Crape myrtles are low-maintenance, attractive shrubs and trees that thrive in a range of conditions. Crape myrtles are deciduous ornamental plants that can suit any garden. In this article, we’ll identify the best types of soil for crape myrtles to thrive.
Soil Conditions Crape Myrtles Receive in their Natural Habitats
Crape myrtle shrubs (Lagerstroemia spp.) are native to parts of Asia, Australia, and the Indian Subcontinent. They thrive in warm conditions but are also surprisingly cold-hardy. Crape myrtles have also become naturalized in North America, especially in the Southern United States.
Throughout their tropical and subtropical habitats, crape myrtles thrive in various soil conditions. Crape myrtles thrive in USDA Zones 6 to 9 but can handle winter temperatures that drop as low as -5ºF. In many areas, crape myrtles are used as urban landscaping plants.
Crape myrtles can grow between 10 and 30 feet tall and approximately 6 to 20 feet wide. However, dwarf and semi-dwarf cultivars are also available for smaller plots. These varieties grow between 2 and 6 feet tall and about 4 to 6 feet wide.
Different Soil Types Explained
Gardeners and horticulturalists recognize six main soil types. Each soil type provides different levels of aeration, drainage, and nutrition. Different soils also have different pH levels.
Loamy soil is considered to be the best type of soil. It provides the best balance of drainage, aeration, and nutrients. Clay soil holds lots of moisture and nutrients. However, clay soil provides poor drainage and aeration due to being extremely dense.
Sandy soils provide the most drainage and aeration because they’re very loose. However, these soils lose nutrients quickly. Silty soils are similar to sandy soils but retain more water and nutrients.
Most soil types are fairly neutral in terms of pH levels. Peat soils are usually the most acidic and hold lots of moisture and nutrients, whereas chalk soils are more alkaline. Chalky soils are well-draining but can lack nutrients.
The Best Type of Soil for Crape Myrtles
Crape myrtles thrive in most soil types as long as the soil is well-draining. These shrubs like soils that can hold some moisture but hate being waterlogged. Crape myrtles are fairly drought-tolerant and can survive even in nutrient-poor soils.
Chalky, loamy, or sandy soils are ideal for crape myrtles. These soil types provide lots of aeration and drainage, allowing crape myrtle shrubs to maintain healthy roots. Although chalky and sandy soils contain few nutrients, this isn’t a massive problem for crape myrtles.
Crape myrtles prefer slightly acidic soils, although most neutral soils will be fine. Ideally, grow crape myrtles in soils with a pH range between 5.0 and 6.5.
How to Improve Your Soil for Crape Myrtles
If your soil doesn’t match the requirements for a crape myrtle, you can amend the soil to make it more suitable. Amending the soil allows you to improve drainage, aeration, nutrient levels, and pH levels. The best way to check that your soil is suitable for crape myrtles is to use a soil testing kit.
Clay soils are usually too dense and hold too much moisture for crape myrtles. However, adding some grit, sand, or organic matter, such as compost improves drainage and aeration in clay soils. Just dig your chosen amendment into the soil before planting your crape myrtle.
Some soils can be too loose and well-draining even for crape myrtles. To fix this, add lots of organic matter, such as compost, to the soil. Organic matter retains some moisture and nutrients but is still well-draining.
You can also amend the soil to alter the pH level and make it more suitable for crape myrtles. Add some ericaceous compost, pine bark or pine needles, or some sulfur to make your soil more acidic. To make the soil more neutral or alkaline, add some lime.
How to Care For Crape Myrtle
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 a week for the first couple of years. This helps the plant establish a good 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.
Best Soil for Crape Myrtles FAQs:
Can Crape Myrtles Be Grown in Pots?
Crape myrtles can be grown successfully in pots. Always use a pot with drainage holes to prevent waterlogged soil. Choose ceramic pots that are approximately 3 ½ feet wide and 3 feet deep.
Where Do Crape Myrtles Grow Best?
Crape myrtles grow best in Zones 6 to 9. These shrubs need a sheltered spot that gets full sun and provides well-draining soil.
How Should Crape Myrtles Be Planted?
When planting crape myrtles, dig a hole that’s several times bigger than the root ball and about the same depth. Fill in around the plant before watering it thoroughly.
What kind of soil is best for crape myrtles?
Crape myrtles grow best in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Soil that is slightly acidic with a pH between 5.0 and 6.5 is also ideal.
Can I plant crape myrtles in clay soil?
While crape myrtles prefer well-draining soil, they can tolerate clay soil as long as it’s amended with organic matter such as compost, peat moss, or aged manure to improve drainage.
Do crape myrtles need fertilizer?
Crape myrtles benefit from fertilizer applications in the spring and summer. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
How often should I water my crape myrtles?
Crape myrtles need regular watering during their first year of growth to establish their roots. Afterward, they are drought-tolerant and can go without water for several weeks. Water deeply once a week during periods of extended drought.
Can I use mulch around my crape myrtles?
Yes, mulching around crape myrtles helps retain moisture and suppress weeds. Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch, such as wood chips, shredded leaves, or pine straw, around the base of the tree, being careful not to pile it up against the trunk.
Crape myrtles grow best in well-draining soils that still hold some moisture. Chalky, loamy, or sandy soils amended with some organic matter are ideal. Crape myrtles also prefer slightly acidic soils with pH levels between 5.0 and 6.5.
For more, see our in-depth guides to crape myrtle deer resistance and whether crape myrtles are toxic to humans and animals.
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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