more mildew resistant. Some of the new varieties are more cold hardy and more compact in growth pattern.

I hope you check out some of the Crape Myrtles...perhaps there is one for your garden!!

Fall color varies with the Crape Myrtle. Here are a couple great examples of great fall color.

Next week is Shagbark Hickory....come back!


  1. Crape Myrtles are gorgeous trees Janet. This was a good choice to feature. Maybe there is one for me? I'd sure like to have one brightening up my backyard.

  2. Love love LOVE the crepes! You are right it is so hard to know what size crepes will be and putting a too big tree in a small spot is not good. Guilty! When I was buying some I found the info on the tags was sorely lacking and they all said the same thing. I found a good resource and printed the different types so now I carry that with me when purchasing a crepe-all five pages:) It helps. I love that Dynamite Red. That might be the cultivar of red I've been looking for.

  3. Great information on our beloved crapes! I hate to see "crape murder" around in the landscapes. The same thing is done to forsythia -- it is NOT supposed to get a flat-top hair cut!

    Our Tuscaroras were a month late in reaching peak this year. Last year, they had bowling ball sized blooms on July 15. They have just reached that point this year. We added Muskogee this year. Our White Chocolate (my favorite for a smaller size to mix in the border) is starting to bloom -- white on maroon-chocolate foliage.


  4. Interesting post Queen Janet. You reinforce the current understanding that plants feed on sunlight to produce flowers!

  5. I've always loved crape myrtles, but they're generally not hardy here in zone 5. I recently saw some smaller varieties at our Lowe's that are supposed to be root hardy here. I was tempted!

  6. Queen Janet~~ :) I have both a small tree and shrub crape myrtle. The tree is just coming in to bloom. Powdery mildew has never been an issue, thankfully.

  7. Janet -- What pretty Crape Myrtles you have. And I love that you are trying to educate people about proper pruning. It's so annoying to see them being butchered around town. I have a row of 7 huge white ones along the driveway, and a few pinks and a lavender -- sadly, I didn't plant most of them so I don't know their names, but I sure enjoy them and they are enjoying this heat -- so good for them!

  8. I am going to get a swelled head. Have you seen any of the new Dazzle series of miniatures? They all stay around 2', have very small leaves and come in several colors. My fav is 'Cherry Dazzle', it has a luscious color, not unlike watermelon flesh.

  9. Hi everyone, so glad that many of you have or want to have Crape Myrtles!
    Kathleen, I am sure there is one for your area. As I told Rose, my sister lives in mid-Kansas and has a Crape Myrtle.

    Tina, Think you will like Dynamite! You NEED one! ;-) Good thinking carrying info with you. I get frustrated that plants are mislabeled.

    Cameron, I think White Chocolate is a really interesting variety. Forsythia and many other beautifully shaped shrubs are hacked into shapes ...ugh!

    Hi Bangchik, it is amazing how plants really need the correct conditions (sunlight, etc.) for them to thrive.

    Hi Kylee, I think there are some that are supposed to be hardy to zone 5, I can't guarentee that though. Think they are the Dazzle series.

    Hi Grace, don't you love the assorted sizes of CM? Glad yours has no mildew issues. Of all my CM only one has mildew...not very bad, just a little on one limb.

    Diana, hi! I first fell in love with CM when we lived in Texas and thought they were great for such a long time in the growing season.

    Hey Les, you don't need to get a swell head. ;-) You just happened to share some info that was worth repeating with a link.
    As for the Dazzle series, I read a lot about them, but haven't seen any (that I remember). It has been a few days since I read about Dazzles, but I seem to recall that Michael Dirr did some tests on these as a new cultivar.

  10. These are such beautiful trees, as I've often said before, Janet. I've seen your sister's trees, now I need to check out that link to see if a variety will grow in Illinois as well. Good advice about the pruning and planting; I think that's true of a lot of trees. We have a huge spruce tree that was planted too close to the house; by the time we moved here, it was too big to move. I'm afraid we may have to cut it down one day.

  11. Glad you came through NC today. I sure wished you had stopped by. I'm a good bit west of where you were though.

    I'm a Crape/Crepe/Krape myrtle fan. Ha!, I've seen it spelled a gazillion ways. They are so pretty right now. I'm waiting on mine to grow up.

  12. hello from Ireland, we have a Seaford here too, but our one is Seaforde, just down the road from me :D

  13. I was noticing all the beautiful crepe myrtles on the way home from visiting my daughter yesterday. It is one that loves the heat and can be planted in hot spots such as medians, street side, parking lots. etc. So, if you have a hot sunny place in your garden where something blooming in August is desirable, choose crepe myrtle.

  14. Hi Janet, I love crape myrtles too. A tree from my childhood in Oklahoma, they were planted in nearly every yard, and way back then, never pruned! I love the big old fashioned ones that have been allowed to mature naturally, but also love to see them limbed up to show off the bark interest. They give so much and ask so little. :-)

  15. Crape Myrtles are beautiful! Thanks for the links, too, to check out other websites.

  16. I love Crape Myrtles -- they are so tough, colorful and beautiful.

    PS I love Shagbark Hickories too! Awaiting your next installment.. :)

  17. Hi Rose, I am waiting to hear that you have planted a bunch of crape myrtles!! what fun! Sorry to hear you have a giant spruce that will need to go.

    Anna! Hello!! I think you told me that last time I went down the interstate...one day.
    I have seen it spelled two ways...but not with a K!

    Barry, I knew there was a Seaford in our state of Delaware (I am in Virginia) but I didn't know about England. How fun!!

    Hi Donna, Crapes really do love the sun and the heat! I was surprised to see them in the narrow median on the interstate around Raleigh this weekend. Amazing plants!

    Hi Frances, I wish we would go back to minimal pruning on these beauties. Limbing up to show off the trunks is good!

    Miss Daisy-- again, welcome!! Hope you can use the links for future gardening.

  18. Sweetbay, we must have crossed paths in cyberspace... glad you enjoyed the Crape Myrtle posting. Got some good pictures of Shagbark Hickories this week!

  19. Hi, There!

    I'm really curious what type of crepe myrtle your ballet teacher has. I'm trying to plant the same light pink blossoming variety in my mom's front yard for Mother's Day!

    - Sri

  20. Sri, I am not sure what kind of crape myrtle my ballet teacher has. She has no idea either. If you want to go to this web site you can see a variety of crape myrtles. http://www.usna.usda.gov/graphics/usna/Newintro/USNA_CrapeMyrtlePoster.pdf
    Additionally, there is a variety called...Rhapsody in Pink that is gorgeous and the leaves are darker, almost burgundy.

  21. Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing.

  22. Wow Crepe Myrtles plants produce smooth and oval shaped leaves in dark green colour, which will change to yellow, orange or red before falling.Thanks for sharing this great blog.


If you use "Anonymous" please sign your name so I know who you are...there is a lot of spam out there. Thanks for visiting today. The Queen would be pleased if you left a comment...... :-D thanks! I do respond to your comments, you can click on the email followup comments to have it in your inbox.

I am now moderating all comments. Too much spam is coming through. Sorry folks.