Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lagerstroemia indica: 5 Reasons for Growing Crape Myrtle

During the winter, my Deep South garden depends on Camellias for color, followed by Azaleas in Spring and Gardenias in June.  The rest of the summer we delight in Crape Myrtles.

1. Crape Myrtles love heat and humidity.
2. Crapes are fragrant. You seldom hear that mentioned but
they have a very sweet scent, noticed up close.
3. Beneficials visit Crape Myrtles, bees were swarming here when I was making pictures.

The Crape Myrtle in the previous picture will be limbed up
to match this one on the opposite side. He-who-mows had
Crape Flowers in his shirt after he mowed.
4. Crape Myrtles have beautiful exfoliating bark.
Older trees have smooth trunks.

5. Grumpy Gardener once said that Crapes come in different colors so you can choose just one.
I have four colors but try to group like colors. I use more of 'Lilacina' than any other.
In the fall, the leaves do add some color after bloom is over.
Multi-stemmed trunks add a sculptural look.
Crape Myrtles are not picky about soil being acid or alkaline. They
do require good drainage.
Moving a crape is best done after they lose their leaves in fall. One moved in summer may sulk for a year and look dead but finally put out leaves. I would not intentionally stress one this way.
Propagation can be by seeds, cuttings or by suckers. Cutting the roots will cause them to throw new plants on the roots which can then be moved in cold weather.


  1. Oh, how I wish Crape Myrtles would grow in my climate! I'm glad to say my daughter, in New Jersey, has one that I can enjoy when I visit. P. x

  2. Can't argue with any of these reasons.

    I will add that I've read from some online sources that Crapes prefer acidic soils, but they seem to grow fine in my neutral soil. I may add a bit of acidic fertilizer next spring just to see if it gives them a boost, but they really don't need any supplements (another point in their favor!)

    Just to balance things out, I will add a couple of negatives for Crapes in the Mid South (colder part of zone 7):

    1) They hold onto their leaves fairly late (which is nice) and they do have good fall color, but they are quite late to leaf out in the spring, so you'll be staring at bare branches from around December to April. I presume they're much less bare in the Deep South?

    2) The seed pods can be a little messy and they do self-sow a bit (at least Natchez does in my garden). That could be a good thing if you want free plants, but it means you may have to add crape myrtles to your list of 'weeds' to pull in the spring.

    Other than that - I agree, they're definitely a star of the Southern garden!!

  3. Thank you, Pam. You can grow Lilacs. It's a trade-off.

    Aaron, I agree they are bare almost into May. I don't mind. Vitex does the same thing. There are plenty of evergreens here taking center stage ahead of the Crapes.

    The seeding about tendency is how I came by Natchez, from the Colonel's Lady's garden. Her daughter pulled up several for me.

  4. Your crepe myrtles are beautiful. Mine have yet to bloom but I suspect because they are not established. One thing I have read time and again, is the term "crepe murder" I am afraid I have yet to understand why the pruning is so horrible. I have not pruned my crepe myrtles from last year nor the new ones.

  5. Crape Murder is the practice of cutting big Crapes back to the same point on the trunk every year, leaving an ugly bunch of fist-sized knobs during the winter. In the spring, new limbs sprout and there is a canopy of foliage and blooms on usually a single trunk. It's done by people who maintain landscapes to keep the trees in bounds in a quick manner. People see Crape Myrtles done this way and think it is correct. Landscape architects and other designers disparage this practice in favor of cutting too-long limbs back to a Y and not cutting shoots that are larger than a pencil. The fix for murdered Crapes is to cut them back to the ground and start over.

    Late winter is the time to prune. I cut off low branches at any time to shape my trees and remove new shoots.

  6. So beautiful! While my garden is also in zone 8, we don't get the summer heat and humidity that these gorgeous shrubs need! They're hardy but don't bloom for me. Thanks for sharing them!

  7. we inherited unkindly pruned crepe myrtles (Pride of India to me). But I do have one tree with a graceful curved arch. Love the cinnnamon bark and need to harvest a volunteer for the new garden.
    PS we have our new avatars ... come visit

  8. The crapes are just beautiful; I see some gorgeous ones here too but not at my place.

    I have had a white seedling for 3 years now and still no bloom.


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