Posted by Brent Wilson on 11/21/2015 to Design Tips
Most people who live in or have visited the southern region of the United States are familiar with and will recognize Crape Myrtle, especially when in bloom. Dwarf crape myrtle shrubs and crape myrtle trees are flowering powerhouses that bloom for up to 100 days during the heat of summer to provide unrivaled abundant and outstanding color in your landscape. No wonder we see them so heavily used by designers in residential, urban and rural landscapes where they'll grow.
But the crape myrtle color show doesn't stop with the summertime blooms.
Depending on variety, crape myrtle also exhibit vibrant fall foliage color in brilliant shades of red, orange, or yellow, or a combination thereof.
While the bark on all crape myrtle varieties is handsome, some varieties, such as 'Natchez', provide beautifully colored cinnamon-red bark that provides interest in the landscape during winter.
Cold Hardiness Is Important
Crape myrtles are exceptionally hardy and easy to grow and care for...provided they are planted in the right USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. Before selecting a crape myrtle variety to plant in your landscape, make sure to know your USDA Zone and then check USDA Zone listings on any plant page in WilsonBrosGardens.com.
USDA Zones 7-10: Gardeners in USDA Zones 7 to 10, where Crape Myrtles thrive, need only worry about what color and size to choose.
USDA Zones 6: Gardeners in USDA Zone 6 have an excellent chance with varieties that are known to have more cold hardiness. Some damage to tops can occur during severe winters.
USDA Zones 5: Because the tops of plants are often killed by cold temperatures, gardeners in USDA Zone 5 can grow crape myrtle in somewhat the same manner as Buddleia (butterfly bushes) by cutting all stems back to 8 inches above the ground in early spring each year. That said, during severe winters even the roots can be killed.
Color Is Important
Crape Myrtles come in a range of flower colors including white and various shades of pink, red and purple. Many Crape Myrtle display attractive fall foliage and/or exfoliating bark with patches of colorful underbark, providing year round interest in the landscape, especially during winter. You'll want to select a variety with flower, bark and foliage colors that will be complementary to the surrounding plants and nearby structures in your landscape.
Size Is Important
Crape Myrtle come in a range of sizes; from dwarfs that grow under 5 feet tall, to mid-size shubs or small trees that range between 6 to 12 feet tall, and taller trees that range from 15 to 30 feet in height. You'll want to select a variety that is a good fit for the landscape space you intend to fill. Thus, you don't have to resort to crape murder: when Crape Myrtle outgrow their space and must be butchered back in an attempt to control size, or removed entirely.
CRAPE MYRTLE SHRUBS - These crape myrtle varieties grow from as low as 2 feet in height up to 10 feet.
CRAPE MYRTLE TREES - These crape myrtle varieties grow from 10 feet in height to 25 feet or more.
Other Helpful Tips
- Don't prune or fertilize your Crape Myrtles in the fall. Also avoid excessive watering in the fall. You want your Crape Myrtle to go into dormancy naturally for the winter.
- Avoid planting your Crape Myrtle against a south-facing wall, Otherwise, a warm spell in January could cause plants to break dormancy too early.
- After leaf drop in the fall, mulch heavily around the roots with pine or wheat straw, leaves, or other loose material.
- Consider growing dwarf Crape Myrtles, which are small enough to cover for winter protection.
- No matter where you live, give your crape myrtle what it needs - full sun and acid soil.
Plant Long & Prosper!
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