Crape Myrtles are beautiful smaller-sized trees that primarily grow in warmer regions. This unique tree is known for its stunning large flowers and, depending on the type of Crape Myrtle, can show amazing pink, red, white, or purple color!
Crape Myrtle Trees have been growing and thriving in the Southern part of the U.S. for hundreds of years. Many Southerners associate them with long hot days, mint juleps on the porch, and the beautiful brightness of a Summer day!
Growing a Crape Myrtle Tree
Crape Myrtles are hardy small trees or shrubs that are easy to grow. They can grow up to five feet per year and quickly grow to maturity after being planted. As mentioned above, these are typically grown in warmer climates in planting zones 7 through 10 from as far North as Virginia and throughout the South and from Texas to California in the West. Some of the newer varieties developed by breeders are frost-hardy and they are able to grow in colder regions of the U.S. (in planting zones 5 and 6).
Most of the Crape Myrtle varieties are tolerant of many different types of soil (including alkaline and clay) and are also drought-resistant. They prefer full sun and dryer conditions - it is not recommended to plant them in soggy and extremely wet areas. The Crape Myrtle provides an array of color throughout the Summer and also displays brilliant colors in the Fall season.
Sun: Best to plant in an area that’s exposed to full sun. Modest access to afternoon partial shade works for many species.
Water: After planting, water the Crape Myrtle Tree immediately and then once each week for the first year (every 5-7 days and take into account weekly rainfall). If you’re not sure if you should water (due to rain, etc.), simply check the surrounding soil - if it is dry 2 inches below ground, then that’s a good indication that it is time to water!
Best Time to Plant: Spring or Late Fall
Appearance of Crape Myrtle Trees
Crape Myrtles are small trees and shrubs that have a number of main stems and upper arching branches, which display large sprays of flowers. They grow 5 to 25 feet tall at maturity, depending on the variety, pruning methods, and where they are planted. The bark of the Crape Myrtle is typically a grey-pink color, however, some of the newer varieties (such as the Natchez) have bark which displays gray, brown, and maroon shades.
The leaves of the Crape Myrtle are up to 4 inches in length and 2 inches wide, with smooth edges and an appearance that is healthy and glossy. Most varieties have leaves that are green in the Summer, then turn red or yellow in Fall. Some of the newer varieties, including the Dynamite, also have attractive colored leaves in the Spring months.
The spectacular flowers of the Crape Myrtle were originally purple or white, however, over time breeders have produced varieties with additional brilliant colors, including lavender, light pink, and dark pink to shades of brilliant red. The individual crape myrtle flowers are 1 or 2 inches across with many petals and are clustered together into large heads up to 14 inches long, which form at the ends of the branches. The weight of the flowers causes the branches of many of the Crape Myrtles to arch, giving the tree an elegant, relaxed look. In warmer regions of the U.S., flowering can begin as early as May and continue up until frost. The flowers of the Crape Myrtle are at their best in Summer, when most other trees have finished blooming. This adds to the beauty of gardens and landscapes throughout the Summer months.
Ongoing Care of the Crape Myrtle Tree
After you have planted your Crape Myrtle, there is not much to do but sit back, relax, and watch it grow. It is a hardy tree that with some water, can typically handle itself. If you prefer to produce a tree-form Crape Myrtle, simply prune away the lower branches gradually until your tree is the height you want it to be. In the Winter months, long shoots of the Crape Myrtle can be cut back to help control the height and to develop a crown that’s bushier.
To encourage new flower growth on a Crape Myrtle, remove the flower heads as they die off. And, to help with the health of the tree, you can fertilize in early Spring, before the Crape Myrtle blooms. Be sure not to fertilize during the first year after planting, use general purpose blends, and follow the instructions on the fertilizer label for best results.
History of the Crape Myrtle Tree
The Crape Myrtle is a popular tree that was first introduced to the U.S. in the 1790s when one was shipped from Asia and planted in Charleston, South Carolina. The Crape Myrtle thrived in the warm climate of Charleston. From this original tree, many other forms of Crape Myrtles have been bred, often by crossing them with other trees and plants.
The original Crape Myrtle trees had either white or purple flowers, however many plant breeders have modified this beautiful tree over time. Dr. Carl Whitcomb, a famous professor and plant breeder, is responsible for an entire new generation of Crape Myrtle varieties. Many of his Crape Myrtle varieties, which includes the popular Pink Velour and Red Dynamite, are now commonly found in yards and other landscapes throughout the U.S.
Crape Myrtle Memorials
With more and more people choosing cremation over burial (mainly due to the much lower cost of cremation, among other reasons), families are looking for uplifting memorials that incorporate the ashes of their loved ones. This includes growing a living memorial with The Living Urn®. With this special patented BioUrn® and planting system, many families throughout the South and West are choosing a Crape Myrtle tree for their loved one’s memorial. This beautiful flowering smaller-sized tree is offered by The Living Urn® with either purple, white, red, or pink flowers. Upon ordering, The Living Urn’s bio urn and planting system is shipped out right away and a 2 to 4 foot Crape Myrtle is shipped from The Living Urn’s award-winning nursery directly to your doorstep on a date of your choosing ready to plant with the urn.