Crape myrtles are some of the star shrubs of the summer, thanks to their colorful flowers. Once crape myrtles finish flowering, a little bit of care helps them weather the winter. In this article, I’ll share my experience and some essential tips around end-of-season and over-winter care for crape myrtles.
When Are Crape Myrtles in Season?
Crape myrtles flower from summer until fall, producing large panicles of colorful crepe-like flowers. Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.) are deciduous shrubs or small trees with multiple trunks. This means that crape myrtles drop their leaves in the fall.
Before crape myrtles drop their leaves, the foliage turns attractive shades of orange, red, or yellow. Once the leaves drop, crape myrtles allow their beautiful peeling bark to take center stage. The bark is reddish-brown but can show shades of cream and white.
End-of-Season Crape Myrtle Care
Crape myrtles only require a little end-of-season care once the flowers finish in the fall. Firstly, they go dormant in the winter, so they shouldn’t be fertilized. Additionally, they’ll need minimal watering during the winter unless you live in a dry climate.
Once the leaves do drop, water your crape myrtle thoroughly. Add a layer of mulch such as bark, compost, or leaf mold around the base of your crape myrtle. This helps insulate the plant while helping it preserve moisture throughout the winter.
Crape myrtles should be lightly pruned in late winter or early spring if required. Always prune your before new growth starts to appear. Remove any dead or damaged branches and thin out the inner branches to improve air circulation. Never remove more than a third of the canopy when pruning your crape myrtle.
Do Crape Myrtles Need Winter Protection?
Crape myrtles are native to Asia, Australia, and parts of the Indian Subcontinent. As such, crape myrtles prefer warm temperatures and mild winters. Crape myrtles grow best in USDA Zones 6 to 9 and shouldn’t need additional winter protection in these areas.
Crape myrtles are surprisingly cold-hardy and can survive winter temperatures as low as -5ºF. However, strong, cold winds can damage crape myrtles. In colder climates, crape myrtles will need some winter protection. To make this easier, grow crape myrtles in containers if you live outside of Zones 6 to 9.
Over-Winter Care for Crape Myrtles
Crape myrtles growing in Zones 6 to 9 shouldn’t need extra winter protection. It’s best to leave them to their own devices while they’re dormant. However, crape myrtles growing in colder climates will require some protection.
If you live outside of Zones 6 to 9, it’s best to grow crape myrtles in pots. This makes it easier to protect them during harsh winters. Choose ceramic containers, as these vessels are more durable than wood or terracotta pots. Always use pots that have drainage holes.
Once your crape myrtle has dropped its leaves, water it thoroughly. You may have to water it sporadically throughout the winter as potted plants dry out quickly. Apply a layer of mulch approximately 2 to 3 inches thick to provide extra insulation.
If you’re expecting cold temperatures, wrap your crape myrtle’s trunk or pot in fleece to keep it warm. Alternatively, you can move potted crape myrtles indoors. A greenhouse or conservatory is ideal, but a garage also works. This gives your crape myrtle shelter against harsh winter conditions and temperatures below -5ºF.
End-of-Season Crape Myrtle Care FAQs:
Should Crape Myrtles Be Cut Back in Winter?
Late winter is the best time to cut back crape myrtles because they will be dormant. Crape myrtles only require light pruning to remove damaged branches and improve air circulation. Prune them before new growth begins in the spring.
What Do You Do With Crape Myrtles in the Winter?
Crape myrtles in Zones 6 to 9 shouldn’t need additional winter care. You can lightly prune crape myrtles in winter if desired. Move potted crape myrtles indoors or wrap them in fleece in colder climates.
Do Crape Myrtles Lose Their Leaves in the Winter?
Crape myrtles are deciduous shrubs and trees, which means they lose their leaves during the winter. Crape myrtles drop their leaves to conserve energy throughout the winter and improve their resistance to strong winds.
Crape myrtles flower from summer until fall. Crape myrtles don’t require much end-of-season care until late winter. This is the best time to lightly prune crape myrtles. In cold climates, grow crape myrtles in pots and wrap them in fleece or bring them indoors during the winter.