Foundation of Blooms: A Guide to Crape Myrtle Root Systems

Crape myrtles are beautiful ornamental shrubs that are extremely popular in the South. Crape myrtles are often used in urban landscaping thanks to their gorgeous flowers, attractive leaves, subtle fragrance, and peeling bark. In this article, we’ll learn about crape myrtle root systems and whether they’re invasive or aggressive.

Exploring the Root System of Crape Myrtles: A Comprehensive Guide

The Growth Cycle of Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtles are deciduous or evergreen shrubs or small trees from the Lagerstroemia genus of the Lythraceae family. These plants are native to Asia, Australia, and the Indian Subcontinent.

Crape myrtles are fast-growing plants that usually live for a few decades. These trees grow 10 to 30 feet high and about 6 to 20 feet wide. However, crape myrtles can take a few years to establish their roots. They can also take approximately 5 to 10 years to reach their mature size.

Crape myrtles flower throughout summer and fall, often blooming for three to four months. Most species are deciduous, which means they drop their leaves during the fall. Crape myrtles go dormant over the winter before producing new growth in the spring.

What Kind of Root System Do Crape Myrtles Have?

A large mature Crape Myrtles with plumes of pink flowers

Like many trees, crape myrtles have a shallow root system that grows just below the surface of the soil. Crape myrtles produce dense mats of fibrous roots that are approximately 12 inches deep. These root systems can spread up to three times as wide as the crape myrtle’s canopy.

Are Crape Myrtle Roots Invasive?

Despite spreading for large distances, crape myrtle roots aren’t considered to be invasive. Although the root system is dense, the individual roots are relatively weak. Crape myrtle roots won’t damage or undermine building foundations or pathways.

However, grasses and other plants will struggle to grow underneath crape myrtles. All plants use roots to absorb water. Due to the dense mats of crape myrtle roots, other plants won’t be able to establish strong roots. This makes it harder for them to out-compete the crape myrtle for water.

Where to Plant Crape Myrtles

A flowering pin Crape Myrtle in bloom

Crape myrtles are naturalized in USDA Zones 6 to 9, especially across the South. If you live in a colder zone, grow crape myrtles in pots. This allows you to protect them during winter by moving them indoors or wrapping them in fleece.

Plant crape myrtles in sheltered areas that receive full sun. Crape myrtles need at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. Try and provide morning sunlight wherever possible, as this is less intense than direct afternoon sunlight.

Crape myrtles thrive in nutrient-poor, well-draining soils that still hold some moisture. They are reasonably drought-tolerant but hate being waterlogged. Crape myrtles also prefer neutral to slightly acidic soils.

You can safely plant crape myrtles near pathways and sidewalks. However, it’s advisable to plant them approximately 5 to 10 feet away from your home or pool. This isn’t due to the roots, but rather because these plants drop their flowers and leaves. It can be annoying to constantly remove fallen flowers and leaves from your home or pool.

How to Promote Healthy Crape Myrtle Roots

A Crape Myrtle plant growing in an ornate and well tended ornamental garden

Allowing your crape myrtle to establish a sound root system early results in a healthier tree. Crape myrtles can take a few years to fully establish their roots. You can help this process by providing plenty of water and nutrients.

Water newly planted crape myrtles once or twice weekly for the first two years. The aim is to keep the soil slightly moist. Fertilize young crape myrtles once a month during their first growing season with liquid fertilizer. It’s also worth pruning crape myrtles lightly each season. 

Crape Myrtle Root System FAQs:

Do Crepe Myrtles Have Large Root Systems?

Crepe myrtles produce large, shallow root systems that can spread up to three times as wide as the tree’s canopy. These roots form dense mats approximately 12 inches deep.

Do Crepe Myrtles Have Destructive Roots?

Despite their extensive root systems, crepe myrtle roots aren’t destructive. You can safely plant crepe myrtles close to sidewalks or garden paths. Crepe myrtle roots won’t undermine the foundations of your home.

How Close to the House Can You Plant a Crepe Myrtle Tree?

Crepe myrtle roots won’t damage your home’s foundations. However, planting them 5 to 10 feet away from your home is advisable as they drop lots of leaves and flowers throughout the year.

Wrapping Up

Crape myrtles have extensive, shallow root systems consisting of dense mats of fibrous roots. The root system can extend up to three times as wide as the tree’s canopy. However, crape myrtle roots aren’t destructive or invasive.

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