Crape Myrtle- Which Crape Myrtle Varieties Are Best?

Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, is known for its showy summer blooms. Crape myrtles are the southern belle of small flowering trees and large shrubs. Find facts and information on some of the best varieties of crape myrtles and find out how to grow and care for them.

Crape Myrtle Facts

Crape myrtles, a deciduous flowering tree or shrub, grows in Zones (6) 7-9 and may reach heights of 15-25’ by 12-20’ wide. There are so many varieties that you should be able to find a variety that will grow in your area. They have a rounded form and medium texture, but are fast growing also. Crape myrtle varieties come as dwarfs, miniatures, tall trees, and medium height trees. They are often used as specimen plants, in shrub borders, and as hedges.

"Crape Myrtle"

Crape Myrtles come in many varieties

Crape myrtle makes a handsome small specimen tree with showy flowers, good fall color, and interesting bark. The curiously crinkled, showy flowers appear in terminal clusters in mid-to late summer, and come in colors of pinks, purples, reds and white. The name is often spelled as crepe myrtle because the crinkled flowers resemble crepe paper. The bark is smooth and gray, exfoliating to expose various-colored under-bark.

The dark green summer foliage usually turns yellow orange or red in fall. Crape myrtle is best suited for southern gardens, where the climate is hot and sunny. It prefers moist, well-drained. It prefers moist well-drained soil and full sun. At temperatures below −10 degrees, the plant dies back to the ground and grows as a herbaceous perennial.

Growing Crape Myrtle (Crepe Myrtle)

Water newly planted trees as needed in their first 2-3 years. Mature specimens are somewhat drought tolerant but require watering in dry summers. Feed plants with plant food, such as Miracle-Gro, each spring. Because crape myrtles bloom on new growth, they also may be cut almost to the ground when dormant. This will maintain a flowering shrubby form. Prune in early spring, shortening the previous year’s shoots by one-half to one-third of their length. Cutting off old flower heads in summer can promote a second and third round of flowering. Remove suckers to maintain the plant as a tree with distinct trunks. Crape myrtles will resees itself prolifically.

"Crepe Myrtle"

Red 'Dynamite' Crape Myrtle Tree

Transplanting Crape Myrtles

You can transplant a container-grown or balled-and-burlapped crape myrtle in spring into a moist, heavy loam or clay soil in the acid range of 5.0 to 6.5. A plant that appears to have been killed by winter cold will often send up branches that will flower.

"Crape Myrtles'

'Pink Velour' Crape Myrtle

Propagation of Crape Myrtle is done in late spring to early summer by taking cuttings.

Pests and Diseases include powdery mildew, black spot, and leaf spots. Sufficient space between plants will increase air circulation and reduces powdery mildew. Plant mildew-resistant cultivars and destroy any fallen foliage to reduce diseases. Insect pests include aphids, Japanese beetles, and scale. Crape myrtles seem to be a magnet for aphids, upon whose excrement sooty mold grows. This can give the leaves a gray coating that is not harful but is unsightly.

Best Crape Myrtle Varieties:

  • ‘Catawba’ has violet purple flowers and orange-red fall color and is mildew resistant.
  • ‘Centennial’ was selected for its small size and bright purple flowers.
  • ‘Centennial Spirit’ has neon red flowers and red-orange fall color.
  • ‘Natchez’ has white flowers and cinnamon-brown bark.
  • ‘Watermelon Red’ has vivid red flowers and golden fall color.
  • ’Potomac’ an Egolf hybrid, has pink flowers.
  • ‘Seminole’, Egolf hybrid, has medium pink flowers.

*The late Dr. Egolf’, of the U.S. National Arboretum, has 7-9’ semi-dwarf introductions that are easier to prune, and make great hedges and back-of-the-border plants. Some of these include the following:

  • ‘Acoma’ semi-dwarf, with white flowers with purple-red fall color.
  • ‘Hopi’ medium pink flowers.
  • ‘Pecos’ clear pink flowers.
  • ‘Zuni’ with dark lavender flowers and orange-red fall color.
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