Everything You Need To Know About Growing Crape Myrtle

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Crape myrtles are a versatile popular shrub with an abundance of clusters of blooms that are available in a wide variety of sizes.

Crape myrtles are deciduous shrubs that are native to India, Korea, and China.

There is one variety that is native to the United States, the state of Texas to be more precise and the name of the variety is malpighia glabra crape myrtle.

Crape myrtles are available in many different sizes ranging from ground cover to 30-foot tall tree-like shrubs and hybrid varieties that can resist mildew.

When they have reached full maturity which can take 1 – 2 years, they will shed their bark once a year or once every two years depending on the variety and the amount of water it has received that year.

PLANTING CRAPE MYRTLES

Crape myrtles are best planted in hardiness zones 7 through 10 in well-drained soil with full sun and a soil pH range of 6.0 through 6.5.

Miniature crape myrtles are best planted 18 inches apart and dwarf crape myrtles are best planted 4 to 6 feet apart.

Medium-sized crape myrtles are best planted 6 to 10 feet apart for a constant hedge-like look.

Larger or standard crape myrtles are best planted 20 to 30 feet apart for a more full and individual look.

When planting crape myrtles it is best to make the hole double the width of the root ball.

Using a hand trowel or garden knife break up the bottom of the root ball and place it in the hole.

Before filling in the hole it is recommended to mix in some compost to add nutrients and to help with water retention.

Mulch can be added for extra water retention as well as aesthetics.

CRAPE MYRTLE USES

Crape myrtles are often used as a focal point in gardens, dwarf varieties can be used in borders, and large potting containers as well as ground cover, and medium and large varieties can be used as stand-alone shrubs to show off their beauty.

FERTILIZING AND WATERING

Crape myrtles that are established need to be lightly fertilized with a balanced slow-release fertilizer or a homemade liquid fertilizer.

When applying fertilizer, it is best to apply it between the base of the plant to the tips of the branches. This area of the plant is known as the drip line.

With newly planted young crape myrtles, it is best to thoroughly water them every week for about two months when there is no rainfall.

It is best to give them around one inch of water per week, they will become drought-tolerant when they are well-established.

MULCHING

Mulching crape myrtles will help the soil retain water which will reduce the amount of time it takes to water them.

Your mulch can be wood chips, pine straw, or pine bark, and is best to surround a large area at the base of the plant.

How far out from the base of the plant will depend on how large the plant is. The larger the plant, the larger the root system will be.

The thickness of the mulch is best around 2 inches deep which will also help to prevent weeds from growing around your crape myrtles.

It is best to add new mulch every year as the older mulch breaks down.

BLOOMS

Crape myrtles have large clusters of blooms that appear in May, July, or later depending on the variety.

Their blooms only form on new growth and are available in red, purple, pink, and white colors that can be as wide as three inches and last for 6 to 8 weeks depending on the variety.

Crape myrtle blooms attract bees such as honey bees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees.

During the winter months of December through February birds such as cardinals, finches, dark-eyed juncos, and sparrows will visit crape myrtles to eat the seeds.

After the blooms have wilted away you can cut the bloom off to encourage more blooms to reappear in 30 to 45 days.

This is called deadheading and with this method, the blooms are not allowed to go to seed therefore the shrub will rebloom.

If your crape myrtle is not blooming or has few blooms there are a few possibilities.

If there are no signs of pest damage or visible disease issues, was not pruned too late in the season, has no wind or frost damage, or is planted in an area that has too much shade then the issue maybe be that there is not enough phosphorus in the soil.

Another possible issue is too much nitrogen which will cause more growth with fewer or no blooms or the pH of the soil may not be where the shrub needs it to be.

If you are unsure of the amount of fertilizer or the pH of the soil then a soil test should be performed to find out the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and soil pH.

PRUNING

Crape Myrtles are best pruned in the middle of winter when the shrub is in its dormant phase.

In the spring, if there is any dead or damaged growth then it should be removed.

Any stems that have wildly grown much higher than the rest of the plant which is known as leggy growth should also be removed.

The shrub should be pruned once a year to remove any new growth that grows up from the base and to keep its shape.

When their cluster of blooms is spent they can be pruned to promote a second bloom.

