Crape myrtles offer uncommon value in the landscape. They bloom reliably in summer, come in a multitude of colors, and grow in less-than-ideal soil conditions.
If you don't have crape myrtles growing in your landscape, have a few plants installed this spring planting season. If you already have crape myrtles, schedule once-a-year pruning to keep plants in shape. Here's more information on this versatile, beloved Southern plant.
Crape Myrtles Thrive in Georgia
The scientific name for the crape myrtle (also called a crepe myrtle) is Lagerstroemia indica. This native plant of China was recognized by the earliest Americans as a winner. Founding father George Washington received a shipment of crape myrtle seeds in 1799 to plant at Mount Vernon, and the plants have been blooming happily in zones 6 to 10 ever since.
Crape myrtle is happy in most soil as long as it's well-drained. If your Atlanta-area yard includes the compacted red-clay soil common to the area, have your tree service dig up and aerate the soil where new crape myrtles will grow. The plants do best with a soil pH that's either neutral or slightly acidic.
Crape myrtle thrives under the hot Georgia rays. For the most abundant, showy blooms on your crape myrtles, the plants need all-day sunlight. Young plants should be watered well until they get established because intense sunlight can easily dry out young roots.
Crape Myrtles Meet Shrub and Tree Needs
Why do some crape myrtles look like small trees and other crape myrtles appear more like flowering shrubs? From the original species, horticulturists and plant breeders have developed a wide array of crape myrtle sizes.
- Varieties and their maximum height ranges include:
- Standard crape myrtles—15 to over 30 feet
- Semi-dwarf crape myrtles—6 to 12 feet
- Dwarf crape myrtles—2 to 5 feet
Standard-size plants are the ideal specimens to use as small ornamental shade trees around a patio or front porch. They also look great in a cluster in a large sunny yard or lined along a long driveway or property border.
Semi-dwarf plants are useful as foundation plants in flower beds. Place a pair on either side of your front walk or next to your garage to add color and interest.
Dwarf plants are perfect for smaller properties or established flower beds that need replacement perennials. Some dwarf crape myrtles grow well in containers for use on the porch, deck or poolside.
Crape Myrtles Offer Diverse Color Choices
You have your choice of gorgeous colors in crape myrtle blossoms. Browse plant catalogs or ask your tree service for recommendations on varieties in the color or colors you prefer.
Flower hues include:
- Pale pink
- Deep pink
- Coral pink
- Orchid purple
- Dusky red
- Cherry red
You can mix and match colors and varieties of crape myrtles to achieve interesting looks in the landscape. For example, use dwarf plants in white and red to fill out a large flower bed with showy summer blooms. However, when you plan to install a mass planting of standard tree-type varieties, displays with blooms of all the same color are stunning.
Crape Myrtles Need Proper Pruning
Unlike many flowering plants, you don't need to prune crape myrtles to get more blooms. In fact, topping off your crape myrtles every year (known as crape murder by gardeners) may cause weak stem growth that can't hold up heavy blooms.
Light pruning is all that's necessary if you want shrub-like growth from smaller varieties. For the bare-trunk look of larger, formally pruned crape myrtles, cut out all but three of the main branches. With proper routine pruning, the main branches grow taller and add their own interest to the landscape even in the dead of winter.
If you can't seem to prune a crape myrtle to the shape you prefer, contact your tree service. They know how to correct misshapen and improperly pruned plants. They also solve problems with pest infestations and poor flowering of crape myrtles.
Contact R & R Tree and Landscaping today for all of your crape myrtle planting, pruning, and maintenance needs in the greater North Atlanta area.