How To Grow Crape Myrtles

How To Grow Crape Myrtles

Guide To Grow Crape Myrtles

The Crape Myrtles and Oak Crabapples, which are ornamental shrubs and trees native to the Southern United States, are staples of the landscape.

There are several varieties of Crape Myrtles widely available for easy-care gardening in places like the Southwest where the plants are prone to drought and heat. Plus, they produce brilliant summer flowers that will brighten up any garden.

In recent years there has been a tremendous growth of hardier varieties of Crape Myrtles, which are now becoming so widespread that gardeners in more northern regions are beginning to discover these beautiful plants with the help of plant breeders. In addition to being made in a variety of colors, it is also available in disease-resistant varieties, hence broadening its use as well as its appeal.

You should choose Crape Myrtles if you wish to enjoy a full-blooming landscape with a variety of flower colors in summer and in fall and if you also want plants that will thrive in all types of climates. There is a garden design that will work for any size garden, no matter where you live, regardless of how big or small it is.

Several varieties of Crape Myrtles are available in a wide range of colors that are available year round. From mid-summer into autumn, they have the long blooming season.

There is an incredible sense of history associated with Crape Myrtles that enables you to categorically declare their uniqueness. If you live in a suitable location, then it is impossible to imagine gardening without Crape Myrtles. These trees are the centerpiece of the summer flowering season and are equally beautiful with their foliage in fall colors. There is no doubt that their bark can be very appealing so they have an interest that lasts all year long.

Crape Myrtles can be grown in nearly all soils, and need only a sunny spot in order to thrive. A lot of people have trouble choosing between the dozens of colors available from this plant, which grows densely and has one of the longest flowering seasons, and so they get a hard time deciding between them.

Varieties of Crape Myrtles

Dwarf Varieties of Crape Myrtles

Almost all dwarf varieties of Crape Myrtles will form a dense shrub known as a mound that forms a spreading border. Growing up to 3 feet tall in height, Chickasaw varieties of Crape Myrtles are perfect for container gardens because they are small. Growing little lavender-pink flowers, Chickasaw has silvery bark, and its fall foliage turns copper-yellow. Firecracker dwarf varieties of Crape Myrtles are slightly larger and grow 3 to 5 feet in height. In July, these beautiful plants come into bloom with soft, red blooms, and have spectacular autumn foliage colors.

Semi-Dwarf Varieties of Crape Myrtles

The most common types of semi-dwarf Crape Myrtles are generally tall shrubs between 5 to 10 feet tall, and they are much smaller than mature tree varieties. Unlike most plants, the Caddo varieties of Crape Myrtles have a spreading habit, which can be distinguished by their cinnamon-colored bark, and produces bright pink flowers in summer, as well as an orange-red foliage color in autumn. There is a dense shrub called the Zuni that grows in a round shape and whose flowers are medium to dark lavender in coloration. The autumn colors of Zuni Crape Myrtles range from brilliant red to orange, with tan and white bark.

Small Trees

Small Crape Myrtles trees make an average growth rate between 10 and 15 feet tall. The Commanche variety of Crape Myrtle is a hardy, disease-resistant small tree cultivar of Crape Myrtle. It produces coral pink flowers and has light brown bark. There are over a hundred varieties of Crape Myrtles and it is a well known fact that the William Toovey variety, or Rubra Nana, was one of the first introduced varieties of Crape Myrtles. These small Crape Myrtle trees are suitable for smaller lawns and gardens and yield bright pink flowers in summer. They are known to be extremely hardy when it comes to the common disease powdery mildew.

Medium Trees

Growing between 15 and 20 feet tall, medium-sized varieties of Crape Myrtles generally reach a maximum height of 20 feet. During the early July and early autumn seasons, the Dynamite tree will live up to its name by sporting true red flowers and a splendid range of bright orange leaves. A variety of the Alabama White Tree, also known as the Byers White or Clear White tree, is a medium-sized variety of Crape Myrtle trees with white flowers that are borne in large clusters, a rich, silver bark and bright white blossoms in clusters.

