One hack makes the Crape Myrtle a low maintenance tree or shrub! See if you can find it…answer at the end.
Field Trip: When I’m out of town to see family and/or new places, I always look for plants unfamiliar to me. As a gardener it’s fun to learn how and why they grow in the area I’m visiting.
Often the plants don’t grow at home because of the difference in climate and soil.
Sometimes the plant I see is one I recognize from home. And it is larger than mine with more flowers than the one I’m trying to grow.
How is that? Can I grow it like that at home?
Crape Myrtle is one that I ooh and ahh while on the highway to Atlanta, Georgia where many of my family members live.
No matter which summer month it is, this graceful flowering tree is everywhere! Several slender grey trunks hold up a canopy of green leaves and long arching flowers.
This tree that lets me know I’m in a warm climate.
If ever there were a poster child for “buy the right cultivar, then plant it in the right place” – Crape Myrtle is it.
As long as the specimen size matches the right location, it is considered long lived and easy to grow. Beautiful exfoliating bark, gorgeous clusters of flowers and low maintenance are the reward.
Native to: China, Korea, India, Western Australia and the Pacific Ocean Islands.
Name refers to: Flower petals have a crinkly appearance just like crepe paper.
Bark: Exfoliating bark grows on several trunks in shades of grey that peel to red brown or pink underneath depending on the variety.
Leaves: Cultivars have oval shaped leaves that range from 1 – 2.5 inches long to 4 inches long.
Summer colors are light to dark green. Leaves in fall turn to yellow, orange, red or purple red.
Blooms: Flowers appear on new branches. They grow in clusters or panicles 6-18 inches long.
Flower colors are pink, lavender, purple, red or white. Most blooms aren’t known for fragrance although the white ones may have a scent.
Crape Myrtle flowers in summer and is available in early blooming and late blooming specimens.
Height: 3-20 feet. There are many varieties. Some are shrubs, some are trees.
Width: 6-15 feet, again depending upon the cultivar.
Attract wildlife: Bees gather nectar from the flowers. Birds live in them.
Best advice for a healthy, low maintenance Crape Myrtle:
- Know the size of the spot you want to plant it in.
- Check the plant label for the size it will be when fully grown.
- Buy a cultivar (even though it may be small now) so that when full-grown, its height and width match the spot you chose.
Full sunlight and proper moisture make for good growth. Very little pruning needed if the right size plant fits the location.
- Sunlight: Full sun.
- Soil: Crape Myrtle can grow in many types of soil. Prefers soil that is moist and drains well. No standing water.
- Water: Medium. Drought tolerant once the plant is established. Flowers better if watered regularly during periods of drought.
- Fertilize: Feed it lightly once a year. Compost is a good choice. Too much fertilizer causes too much plant growth and poor flowering.
- Pruning: Only in late winter before it begins to grow and just for health of plant. If the cultivar is planted in the best spot for its heighth and width, pruning should be minimal.
Although easy to grow, Crape Myrtle may develop a few problems. It is susceptible to powdery mildew, leaf spot and aphids. Best defense is to plant cultivars that are disease resistant, then set them in the right place.
Since it is easy to grow and maintain, Crape Myrtle is used in home and commercial landscapes as well as along highways and boulevards.
Answer: The hack for a healthy, low maintenance Crepe Myrtle is to match the full grown size of the tree or shrub to the location. A good idea for any plant you add to the garden!
University of Georgia Extension
Copyright Juli Seyfried 2019