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Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) Growing & Care Guide

Being widely used and sought-after due to its hardy nature and abundance of color, the Crepe Myrtle is an excellent choice for growers who want to add a feature tree to their gardens or perhaps rather use it as a deciduous hedge or screen.

Either way, this gorgeous tree will add year-long color and lusciousness to any space. Knowing what conditions allow this tree to thrive is vital to ensure you receive healthy and beautiful blooms. 

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Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) Growing & Care Guide

Plant Name:

Crepe Myrtle

Genus:

Lagerstroemia

Species:

Indica

Common Names:

Crepe Myrtle, Crape Myrtle

Location:

Outdoor

Type: 

Deciduous tree, shrub

Growth:

6 to 25 ft. tall, 6 to 20 ft. wide

Sun Requirements:

Full sun

Foliage Color:

Green

Flower Color:

Pink, red, white, light purple

Flowering:

July to September

Hardiness Zones:

USDA 6-9

Maintenance Level:

Low

Poisonous for Pets:

Non-toxic to cats and dogs

Crepe Myrtle Plant Details

Crepe Myrtle or Lagerstroemia is a species of small and vibrant flowering trees native to Asia

The Crepe Myrtle or lagerstroemia indica is a species of small and vibrant flowering trees native to Asia. They grow best in warm and humid climates.

Over time they have naturalized to the Deep South of the United States and have become very popular in those parts. Being a part of the Lythraceae family, this vivacious shrub is fast-growing and generally easy to care for. 

With brilliant summer blooms and foliage that creates fantastic fall colors, this tree is a must-have, year-round performer for those who love a little spectacle in their gardens and natural spaces.

They can grow to be of various sizes depending on what application you would like to use them for. Generally, they grow to be between 6 to 25 feet tall and between 6 to 20 feet wide.

Commonly used as feature trees, large hedges or garden shrubs, it is important to know how you want to use your Crepe Myrtle to prepare it and grow it accordingly.

Popular Lagerstroemia Varieties 

Lagerstroemia indica is a plant that forms a part of a genus containing around 50 different species. Unfortunately, many nurseries only sell certain cultivars or hybrids of Crepe Myrtle trees.

You will have to find a reputable nursery to choose from some of the more outstanding and popular cultivars which each have their amazing traits and that vary in size, color and form. 

Popular Lagerstroemia Varieties

Here are some of the most popular lagerstroemia indica cultivars you may want to look out for:

  • Lagerstroemia Enduring Summer White – A dwarf variety that blossoms with beautiful white blooms. Growing to be around 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. 
  • Crepe Myrtle Tuscarora – This variety features vivid watermelon pink blossoms in summer and more orange foliage in the fall.
  • Catawba Crape Myrtle– This is a purple blooming variety that also features a pleasing fall color and can grow to be a little bigger reaching about 10 to 15 feet tall and wide.
  • Muskogee Crape Myrtle– A larger growing variety that blooms with lavender-blue flowers with a light gray bark. Growing to be around 22 to 25 feet tall and wide, this variety is commonly grown as trees.
  • Lagerstroemia Natchez – A very popular variety in the South, the Natchez variety are mostly grown as trees since they can grow to be over 30 feet tall.

    Bearing white blooms contrasted by reddish-orange foliage in the fall, this variety also features reddish-brown bark with a peeling effect. 

When choosing which variety of lagerstroemia indica will work best for your needs, be sure to consider the plant's mature height and width as well as which color accents you ultimately want.

Some grow best to be shrubs whereas others can grow to be big trees so knowing what you want before planting is important.

Types of Lagerstroemia Species

Lagerstroemia Indica - Known as the crepe myrtle, this species of flowering plant is a deciduous tree with a wide-spreading habit. Flower colors can range from pink to purple and even white.

Lagerstroemia Indica is a deciduous tree with a wide-spreading habit

Lagerstroemia Speciosa - Known as the giant crepe myrtle or pride of India, this species is a larger growing deciduous tree variety that flowers with light pink to purple flowers. 

Lagerstroemia Speciosa is a larger growing deciduous tree variety that flowers with light pink to purple flowers

Lagerstroemia Subcostata - Known as the Taiwan crepe myrtle, this species blooms with delicate white flowers and is also a large-growing deciduous tree.

