Common Crapemyrtle
(Lagerstroemia indica and Lagerstroemia x fauriei)

Description

Delicate paper thin petals; beautiful large blooms in white, pink, red, or purple; lustrous green leaves forming a thick canopy of foliage; smooth, exfoliating bark; one of the favorite plants in a Southern garden; this is the Crapemyrtle.

From the showy flowers to the superb bark and foliage, the Crapemyrtle is a favorite landscape plant throughout the South. Introduced in 1747, the Crapemyrtle is native to China and Korea. It is hardy from Zones 7 to 9 and can be found in the South, Southwest, and West Coast. Crapemyrtles are found as far north as Baltimore, Maryland, but they are better suited for warmer regions of the country.

The Crapemyrtle is a very adaptable plant. It grows best in moist, well-drained soils; prefers full sun, and is drought resistant. To produce large flowers and control larger growing cultivars, plants should be severely pruned before the new growth emerges in the Spring. Blooms are most abundant in soils low in nutrients, especially nitrogen, which can cause a lack of blooms. Throughout the bloom season, additional flowering can be stimulated by fertilization and the removal of faded blooms.

Crapemyrtles are a valuable landscape plant that can be used as a shrub or small tree, ranging in size from 18 inches to over 25 feet. As an asset to almost any landscape, the Crapemyrtle is a very beautiful specimen shrub or tree, often used in groups under planted with a ground cover. The dark green ground cover contrasts the gray to tan shades of the handsome bark. The smaller varieties of Crapemyrtle can be used as hedges, screens, or in masses. Planted in this manner, Crapemyrtles offer a grand display of color throughout the summer months.

Crapemyrtles are commonly multi-trunked, however, single trunk specimens are available. A canopy of foliage covers the top half of the plant, with the bottom half of the plant remaining leafless, revealing the beautiful bark. The leaves of the Crapemyrtle are a glossy medium green, turning yellow, red-orange, or red in the Fall. The smooth bark exfoliates, flaking off in irregular patches to reveal various shades of brown to gray.

One of the prominent features of the Crapemyrtle is the spectacular flowers, formed in large panicles ranging from 6 to 8 inches in length and 3 to 5 inches in width. The petals have a crinkled appearance, similar to crepe paper, hence the name Crapemyrtle. Blooming from mid-June through September, the Crapemyrtle ranges in flower color from white to various shades of pink, purple, and red.

Propagating Crapemyrtles


Crapemyrtle can be propagated easily through several methods. The most commonly used methods of propagation are hardwood and softwood cuttings. To propagate by hardwood cuttings take 8 inch long and 1/2 inch diameter cuttings in early to mid-November. Stick several cuttings in a container filled with a potting soil or well drained garden soil. About an inch of the cutting should protrude above the soil line. These cuttings can be left outside but should be protected from severe freeze. Once new growth emerges place the container in a sunny location and keep watered until you can plant them in the summer or fall.

Softwood cuttings consist of 4 to 6 inch cuttings taken from actively growing shoots at any time during the growing season. The cut ends can be dipped in a rooting hormone and then stuck in a well drained potting mix. Keep the cuttings misted to avoid drying out before roots can form. Rooted cuttings can then be planted in larger pots and grown to a larger size to improve survivability when placed in the landscape.

The Crapemyrtle can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. If by seed, germination occurs within 2 to 3 weeks. If by cutting, softwood cuttings should be taken between late May and July. Rooting should occur within 3 to 4 weeks.

Many Crapemyrtle cultivars exist, varying in sizes and colors. The Table below describes several of them. Check with your local nurseryman for cultivars that exist in your area.

Care of Crapemyrtle in the Landscape


Crapemyrtle must be grown in full sun for satisfactory flowering and to reduce disease problems. While it will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions once established, crapemyrtle does not thrive in a very wet location.

Container grown plants can be planted at any time of the year, however, they must be watered conscientiously, particularly if they are planted in the summer. Balled and burlapped and bare-root plants are generally better able to become established if they are planted during the dormant season. Although the canopy of a crapemyrtle may have lost its leaves in the fall, the roots typically remain active later into the fall and early winter. Crapemyrtles transplant easily so they can be moved in the landscape. Move them during the fall or late winter.