Large Trees

The large trees of Crape Myrtle can grow as high as thirty feet. In its natural habitat, the Biloxi is a larger Crape Myrtle tree that has a vase-shaped habit, with many trunks growing out of one root ball. Despite having a distinctive bark which is tan and chestnut, the Biloxi also has bright pink flowers. Natchez trees have a tan or cinnamon-color bark. They’re a tall, arching hybrid tree which is known for its size. During the month of June, large white clusters of flowers are produced by the Natchez Crape Myrtle. The blooms last for much longer than the couple months.

If you want to read more about the varieties of Crape Myrtles, there is a big list of Crape Myrtles at crapemyrtletrails.org.

How To Choose Crape Myrtles

How To Grow Crape Myrtles

As you can see, there really is a lot of variety available when it comes to Crape Myrtles – some have dwarf varieties in compact sizes, while others grow in large trees, so it is possible to pick a variety of Crape Myrtles that exactly matches your space.

It is possible that some varieties of Crape Myrtles will only be hardy in zones 6 and 7, i.e. the roots may survive a hard frost during the winter, while the above-ground branches go dormant completely to the ground. If this occurs, new spring growth will emerge from below ground.

A Crape Myrtle plant can contribute to a vast array of landscaping needs, which means you have to pay more attention to than color alone. Make sure to choose your crape myrtle by closely examining the plant’s mature height and width, and whether or not it matches what you want to achieve in your landscape. These actions will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run.

When To Plant Crape Myrtles

Deciduous trees are typically planted with roots out after the leaves have fallen, although some are planted prior to autumn, while others are planted in late spring. This will ensure that the tree has time to establish its roots before going dormant or before summer is too hot. The crape myrtles are very hardy and can be planted any time of the year, even in summer — just make sure to water them and maintain the soil temperature for them.

Where To Plant Crape Myrtles

It is important to choose the right place in the landscape to plant your crape myrtle. The space available for the tree above ground may become a hazard in the future, if it grows larger in size it could be a challenge for overhead wiring, pole structures, other desirable trees or large shrubs.

The Crape Myrtle loves to be in the sun and it is extremely heat tolerant. Ideally, they should be planted at an altitude of at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Partially shading your plants during the day is fine, but they may experience less blooms because of the partial shade. Increased amounts of sunlight mean more blooms.

It does not matter what type of soil it is, it simply needs good drainage.

How To Plant Crape Myrtles

For those planning to plant a crape myrtle, make sure to thoroughly water the soil in the pot before getting started.

Make sure the hole larger than the pot, at least twice as wide as the pot if possible.

Slide the plant out of the pot by laying it on its side. A long-bladed knife can be used to loosen the plants that are stuck if you slip it around the inside edge of the container properly.

There shouldn’t be any need to prune the roots at all. Large roots that wrap around the circumference of the pot are the exceptions to this rule. It should be said, however, that the offending root should be shortened so that it will grow outward when planted in the ground and not grow in a circle.

You want to create a mound of soil that sits in the center of the planting hole. Plant the root crown of the new tree, with its stem and root collar at the same depth levels as the stem at the time when it was in the pot, into the pile of soil. In the process of backfilling the hole, spread out the side roots over top of the mounded soil.

Make sure to work the soil around and in between the roots. If you have filled the hole about half-way, then water it thoroughly, soaking the roots in the process. You may need to adjust the depth of the stem if needed after the water has drained, which is followed by plugging up the hole with dirt. Using your hands, gently tamp down the soil as you go.

How To Grow Crape Myrtles

In order to ensure the new crape myrtle does not topple over in strong winds, you may need to stake it until the roots are deep enough to be protected. Use wire or twine or a mix of both to hold the trunk upright after putting 3 stakes into the ground 2-4 feet away from the trunk. A section of old cloth or other material should be used to cover the wire where it attaches to the trunk to keep it from damaging the bark.

