Crepe myrtle can be tree or shrub

Crepe myrtle

Whether you spell it crape myrtle or crepe myrtle, you can’t help but love this long lasting bloomer. These small flowering trees or large bushes can be seen in commercial plantings and in lots of creative lawns around town. Why do we love them so much? For one thing, they bloom around 120 days throughout the spring, summer and fall. Use them as screens, lawn specimens, shrub borders and container plants. We call them “The Kings of Color.”

Look for varieties in blooming colors ranging from light to dark pinks, white, lavender and red. They can range in height from a couple of feet in the dwarf varieties to a full-blown tree size of 20-30 feet. It’s a good idea to do a little research before you buy your new crepe myrtles. Who needs a 30-foot tree under an eave of the house? The big box stores are known to sell somewhat “inferior” crepe myrtle varieties that have you coming back to the same store to buy chemicals to maintain them. Search out some good varieties and support our local nurseries when you can.

With flowers looking like crepe paper, the crepe myrtle was a popular addition to American nurseries as early as 1790. Wikipedia shares that the common crepe myrtle from China and Korea was introduced in South Carolina by the French botanist Andre Michaux. There is also the Japanese crepe myrtle, which is very tree-like with an interesting deciduous bark. The Japanese give their variety the nickname “monkey-slip” due to the slippery bark. A third choice is the “Queen” crepe myrtle. They originate in India and can only be grown in hot climes like Texas, Florida, California and Hawaii. “Queens” grow to be a large evergreen tree with rosy flowers and white bark. Yankees in cold climes want to grow them, but it is just not happening.

If you are looking for something to add a little color to your yard, think about adding some variety of crepe myrtle. They are easy to grow, and we Southerners love them. They would appreciate a sunny spot with good drainage. Late fall to early spring is the best time to plant, but lots of us plant them in the summer because we can plant them while they are blooming. Just remember to give these newly planted super-bloomers extra water in the summer. Water your crepe myrtle before you even plant it. This will help it take up water after planting. Mulch to conserve moisture. You can add fertilizers to help your new plant along. Depending on the species you choose, you may need to spray with an anti-fungus product or malathion type product each year. A little secret: Crepe myrtle can be started from root cuttings and softwood cuttings if your neighbor has a crepe myrtle he wants to share.


Joette Reger is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. She can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”