Crape Myrtle Trees, Crepe Myrtles
Lilacs of the South

Lagerstroemia indica

Crape myrtle trees are the closest thing deep south gardeners have to lilacs. Lagerstroemia indica flower clusters resemble lilac blossoms and they are mildly fragrant as well. Crepe myrtle bonsai.

Two pink-flowered crape mrytle trees growing in Cape May, NJ.

While Lagerstroemia indica is usually thought of as southern tree, they are hardy into zone 6.

The hardy crape myrtle, 'Hopi' can be grown in zone 5.

This photograph was taken in the picturesque seaside town of Cape May, NJ.

Both of these are crape myrtle trees. Notice how big the one in the foreground is.

Maybe this is why I am so drawn to them.

When I was a child, my great-grandmother Charlotte used to cut flowers from the lilac in her front garden and keep them in a vase in the bathroom.

I loved the way they smelled. As an adult, I long to reproduce that experience in my own home. Sadly, lilacs will not grow here. Not enough chilling hours.

What we can grow here is Lagerstroemia indica, a shrub that often grows as tall as a tree. There are cultivars in every shade of pink, purple, white and red. From 3 foot dwarfs to 25 foot standards.

Crape Myrtle Flowers

The crinkled flowers of the crepe myrtle bush appear in pyramid-shaped clusters at the branch tips in the summer months. They are slightly fragrant and sometimes so large and heavy that they cause the branches to bow.

The flower petals are reminiscent of a crinkly fabric spelled c-r-e-p-e.

Technically, crepe is the fabric. Crape is the plant.

The words are pronounced the same way and both spellings are acceptable.

The showy blooms are followed by small, round seed capsules which, until they ripen, closely resemble the tree's flower buds.

Lagerstroemia indica's oval-shaped leaves are about an inch and a half long by an inch wide. They turn various shades of red, yellow, orange or burgundy in the cool fall air before dropping.

Close up of the peeling bark on a crape myrtle tree trunk.

The bark of many crepe myrtle varieties sheds prettily to reveal the smooth, cinnamon brown trunk beneath it.

The exfoliating bark of the 'Natchez' crape myrtle.

'Natchez' bears white flowers throughout the summer months.

Picture taken in historic Savannah, Georgia.

The pink 'Royalty', the red miniature 'Victor', the pink crape myrtle, 'Rosea' and the purple 'Purpurea' are a few exfoliating types.

Crape Mrytle tree blooming with pink flowers and underplanted with Boston fern in a large pot.

If it is too cold for crape myrtle trees to grow outdoors where you live, plant one in a pot.

Crape Myrtle Bonsai

Buy a 'Tonto' Crape Myrtle Bonsai Here

Buy a Tonto Crape Myrtle Tree Here

The crepe myrtle shrub makes an excellent bonsai subject. The flowers and new leaves are quite small. The tree has interesting bark and supple branches which are easy to train into whatever bonsai style you wish to.

The tree is tough enough to live in the shallow soil in a bonsai tray without going into a decline. Even if you occasionally forget to water it, it will survive. Crepe myrtle bushes are hard to kill.

You are not limited to the dwarf or miniature crepe myrtles in making a bonsai tree. Any of the crepe myrtle varieties can be pressed into service so choose based on the flower color and type of bark you like.

Crape Myrtle Pruning Tips

The 3 trees in this picture have been planted close enough together so that their crowns touch and pruned so that they look like a single tree top.

An alternative to this would be to plant a larger-growing variety in the first place.

For easy maintenance, let crape myrtles grow into multi-trunked bushes.

Prune only to maintain the shape in the spring. Plants grown in this fashion will display smaller flower clusters on stronger branches.

You can train crape myrtle bush as a single-trunked tree but this will mean constant pruning to keep it from reverting to a bush.

Many people practice a form of pruning crape myrtle known as crape murder.

This involves topping the trees at 5 or 6 feet so that a completely new top will grow each year.

This is done to control the size of the plant and to make the flower clusters larger and showier.

The main drawback with this style of pruning is that the stems that make up the top of the tree will be weak. They often break under the weight of the blooms after a rain.

Pruning them this way also makes them ugly in the fall and winter. Allowed to grow naturally, the leaves will turn yellow, red, orange or purple in the fall before they drop.

Crape Myrtle Care Tips

Crape Myrtles will grow on natural rainfall alone once established, but plants grown in irrigated areas come into bloom earlier in the season.

They are tough plants that will take all the sun and heat nature can throw at them. They are not fussy as to soil or feeding. A little balanced fertilizer each spring will do. Overfed crapes tend not to bloom as well.

The only problem this shrub has is powdery mildew. Keeping it out of the shade will remedy this. I've never seen a touch of it on any of my crape myrtle bushes (I have 5) which are all planted in full sun.

Site your L. indica thoughtfully. Once it becomes established, you will not be able to move it. It transplants easily enough. But any root left in the old spot will grow into a whole new bush.

Crape Myrtle Propagation

Look for seedlings under and around mature shrubs or plant the seed yourself. Another way to propagate crape myrtle is to dig up the suckers that form at the base of the shrub.

Types of Crape Mrytles

'Natchez' crape myrtle in full bloom.

The white crape myrtle 'Natchez' is a large, upright variety displaying red-orange fall foliage.

There are many different types of crape myrtle trees.

Some are more mildew resistant and don't require spraying.

The Most Disease Resistant Varieties

Muskogee Crape Myrtle

The Muskogee crape myrtle is a broad, medium-sized tree to 20 feet tall. Its pale lavender flowers are produced over a long season.

The red fall foliage is a nice contrast to the tan bark. This selection grows more quickly than many of the others.

Pink Velour Crape Myrtle

The Pink Velour crape myrtle is a new cultivar developed for its wine-colored foliage which contrasts beautifully with its bright pink blooms.

This little tree grows to 10 feet tall and wide. It is one of the best crape myrtle trees for use near the house or patio.

Dynamite Crape Myrtle

The Dynamite crape myrtle was developed to produce the truest red blooms of any L. indica.

It is a heavy bloomer which pushes out flowers from spring til frost.

This is one of the few red-flowered plants that will bloom right through the dog-days of summer.

This is one of the larger crape myrtle trees. It tops out at 20-30 feet tall by 10-20 feet wide.

Zuni Crape Myrtle

'Zuni' is a sem-idwarf to 9 feet tall by 8 feet wide. Zuni crape myrtle trees produce abundant lavender flowers all summer long.

The leaves turn orange-red before dropping in the fall to reveal the light brown and gray bark.

Red Rocket Crape Myrtle

The fast-growing Red Rocket crape myrtle shoots up like a rocket putting on several feet of growth per year. A mature specimen can be 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

The red blooms are complimented by bronze foliage and tan bark.

This is one of the most cold tolerant crape myrtle trees. Red Rocket is hardy down to -10 degrees F.

Here is a list of dwarf crape myrtle varieties.

Buy Crape Myrtle Plants

Buy Dynamite Crape Myrtle Trees

Buy Red Rocket Crapes Here

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Pictures of Crepe Myrtle Trees in Every Season

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The Mediterranean Nerium oleander Plant

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