Crape myrtles, also known as crepe myrtles, are deciduous shrubs and trees from the Lagerstroemia genus. Although the different spellings are confusing, they both refer to the same plant. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between crape myrtle and crepe myrtle.
What’s the Difference Between Crape Myrtle and Crepe Myrtle?
Whether you call them crape myrtles or crepe myrtles, both names refer to the same species. Crape myrtles are deciduous shrubs or small trees from the Lagerstroemia genus in the loosestrife family (Lythraceae). Lagerstroemia indica, the most widespread species, is known as the common crape myrtle.
Crape myrtle is the traditional spelling used in most of North America. However, crepe myrtle is the most common spelling in the Southern United States. Other accepted spellings include crapemyrtle and crepemyrtle.
Despite being a non-native species, crepe myrtles are strongly associated with the South. In fact, crepe myrtle is sometimes referred to as the “Lilac of the South”. Crepe myrtles are named for their papery, crepe-like flowers that bloom throughout summer and fall.
In Europe, crape myrtle appears to be the most common spelling. The Royal Horticultural Society in the United Kingdom also refers to these plants as crape myrtles. Despite their common names, crape myrtles aren’t actually related to ‘true’ myrtles from the Myrtus genus or the Myrtaceae family.
Where Do Crape Myrtles Come From?
Crape myrtles are native to Asia, Australia, and parts of the Indian Subcontinent. These deciduous shrubs were brought to the United States in 1786 and quickly became naturalized, especially in the South. Crape myrtles are also naturalized throughout Europe.
Crape myrtles thrive in tropical or subtropical climates. As such, crape myrtles grow best in USDA Zones 6 to 9. Although crape myrtles prefer warm climates, they are surprisingly cold-hardy and can tolerate winter temperatures as low as -5ºF. However, crape myrtles do require protection from cold, strong winds.
How to Care For Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtles thrive in well-draining, nutrient-poor soils that retain some moisture. Crape myrtles prefer slightly acidic soils with pH levels between 5.0 and 6.5, although neutral soils will be fine.
Crape myrtles need at least six hours of full sun every day. The morning sun is preferable to direct afternoon sunlight, which is more intense (and can lead to yellowing crape myrtle leaves). South or west-facing locations provide crape myrtles with the ideal amount of sunlight.
Water established crape myrtles every two weeks or so to keep the soil moist and more frequently in hot, dry conditions. Water newly planted crape myrtles once or twice weekly for the first few years. This helps the plant establish a sound root system.
Feed older crape myrtles once during the spring with a slow-release fertilizer. This provides plenty of nutrients for the development of new leaves and flowers. Fertilize newly planted crape myrtles once a month during their first growing season.
Pruning & Trimming
Crape myrtles vary in size, impacting how often you want to prune them. Dwarf varieties won’t need much pruning because they only grow between 2 and 6 feet tall. However, some types of crape myrtle grow as shrubs or small trees that reach approximately 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
Rather than pruning too often, assess your garden first and determine what type of crape myrtle you can accommodate. Choose a crape myrtle that stays at a manageable size for your space. This allows you to reduce the pruning you’ll need to do.
Crape Myrtle or Crepe Myrtle FAQs:
Is it Crepe Myrtle or Crape Myrtle?
Crepe myrtle and crape myrtle are both used to refer to plants from the Lagerstroemia genus. Crape myrtle is the accepted spelling across most of North America. However, crepe myrtle is the most common name in the Southern United States.
What is Another Name for Crape Myrtle?
Crape myrtles are known as crepe myrtles in the Southern United States. Other names for crape myrtles include crapemyrtle and crepemyrtle. Indian crape myrtle refers to the Lagerstroemia indica species.
Can a Crepe Myrtle Be a Bush or a Tree?
Crepe myrtles grow as bushes, shrubs, or small trees. They are deciduous plants with multiple trunks and panicles of beautiful, crepe-like flowers. Crepe myrtles are often used as ornamental plants for landscaping projects.
Plants from the Lagerstroemia genus are known as crape myrtles throughout most of North America. However, these deciduous shrubs are called crepe myrtles in the Southern United States. Both spellings are correct and can be used interchangeably. Other spellings include crapemyrtle and crepemyrtle.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.
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