Crepe Myrtle Care: Secrets to Stunning Trees

Crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.) are gorgeous shrubs and trees that provide year-round interest. Originally native to southern Asia, they have become naturalized in the southern United States. In this article, I’ll share my experience growing and caring for crepe myrtles.

Growing Crepe Myrtle: Care Tips and Tricks for a Lush and Colorful Tree

How to Grow and Care for Crepe Myrtle

A group of young crape myrtle trees blooming with pink and purple flowers in a garden

Where and How to Plant Crepe Myrtles

Crepe myrtles like warm, humid conditions in USDA Zones 6 to 9. However, crepe myrtles can survive cold winters if temperatures don’t drop below -5ºF. While cold-hardy crepe myrtles can grow in Zone 6, most cultivars prefer Zones 7 to 9.

Plant crepe myrtles in sunny, open locations. Once established, crepe myrtles are fairly heat and drought-tolerant. Crepe myrtles thrive in most well-draining soils.

Plant crepe myrtles in the fall or early spring. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the pot your crepe myrtle came in. Position the crepe myrtle so that the top of the root ball sits just above the level of the hole.

Sunlight

Crepe myrtles thrive in full sun and need 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. If they receive too much shade, they may struggle to produce flowers. South or west-facing aspects are ideal for crepe myrtles as they provide direct sun throughout the day.

Soil Conditions

Crepe myrtles tolerate most types of soils but do need lots of drainage. Crepe myrtles prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH range between 5.0 and 6.5. Mix in some grit or sand to prevent waterlogged soil if your soil isn’t well-draining enough.

Watering

A close shot of a crape myrtle branch filled with tiny red flowers in full bloom

Water newly planted crepe myrtles thoroughly once or twice a week for the first two years. This helps them establish a healthy root system. Once established, crepe myrtles are drought-tolerant. Water them once every two weeks unless you have recently had rainfall.

Fertilizing

Fertilize newly planted crepe myrtles once a month during their first growing season. After the first year, fertilize crepe myrtles once a year with a slow-release fertilizer in spring. Wait until new leaves have started appearing before you feed your crepe myrtle. Always use a liquid fertilizer that’s diluted according to the packet instructions.

Pruning

Crepe myrtles produce flowers on new growth, so pruning them at the wrong time can ruin next year’s display. Prune crepe myrtles during the winter or early spring while the shrub is dormant. This is the best time to shape the tree and remove weak or damaged branches.

Deadhead fading flowers during the blooming season. This practice keeps your crepe myrtle looking good and can also stimulate a second flush of flowers.

Always use sharp, sterile tools when deadheading or pruning your crepe myrtle. This reduces the risk of spreading diseases between plants.

Common Crepe Myrtle Pests & Diseases

Crepe myrtles suffer from various diseases, including leaf spot and powdery mildew. These diseases occur in warm, humid conditions, especially if the plant doesn’t get good air circulation. Providing the right growing conditions is the best way to prevent disease.

Crepe myrtles can suffer from pests like aphids or scale insects. Remove these pests using horticultural oils or insecticidal soap. Avoid using synthetic pesticides, as these kill beneficial insects.


Crepe Myrtle Care FAQs:

Can You Grow a Crepe Myrtle from a Cutting?

Crepe myrtles can be propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings. Take cuttings during the summer, making sure they’re 6 to 8 inches long with at least four nodes.

How Long Do Crepe Myrtles Take to Grow?

Crepe myrtles grow fairly quickly but can take 5 to 10 years to reach their full size.

Where Do Crepe Myrtles Grow Best?

Crepe myrtles grow best in well-draining soils in areas that get 6 hours of full sun daily.

Wrapping Up

Crepe myrtles are beautiful shrubs and trees that produce a dazzling display during the summer. Although not a native species, they are strongly linked to the Southern United States. These plants need 6 hours of full sun daily and require well-draining soils. Once established, they are low-maintenance ornamental plants.


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