Crapemyrtles do not require much fertilizer. They are also adaptable to a fairly wide soil pH range, from 5.0 to 6.5. A soil test provides the best standard for determining the amount of fertilizer that is needed and whether the pH is at the appropriate level for your plants. However, one pound of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet of bed area is usually adequate to support new growth in an established tree. Be aware that over fertilization can reduce cold hardiness.

Pruning

Heading back crapemyrtles in late winter promotes lush new growth in the spring. Flowers are produced on current season's growth so flowers develop even after such severe pruning. However, such pruning destroys the natural character of the plant, with the winter form being an unsightly stemmy mess. It also promotes sucker growth which detracts from the beauty of the trunk.

Preferred pruning practices involve limited pruning. Some thinning of branches to enhance plant form is desirable, but heavy pruning is not needed. A wide assortment of crapemyrtle cultivars offers a variety of sizes that can be tailored to the site. Some selections are shrub-like in form growing to a size of only 3 to 5 feet, while others become sizeable small trees in the 25 to 35 foot range. There is a crapemyrtle for just about every situation. In the long run crapemyrtles will flower well if they are in a sunny location and left alone.

Some of the earlier flowering cultivars can be induced to produce additional blooms later in the summer by reducing the spent flower clusters. However, there is some concern that this can reduce cold hardiness of the plant.


Crapemyrtle Pests


A few pests can be a problem for the Crapemyrtle. Diseases such as powdery mildew, black spot, sooty mold, tip blight, leaf spot, and root rot can affect the Crapemyrtle. Two insects: aphids and Florida wax scale, can also be a problem. However, with proper care management, such as planting in a sunny location with good air circulation, these pests can easily be controlled and even prevented.

Three Extension Publications address crapemyrtle pests. One of them is on line and can be linked from this page:Foliage Diseases of Crapemyrtles . You can request the other two publications from Extension Publications at Auburn University by name and number:

ANR-189, Controlling Aphids On Ornamentals

ANR-274, Controlling Scale Insects

Whether one Crapemyrtle or a mass is planted, the Crapemyrtle is a beautiful addition to the landscape. Not only for its magnificent flowers, but for the combination of flowers, handsome bark, and beautiful Fall color, the Crapemyrtle will always be a favorite landscape plant for the South.

References

1. Crapemyrtle Comparisons Chart, Byers Nursery Company, Inc., Huntsville, Alabama, 1991.

2. Dirr, Michael A. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Stipes Publishing Company, Champaign, Illinois, 1990, pp. 463-467.

3. Whitcomb, Carl E. Know It and Grow It. II, Lacebark Publications, Stillwater, Oklahoma, 1983, pp. 327-328.

4. Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990, pp. 269-270.

Click on cultivar name for photographs.

