Crepe Myrtles, Easy to Grow and Maintain
Photo by Amos Oliver Doyle
You would be hard pressed to find a reason to not like crepe myrtles. These delightful plants, which range in size from a dwarf shrub to a full-blown tree reaching about 30 feet in height, boast brilliant summer flowers, unique bark colorings and patterns and an array of colorful fall foliage. You can choose from among several species and hybrids, depending on where you live. Since crepe myrtles like heat, they do not fare well in USDA Hardiness Zones farther north than zone 6.
Location is a prime consideration when choosing a crepe myrtle, and that means latitude as well as selecting an optimal growing site. The most common types of crepe myrtle are the Lagerstroemia indica and its hybrids, which thrive best in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 9. Whether you want a pink crepe myrtle, a purple crepe myrtle, a white crepe myrtle, or a red crepe myrtle, the varieties in this species deliver. The secret to having an outstanding floral display throughout the flowering season is to plant your crepe myrtle where it can get full sunlight.
Speaking of planting, crepe myrtles generally can be planted throughout the year, but if you live in zones 7 or 8, plant in late spring or early summer for best results. These plants are hardy and adapt to various soil types with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. You won't spend much on fertilizer because crepe myrtles are usually happy with a small amount of 5-10-5 fertilizer when winter has ended. If you reside in Zones 9-12, then you may select Queen's Crepe Myrtle (L. speciosa). If you insist upon a red crepe myrtle, the Queen won't meet your needs, but the tree will charm you with its lavender, pink, purple or white flowers in June and July. Its soft-looking mottled bark is a stunning contrast to the large red leaves that develop in autumn.
- During flowering season, snip off dying flowers to prompt the growth of a second round of blooms.
- Crepe myrtle can be susceptible to mildew, but if you choose mildew-resistant hybrids of L. fauriei and L. indica, you may avoid this issue.
- Give your tree a quick pruning in late winter or early spring and you will be ready for another colorful season.