If desired, the shrub can be pruned to only have one main trunk like a tree with the continual removal of new shoots at the base of the plant.

With the more common look of multiple trunks, pruning is only done to keep it from becoming too crowded allowing for proper airflow to prevent mold and mildew issues.

Some gardeners remove the entire top of the shrub at the end of each season.

This doesn’t allow the shrub to take on its natural look and beauty as a full and healthy shrub.

Another issue with over-pruning is that they will put more energy into new growth and therefore they will have hardly any energy left for the production of blooms.

PROPAGATING

If you want to grow your own crape myrtle from a seed you can start with a cardboard seed starter to start it in.

Using soil that is well mixed with compost at temperatures of about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, they would germinate in 2 to 3 weeks.

Another option is to use cuttings that should be removed in the spring and only new green growth should be used.

Before removing a cutting from a plant, make sure that there are at least three sets of leaves.

After removing the cutting dip the cut end into water then into root tone and plant the cutting in a container, garden, or landscaping.

After the cutting has been planted it is a good idea to sprinkle some root tone on the soil.

Another option is to use a piece of paper towel, place the cut end on the paper towel, and sprinkle some root tone on the cut end of the cutting.

Then fold the bottom of the paper towel to the top, and wrap the rest of the paper towel around the stem of the cutting.

After planting the cutting give it some water and time. If you see that the cutting is looking wilted then the cutting will not root and you will have to start over.

OVERWINTERING

Crape myrtles are hardy shrubs with most varieties able to survive in temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Insulating your crape myrtle from the cold winter months may be required to protect the shrub from freezing with a layer of mulch that is 3 to 5 inches thick to protect the roots from the cold winter temperatures.

This all depends on the hardiness zone that you are growing in.

PESTS

Most gardeners have no issues with pests but there are some to keep an eye out for.

DISEASES

Crape myrtles that are planted close together can develop mold and mildew issues during times of high humidity.

If this is the case then preventive measures may need to be taken.

To prevent this from happening make sure to plant them far enough apart to allow for proper airflow.

VARIETIES

Crape myrtles are hardy shrubs that are popular in the south of the United States because they are drought and heat-resistant.

Plant breeders over the years have made them more hardy and acceptable to gardeners in northern climates.

They come in so many different heights making them versatile shrubs that will make any area pop with their clusters of blooms.

There are also hybrid varieties helping the shrub to resist mildew.

ARAPAHO CRAPE MYRTLE

Arapaho crape myrtle is a hybrid variety that can resist mildew.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – red
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

MUSKOGEE CRAPE MYRTLE

Muskogee crape myrtles are available in two varieties, the first is a single-stem trunk variety and the second is a multi-stem trunk variety.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – purple
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

MISS SANDRA CRAPE MYRTLE

Miss Sandra crape myrtles have been bred to have a high capability to resist powdery mildew, leaf spot, and bacterial spot.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 19 feet tall and 10 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – bright purple
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

HOUSTON RED CRAPE MYRTLE

Houston red crape myrtles are miniature hybrid shrub that grows as wide as they are tall.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – red
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

POCOMOKE CRAPE MYRTLE

Pocomoke crape myrtles are known to withstand temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

With this variety of crape myrtle, it is best to avoid excessive pruning to prevent the shrub from dying.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – purple
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

TONTO CRAPE MYRTLE

Tonto crape myrtles are known for their fast growth rate and being able to resist common diseases that affect crape myrtles more than most other varieties.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – red
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

SIOUX CRAPE MYRTLE

Sioux crape myrtles are known for their fast growth and fall foliage with their shades of purple and red leaves.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – pink
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

RED ROCKET CRAPE MYRTLE

Red rocket crape myrtles are known for their fast growth being able to grow as much as five feet or more in a single season.

They are also known for their ability to resist mildew, they are highly tolerant to droughts, and they are cold-hardy and have the ability to withstand temperatures at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Shrub size – grows to about 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide
  • Sun requirements – full sun to partial shade with fewer blooms
  • Drought tolerant – yes
  • Blooming colors – red
  • Foliage – oval-shaped green leaves with smooth edges
  • Deer resistant – yes

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