With clusters of colorful flowers and smooth bark, crape myrtles can make an excellent addition to warm-weather gardens. However, these plants require lots of light to thrive. In this guide, I’ll share my experience about how much sunlight crape myrtles need for optimal growth in your garden.
About Crape Myrtles
Crape myrtles, sometimes known as crepe myrtles, are a group of about 50 species of plants that belong to the Lagerstroemia genus. They are known for bright flower clusters that bloom during the warmer months.
Crape myrtles are native to regions in Australia, Southeast Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean. However, people now grow them in many warm areas worldwide.
Since there are so many different species and varieties of crape myrtles, you can find a wide variety of characteristics within this genus. Plants can range from one to 50+ feet tall and produce red, white, pink, and purple flowers.
Along with their visible differences, crape myrtle varieties also differ regarding cold tolerance, light requirements, and disease resistance.
How Much Sunlight Do Crape Myrtles Need?
Crape myrtles are light-loving plants. They require at least six hours of daily light, but they appreciate more like eight or ten hours of light.
While some plants prefer indirect or dappled light, crape myrtles like direct light, therefore, you should plant them in an area where they receive lots of unfiltered light.
What Happens if Crape Myrtles Don’t Receive Enough Light?
Numerous signs may indicate that crape myrtles are not receiving enough sunlight. If you notice any of the following, your plant may need more light.
Crape myrtles, like all plants, complete a process known as photosynthesis.
In this process, they absorb energy from the sun and use it to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, oxygen, and water. They then use these carbohydrates to fuel various plant processes.
If crape myrtles do not receive enough light, they cannot obtain the energy they need. Therefore, they may become weak and stunted.
A lack of vigor or stunted growth are signs that your crape myrtle may not be receiving enough sunlight.
Lack of Flowers
Since many people plant crape myrtles for their gorgeous flowers, it can be disappointing when these plants fail to flower. Many factors can lead to a lack of flowers, but too little is one of the major causes.
Flowering is an energy-intensive process. Therefore, if crape myrtles do not receive enough solar energy, they may fail to flower.
As mentioned above, sunlight is the force that drives photosynthesis. Therefore, if plants don’t receive enough sunlight, they will lack the energy they need to complete essential processes.
When this happens, they will aim to conserve energy. One way crape myrtles do this is by producing smaller leaves.
If you notice new leaves appear small, it could be a sign that your crape myrtle needs more light.
Can Crape Myrtles Tolerate Shade?
As mentioned above, crape myrtles need at least six hours of daily sunlight to remain healthy. That said, these plants can tolerate a bit of shade.
Partial shade is typically acceptable for most crape myrtles. However, half a day of sun and half a day of shade is better than a full day of dappled light.
It’s also important to note that some varieties of crape myrtles are more shade tolerant than others.
Shade-Tolerant Alternatives to Crape Myrtles
If you are looking for a flowering shrub or small tree for a shady area, you can consider alternatives to crape myrtles. The following plants can tolerate partial or full shade.
- Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia): grows about six feet tall while producing foliage that resembles oak leaves and clusters of white flowers.
- Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia): a large shrub with evergreen leaves and white flowers that bloom during the summer.
- Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis): a small tree that grows between 10–20 feet tall and produces bright pink flowers in the spring.
Crape Myrtles and Sunlight FAQs:
Can Crape Myrtles Tolerate Shade?
Crape myrtles can tolerate partial shade if they receive at least six hours of light daily. However, they will not thrive in full shade.
How Much Sun Do Crape Myrtles Need?
Crape myrtles need at least six hours of daily sun to remain healthy. However, they prefer the full sun.
What are crape myrtles?
Crape myrtles are small trees or shrubs that are known for their showy, colorful flowers and attractive bark. They are commonly grown in warm, sunny climates and are often used for landscaping and garden design.
What happens if crape myrtles don’t get enough sunlight?
If crape myrtles don’t get enough sunlight, they may not bloom as well or may have stunted growth. They may also be more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Can crape myrtles be grown in containers?
Yes, crape myrtles can be grown in containers, but in my experience, they require more frequent watering and may not grow as large as those planted in the ground. It’s essential to choose a large container to accommodate the tree’s root system.
What’s the best time of year to plant crape myrtles?
The best time to plant crape myrtles is in the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This allows the tree to establish its root system before the hot summer months. However, they can also be planted in the fall if necessary.
How do I care for my crape myrtle tree?
Crape myrtles require regular watering, fertilization, and pruning to stay healthy. It’s important to prune them in the winter to promote new growth and remove any damaged or diseased branches. Additionally, they may benefit from a balanced fertilizer applied in the spring and summer.
If you want to grow a healthy crape myrtle, ensure that you provide it with at least six hours of daily light. Consider alternative plants if you have an area with full shade.
For more, see our in-depth guides to crape myrle deer resistance and whether crape myrtles are toxic to humans and animals.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.
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