Crepe myrtles are attractive shrubs and trees known for their beautiful crepe-like flowers. Although crepe myrtles look great in gardens, they can also be cultivated as bonsai trees indoors and outdoors. In this article, we’ll learn about crepe myrtle bonsai trees and how to grow them.
About Crepe Myrtles
Crepe myrtles are a group of shrubs and trees from the Lagerstroemia genus in the Lythraceae family. Most crepe myrtle species are deciduous, although some are evergreen. Crepe myrtles are native to parts of Asia, Australia, and the Indian Subcontinent.
Crepe myrtles produce beautiful crepe-like flowers in various shades of pink, purple, red, and white. They flower throughout summer and fall and can bloom for three to four months. Crepe myrtles also have attractive leaves and peeling bark that changes color throughout the year.
Most crepe myrtles grow between 10 and 30 feet tall and approximately 10 to 15 feet wide. Crepe myrtles are fast-growing plants that produce 2 to 3 feet of new growth yearly. Most crepe myrtles live for several decades.
Are Crepe Myrtles Good for Bonsai?
Although they work best as ornamental shrubs and trees, crepe myrtles also make good bonsai trees. Thanks to their gorgeous flowers, Crepe myrtles are an excellent choice if you want a flowering bonsai tree. Thanks to their fast growth rate, crepe myrtles respond well to pruning.
Crepe myrtles are beautiful bonsai thanks to their colorful leaves and trunks. Crepe myrtle leaves change color throughout the season. During fall and winter, the peeling bark produces several stunning colors, from beige to gray and even red or brown.
Which Type of Crepe Myrtle is Best for Bonsai?
Dwarf and semi-dwarf crepe myrtles are ideal for growing as bonsai trees. These crepe myrtles naturally stay compact, making them highly manageable. Dwarf crepe myrtles also grow well in pots, making them perfect for bonsai.
Most dwarf or semi-dwarf crepe myrtles grow between 2 and 6 feet tall. Thanks to their naturally small size, these crepe myrtles can be kept in check with careful pruning. They also retain the attractive flowers, leaves, and bark of full-size crepe myrtles.
Some of the best dwarf crepe myrtles for bonsai include:
- Lagerstroemia indica ‘World’s Fair’
- Lagerstroemia indica ‘Pink Blush’
- Lagerstroemia indica ‘Pixie White’
What Do Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Trees Symbolize?
The practice of bonsai developed in Japan as an evolution of a Chinese art form called penjing. Also known as penzai, penjing was practiced in China as early as 700 AD to create miniature natural landscapes. Bonsai differs from penjing in that it is purely focused on caring for an individual tree.
Bonsai trees help cultivate peace and serenity in practitioners. By cultivating a bonsai tree, a gardener has a more intimate connection with nature. Bonsai trees also symbolize the circle of life, balance, natural harmony, and simplicity.
How to Grow Crepe Myrtle Bonsai
Depending on your climate, crepe myrtle bonsai trees can be grown indoors or outdoors. Crepe myrtles grow best in warm, humid conditions in USDA Zones 6 to 9. In warmer climates, crepe myrtle bonsai can be grown outdoors throughout the year. In colder areas, grow them indoors.
Crepe myrtles are deciduous shrubs that lose their leaves and go dormant throughout the winter. Simulate this indoors by placing your bonsai in a colder location during the winter. The temperature should stay between 45 and 55ºF (7 to 12ºC).
Crepe myrtle bonsai trees require full sun to grow at their best. Outdoors, crepe myrtles require approximately six hours of direct sunlight daily, preferably in the morning. Provide indoor crepe myrtle bonsai with bright direct or indirect light.
Crepe myrtle bonsai need well-draining soils that contain lots of organic matter. The soil should also be able to retain some moisture without becoming waterlogged. Use a standard bonsai potting mix for indoor plants. Alternatively, use a mix of soil, organic matter, and grit for crepe myrtle bonsai growing outside.
Crepe myrtle bonsai should be kept slightly moist throughout the growing season. Water crepe myrtle bonsai whenever the top inch or two of soil feels dry. Water the plant less frequently during the winter to help encourage dormancy.
Crepe myrtle bonsai need plenty of nutrition, especially if you want them to flower. Feed crepe myrtle bonsai every two weeks from spring until fall. Use dedicated bonsai liquid fertilizers or slow-release granules.
Repot crepe myrtle bonsai trees every one to three years. Over time, plants growing in pots become rootbound, leading to problems. Use fresh soil and add a dose of fertilizer to provide an extra boost of nutrients.
Pruning is an essential part of growing a bonsai tree as it keeps the plant compact. Prune crepe myrtle bonsai in the fall after flowering has finished. This stimulates the tree to produce more buds next year. You can also train your crepe myrtle bonsai into a desired shape using wire.
Pests and Diseases
Pests like aphids or spider mites frequently target crepe myrtle bonsai. Eliminate pests using horticultural oils or insecticidal soap. Maintain good growing conditions to reduce the risk of diseases like powdery mildew, which can lead to damaged foliage and yellowing leaves.
Crepe Myrtle Bonsai FAQs:
How Do You Grow a Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Tree?
Grow crepe myrtle bonsai in full sun and well-draining soil. Grow them indoors in colder areas or bring them inside during the winter. Fertilize your bonsai every two weeks and repot every one to three years.
Can Crepe Myrtles Stay Small?
Crepe myrtle bonsai can be kept small through regular pruning in the fall. Choose dwarf cultivars that are more suited to bonsai.
Are Crepe Myrtles OK in Pots?
Crepe myrtles grow well in pots as long as they have well-draining soil. Keep the soil slightly moist but avoid overwatering.
Crepe myrtles make beautiful bonsai trees thanks to their elegant flowers, colorful leaves, and peeling bark. Choose dwarf cultivars, as these are better suited to bonsai. Provide full sun and well-draining soil and encourage a period of winter dormancy.
For more, see our in-depth guide on the difference between crepe myrtle and crape myrtle and how to grow crape myrtles from cuttings.
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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