It is important to let the trunk be able to move freely during strong breezes; if it did not move easily at all during winds, it would become weak and vulnerable. There is no reason for the stakes to support the plant that is too young as it might fall over and die.

You can remove supports usually after the first year has passed. During the first growing season, watering the young tree well is a way to keep it healthy. It is important to use well drained potting soil for these plants. Water once a week if your plants are planted outside during the winter months. In general, Crepe Myrtle trees are cold hardy to some extent. However, it is a good idea to examine their hardiness zones in advance to be certain that they will do well in your region.

A crape myrtle needs watered every couple of days during the growing season after it has been planted. It would be very wise if you were to water your plants every day during the first 3 to 4 months of their growth if you are experiencing a dry spell or your land is sandy.

How To Grow Crape Myrtles From Seed

How To Grow Crape Myrtles

During the summer, the crape myrtles bloom and they also produce a beautiful seed head, which lingers on throughout the fall. They can be left out to overwinter, which will result in the birds consuming them during the winter, or they can be collected for use in the spring as seeds for planting crape myrtles on your property.

The thing to remember is that with many landscape plants, crape myrtles often tend to be hybrids, which means that the plant will usually not look exactly like the parent plant. You should propagate tree sprouts from cuttings rather than seedlings if you want the new plant to look like the parent.

Seeds of the Crape Myrtle will germinate at just about any time of year, but will likely germinate best in the spring when the days are getting longer. Put them in a light, moist potting medium and gently press them in. You may cover the lawn with moss, and mist it until it becomes damp. Put the pot into a warm, bright place and cover it with plastic wrap.

It will take a few weeks for the seeds to sprout. In the early stages of sprouting, you may remove the plastic and let them grow in a moist environment by providing a bright light source. Before transplanting them into a separate container, you should wait until they have two sets of true leaves.

Make sure your potted plants remain indoors until spring, then make them move outside to a shady spot for two weeks until they have adapted to the environment outside. If the temperature drops below 50° F at night, bring the potted plants inside.

You can then plant the plants in their permanent sites, once the plants are acclimatized, especially with the heat coming in Spring. A second rapid growth period is expected during the summer.

Stay on top of their watering requirements and feed them with a balanced organic fertilizer every few weeks.

How To Prune Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtles have a tendency to grow suckers, slender sprouts with fast growing from the trunk that are thin and open branches. The suckers should be gently cut off as they appear if your desire is for a single trunk tree shape. If left to grow unattended, the tree will grow into the shape of a crape myrtle bush.

A crape myrtle comes back every year with new growth, which blooms on a fresh stem. So it is best to prune the main tree when the tree is not actively growing, so it can be thinned out and shaped. If you cut off new growth in spring or summer, you will stop the development of summer blooms.

When you prune crape myrtle trees during autumn, they could begin new vigorous growth. Resulting from this new growth, the crape myrtles become vulnerable to freezing, possibly leading to their death.

There are two major ways to prune crape myrtles, both of which have their own advantages:

Some people cut them all the way down to the bare minimum, leaving only a short skeleton of what used to be there. In the spring, the trees put out many shoots from each stub to grow a large amount of foliage that cover a rounded shape in a coating of flowers. Crape myrtles have good shape when pruned this way and they work well for borders and hedges with uniform heights.

It is usually more convenient for gardeners to allow their crapes to form naturally, and then to cut them merely when this is needed. It is possible to prune off branches and limbs that cross and the branches that are growing too long or too fast to maintain a desirable shape. Trim the unwanted branch so that it has at least 1/3 the diameter of the one you are cutting, but ideally half of its diameter.

As a result of cutting the plant simply anywhere, weak shoots will develop below the cut. The remaining branch will grow normally if the lower branch is pruned back to a half of its diameter.

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