TABLE: COMMON CRAPEMYRTLE CULTIVARS


CULTIVARS HABIT FLOWER COLOR BLOOM DATE DAYS OF FLOWERING FALL
COLOR
BARK
TYPE
MILDEW RESISTANCE COMMENTS
Dwarf Form (3 to 5 feet)
CENTENNIAL Compact Globose Bright Purple Mid June 70 Orange Smooth Good Superb in masses; Beautiful, bright color.
OZARK SPRING Compact Dwarf Lavender Late June 70 Yellow Smooth Good Flower changes from lavender to white.
VICTOR Compact Dwarf Dark Red Late June 85 Yellow Smooth Good Similar to azalea; blooms entire summer; best dwarf
Semi-Dwarf Form (5 to 10 feet)
ACOMA Low Spreading; Semi-pendulous White Late June 90 Purple Red Exfoliating High Recurrent flowering.
CADDO Low Spreading Bright Pink Mid July 80 Orange Red Exfoliating High
HOPI Low Spreading Medium Pink Late June 100 Orange Red Exfoliating High Extremely cold hardy; recurrent flowering.
PECOS Low Globose Medium Pink Early July 100 Maroon Exfoliating High Recurrent flowering; bark is dark brown.
PRAIRIE LACE Compact Upright Pink (white edges) Mid June 90 Red Smooth Fair Flowers are variegated; sterile.
TONTO Globose Multi-stem Red Mid July 75 Bright Maroon Exfoliating High Best red hybrid.
ZUNI Globose Medium Lavender Early July 100 Red Orange Exfoliating High Recurrent flowering; good Fall color.
Small Tree (10 to 20 feet)
APALACHEE Upright Vase Light Lavender Mid July 90 Russet Exfoliating High Very hardy; spectacular bark (cinnamon to chestnut brown in color)
CATAWBA Globose Medium Violet Purple Mid July 70 Red Orange Smooth Good Deep flower color.
CENTENNIAL SPIRIT Upright Dark Red Late June 110 Red Orange Smooth Fair Flowers are torch-like.
COMANCHE Upright; Broad Spreading Crown Coral Pink Early July 80 Red Exfoloating High Flowers are plentiful; bark is a light sandalwood color.
CONESTOGA Open Arching Medium Lavender Early July 70 Yellow Smooth Fair Flowers change from Medium Lavender to Pale Lavender.
LIPAN Broad Upright Medium Lavender Mid July 80 Orange Exfoliating High Spectacular bark; almost white in color.
NEAR EAST Open Spreading Light Pink Mid July 90 Yellow Orange Smooth Moderate Least hardy; best pink flower.
OSAGE Open Spreading; Semi-pendulous Clear Light Pink July 100 Red Exfoliating High Graceful habit; recurrent flowering.
POWHATAN Compact Upright Medium Purple Late July 75 Yellow Orange Smooth Good Good flower color; lovely tree.
REGAL RED Broad upright Dark Red Mid July 70 Red Orange Smooth Good Abundant flowers.
SEMINOLE Compact Globose Clear Medium Pink Mid June 75 Yellow Exfoliating Good Recurrent flowering.
SIOUX Dense Upright Dark Pink Late July 90 Maroon Exfoliating High Deep pink flowers catch the eye.
TUSKEGEE Broad Spreading Dark Pink Late June 100 Red Orange Exfoliating High Recurrent flowering;; spectacular bark.
WILLIAM TOOVEY Vase Shaped Pink Red Mid July 90 Red Orange Smooth Good Sometimes called Watermelon Red; first named Crapemyrtle.
YUMA Dense Upright Medium Lavender Late July 90 Yellow Orange Exfoloating High Very hardy; clustered flowers.
Large Tree (20 feet and larger)
BILOXI Upright Vase Pale Pink Early July 80 Orange Red Exfoliating High Very hardy; recurrent flowering; excellent bark.
BYERS STANDARD RED Upright Vase Soft Red Mid July 75 Orange Smooth Good An old favorite.
BYERS WONDERFUL WHITE Very Upright Clear White Late June 90 Yellow Smooth Good Most hardy; flowers are larger than basketballs.
CAROLINA BEAUTY Very Upright Dark Red Mid July 65 Orange Smooth Poor East Coast favorite.
CHOCTAW Upright Bright Pink Mid July 90 Maroon Exfoliating Very Best tree cultivar.
HARDY LAVENDER Upright Medium Lavender Late July 75 Red Smooth Good Very hardy; flowers until frost.

MIAMI

Upright
Dark Pink Early July 100 Orange Exfoliating High Spectacular bark; lovely flowers.
MUSKOGEE Broad Tall Tree Light Lavender Mid June 120 Red Orange Exfoliating High Good for street planting.
NATCHEZ Broad Tall Tree White Mid June 110 Red Orange Exfoliating High Very hardy; tallest tree; excellent bark (dark cinnamon brown).
POTOMAC Upright Clear Medium Pink Late June 90 Orange Smooth Fair Beautiful flowers; sometimes frost damaged.
TUSCARORA Broad Vase Dark Coral Pink Early July 70 Red Orange Exfoliating High Broad crown; recurrent flowering; excellent bark; sometimes frost damaged.
WICHITA Upright Vase Lavender Early July 110 Copper Exfoliating High Recurrent flowering; excellent bark; difficult to root.