Lagerstroemia Subcostata blooms with delicate white flowers and is also a large-growing deciduous tree

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Lagerstroemia Floribunda - This species flowers with a beautiful combination of white and pink blooms. Known as the Thai crepe myrtle, this tree is also the provincial tree of the Saraburi Province in Thailand.

Lagerstroemia Floribunda is the provincial tree of the Saraburi Province in Thailand

Lagerstroemia Natchez - This large shrub or small tree variety has smooth, cinnamon-brown bark and it blooms with pure white flowers. Often used for its ornamental spectacle in gardens.

Lagerstroemia Natchez is often used for its ornamental spectacle in gardens

Lagerstroemia Loudonii - Known as the Thai Bungor, this species is a medium-sized tree variety that features oblong leaves and cylindrical pale purple flowers. 

Lagerstroemia Loudonii is a medium-sized tree variety that features oblong leaves and cylindrical pale purple flowers

Lagerstroemia Parviflora - Known as the small-flowered crepe myrtle, this species is another large growing deciduous tree variety that is more valued for its timber in the forests of India. 

Lagerstroemia Parviflora is another large growing deciduous tree variety that is more valued for its timber in the forests of India

How to Grow Crepe Myrtle

How to Grow Crepe Myrtle

There are multiple ways to grow and propagate this plant. We suggest choosing the method you are most comfortable and familiar with as all of them can result in successful growth.

Most growers do tend to prefer buying a healthy plant from a reputable nursery and planting it where they want. Alternatively, the Crepe Myrtle can be propagated by seeds or by using cuttings. 

Growing Crepe Myrtle from Seed

After flowering, crepe myrtles produce small, pea-sized berries that will eventually turn into seedpods. Once the seedpods have browned and started to split open, they can be used as seeds for sowing in spring.

These seedpods will ripen in the fall so you can collect and dry them for your sowing season. 

Here is how to propagate using seeds:

  • Using a pot or planting tray, gently place the seeds into your moist potting mix or composted soil. Cover lightly.
  • If possible, place your pot or tray into a plastic grow bag for increased humidity control. 
  • Place your seeds in a warm, well-lit location with temperatures of around 75 degrees F. 
  • Germination can occur within 2 to 3 weeks.

Crepe Myrtle Propagation by Cuttings

Both softwood and hardwood cuttings can be used to propagate Crepe Myrtle. It is recommended to take cuttings during spring or summer when the cuttings meet the main branch.

Here is how to propagate using cuttings:

  • Using a sharp tool, cut about 6 to 8 inches away with 3 to 4 nodes per cutting.
  • Remove all the leaves other than the last 2 or 3.
  • Dip each end of the cutting into some rooting hormone.
  • Place the cuttings about 3 to 4 inches deep in a pot of moist sand and potting mix.
  • Keep the cuttings in a warm and humid location where the soil is kept moist.
  • Rooting can start to take place within 4 to 8 weeks.
Crepe Myrtle Propagation

Growing Lagerstroemia 

Before planting your crepe myrtle, allow the germinated seedlings or rooted cuttings to acclimate further by moving them to their permanent locations in the current containers.

Thereafter, you can transplant and place them into their forever homes outside. Planting during late fall to early spring is recommended. Before picking the spot in your garden or on your property, here is what the crepe myrtle will need to grow and thrive:

What Soil to Use

These plants prefer neutral to acidic soils with a pH of around 6.0 to 6.5. They will also need moist soil that is well-drained to prevent the roots from standing in water. 

Sunlight Needs

To ensure your crepe myrtle receives beautiful blooms with vivid color, make sure it receives full sun for at least 6 hours per day. Anything less will result in compromised blossoms. Pick out a good spot in your garden that experiences healthy sunlight.

Planting Crepe Myrtle 

This is a relatively straightforward process and these trees don’t take too long to establish themselves. Before planting and after digging your hole, prepare the soil from the hole by mixing some compost into it. 

Planting Crepe Myrtle

To plant, follow these steps:

  • Dig a large hole that is at least twice as wide as the root-ball and to the same depth the plant originally grew in. 
  • Gently remove the plant from its pot and tease the root-ball loose slightly.
  • Place the plant in the planting hole where the topmost roots are almost at the soil line. 
  • Refill with your soil mixture and gently pat the dirt down. 
  • Water thoroughly for the first few days to help the roots settle in the soil and to remove any trapped air in the soil.
  • Do not add fertilizer to the soil, this can be done at a later stage once the plant is established. 
  • For larger varieties, you can place a stake near the plant after planting for support while the roots establish themselves.

There should ideally be a 4-foot-wide area around your tree that is free of weeds or grass. This will ensure the tree receives enough water and nutrients.

Caring for Crepe Myrtle

Caring for Crepe Myrtle

Even though this species of lagerstroemia is tough and low maintenance, there are a few things you can do to ensure the blooms are luscious and that your tree or shrub thrives.

Once established, the crepe myrtle will be tolerant to drought and slightly resistant to mildew. 

How to Water Lagerstroemia

This plant loves deep watering. That is why it is so important that the soil is well-drained because this will prevent root rot. It is recommended to water the plant with around two to three gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter. 

After planting, you can water the plant thoroughly around once per week to help it establish itself. If you are experiencing dry conditions with little rainfall, you can increase watering to twice per week.

It is important to only water the roots of crepe myrtle. Try to avoid wetting the foliage when watering and this will help avoid the tree from contracting mildew issues.

Fertilizing Crepe Myrtle

Fertilizing this plant should be done on rare occasions. Overusing fertilizer can result in reduced flowering so only fertilize if you know your soil needs the boost. Fertilizing before rain is ideal.

Otherwise, you will need to water your plant after adding fertilizer. Use a general-purpose garden fertilizer such as 8-8-8, 10-10-10, or 12-4-8.

Mulch

During the warmer months of spring and summer, you can add 4 to 6 inches of mulch around your plant. Place the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to ensure good air circulation. It is recommended to use an acid mulch like pine bark or oak leaves for crepe myrtle. 

How to Prune Crepe Myrtle

How to Prune Crepe Myrtle

These plants bloom on new wood so pruning during late winter to early spring will encourage prolific blooming. If you are trying to establish your crepe myrtle as a tree, it is vital to prune all but one trunk off to establish a leader.

For a shrub form, pruning about a third of the plant away to keep shape during spring is recommended. 

Crepe Murder

For growers who get a little too excited when pruning, try avoiding this common mistake. Many growers tend to prune the central branch of the tree away which means they essentially top the plant.

This can permanently ruin its growth and structure. Try just pruning foliage and other smaller branches to avoid this from happening to your plant baby.

Lagerstroemia Pests, Problems & Diseases

Fortunately, the lagerstroemia does not suffer from pest issues but they are susceptible to powdery mildew, sooty mold and other fungal issues.

To prevent these problems, don’t overwater your plant and water only the roots and not the foliage. For infected plants, a general fungicide can help. 

In the case of small insects or aphids infesting the plant, treating it with insecticidal soap or neem oil can help. 

Crepe Myrtle FAQs

Crepe Myrtle is an excellent choice for growers who want to add a feature tree to their gardens

Where is the best place to plant a crepe myrtle?

A sunny spot in the garden that receives about 6 hours of full sun per day is recommended. Good air circulation is also important and well-draining soil is a must.

How long does a crepe myrtle take to grow?

Fully matured trees can take about 10 to 20 years to reach full growth. Depending on the growing conditions, it can even take longer. 

How close can I plant a crape myrtle to my house? 

Planting this fast-growing tree about 8 to 10 feet from any building or wall is recommended. This will give the tree space to expand to its full size.

Wrapping Up Our Crepe Myrtle Guide

Wherever you decide to grow your Crepe Myrtle, you will be able to enjoy its gorgeous looks year-round. Whether used as a focal tree in your garden or used as a deciduous hedge, this luscious, flowering tree can add bursts of color to any natural space.

Being fast-growing and relatively low maintenance, this plant is an obvious choice for beginners and experts alike. With so many beautiful varieties available that offer different colors and sizes, it’s no wonder the Crepe Myrtle has garnered so much appreciation and popularity among growers. 

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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