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- Mature Height/Spread
- Growth Rate
- Landscape Use
- Related Species
- Wax Myrtle
- Wax Myrtle Tree
- Versatile Shrub or Ornamental Tree
- Planting & Care
- Myrica cerifera
- Wax myrtles are a fast-growing shrub
- Wax Myrtle Care: How To Plant Wax Myrtle In Your Garden
- Wax Myrtle Care Tips
- How to Plant Wax Myrtle
- Crepe Myrtle
- Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
- ‘Acoma’. Pure white flowers. 3m high – 3m wide.
- ‘Biloxi’. Pale Pink flowers. 7m high – 5m wide.
- ‘Lipan’. Lavender flowers. 4m high – 3 wide.
- ‘Natchez’. Superb white flowering. 8m high – 6m wide.
- ‘Sioux’. Hot pink flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.
- ‘Tonto’. Pink to red flowers. 3m high – 3m wide.
- ‘Tuscarora’. Dark fuchsia pink flowers. 6m high – 4m wide.
- ‘Yuma’. lavender flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.
- ‘Zuni’. Dark lavender flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.
- ‘Fantasy’. White flowers. 9m high – 8m wide
- ‘Kiowa’. Pure white flowers. 8m high – 7m wide.
- ‘Townhouse’. White flowers. 8m high – 8m wide.
- Crepe Myrtle: Essential Southern Plant
- Crepe Myrtle Information:
- Crepe Myrtle Care
- Types of Crepe Myrtle Trees
- Crepe Myrtle Pruning Tips
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Waxy gray berries of common waxmyrtle (Morella cerifera).
Photo by Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Common waxmyrtle or Southern bayberry (Morella cerifera; formerly Myrica cerifera) is native to South Carolina and other southeastern States. Its range is from New Jersey to Florida and westward to Texas.
This broadleaf evergreen shrub or tree grows quickly to 15 to 20 feet high and wide. The leaves are glossy green and typically 1½ to 3 inches long and ⅓ to ¾ inches wide, sometimes bigger (4½ inches long and 2 inches wide). Inconspicuous flowers appear in early spring, followed by fruit in late summer through winter. The grayish-white fruits are small (⅛ inch wide), heavily coated with wax and massed in clusters on the stems of the previous season’s growth. Waxmyrtle plants are either male or female. Only female plants bear berries.
Common waxmyrtle grows very fast, sometimes as much as 5 feet in height and width in a single growing season.
Common waxmyrtle (Morella cerifera) growing as a hedge in a beach community.
Photo by Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Wax myrtles are useful as screen plants, informal hedges, or roadside plantings. The foliage and berries are pleasantly aromatic. Birds are attracted to wax myrtles, which they use for food and shelter. The waxy berries were used for making candles in Colonial times.
Waxmyrtles make good beach plants, since they tolerate drought, sand, sun and salt spray.
Waxmyrtles are not particular about soil, but they prefer good drainage and slightly acidic soils.
Common waxmyrtle should be planted in partial shade to full sun. They do not require a lot of maintenance. Plants may be pruned (limbed up) to form an attractive small tree with a handsome gray, almost white bark.
Common waxmyrtle is sensitive to cold. Cold symptoms include browning of leaves and sometimes defoliation, but stem tissue is not injured. Common waxmyrtle grows well in USDA zones 7 to 10.
Waxmyrtles are tough, durable shrubs. They have no serious plant diseases or insect pests. Infrequently waxmyrtles may have a leaf spot. Iron chlorosis (yellowing of the leaf tissue between the veins) is a problem in high pH soils.
- ‘Fairfax’ has a compact mounding form that grows to 6 to 8 feet high. The leaves are smaller and lighter green than those of the species. This spreading, colonizing selection was found in Fairfax, South Carolina.
- ‘Don’s Dwarf’ has a compact habit, and grows to 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. This female cultivar is resistant to leaf spot.
- ‘Tom’s Dwarf’ is a male selection that grows to 3 to 4 feet (to possibly 6 feet) tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. This male cultivar has resistance to leaf spot.
- ‘Hiwassee’ is a larger selection that is more cold hardy than the straight species. It withstood -4 °F in Tennessee without leaf burn.
- ‘Wolf Bay’ Grows to 20 feet tall, and is more upright and thicker than the species.
Dwarf Waxmyrtle or Dwarf Bayberry (Morella pumila; formerly Myrica pumila): As the name implies, this dwarf waxmyrtle has the smallest height and the leaves are considerably smaller than the other species in South Carolina. The plants grow to less than 3 feet tall and are strongly stoloniferous, which means the plants spread to form colonies. Flowering in this dwarf species is about 3 weeks later than in the common waxmyrtle. It grows primarily in the coastal plain pinelands. This species grows well in USDA zones 7 to 10.
Northern Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica; formerly Myrica pensylvanica): This deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub is more cold hardy than common waxmyrtle. It grows to a height of 6 to 10 feet and 10 to 15 feet wide. The annual growth rate is 12 to 18 inches. The glossy, dark green foliage is followed by persistent, silvery gray berries that provide winter interest. Male and female plants are required for good fruit development. This species grows best in cooler climates from USDA zones 3 to 6.
This deciduous species is native from parts of North Carolina coast and northward. It is distinguished from the common waxmyrtle in that its leaves are shorter and wider, and the twigs are much stouter. The fruits are twice the size of the common waxmyrtle. This species, like the dwarf waxmyrtle, is stoloniferous.
Swamp Bayberry or Evergreen Bayberry (Morella caroliniensis; formerly Myrica caroliniensis or Myrica heterophylla): This species is more or less evergreen, and has the largest leaves of the related species. It also may be distinguished from the other species by the blackish older branches. It is primarily limited to the Southeastern coastal plain in wet savannahs and pine flatlands.
Wax myrtle is a fast-growing, hardy native plant that can take tough conditions – heat, cold, wet and even salty areas.
The dense, fine-textured foliage can be nicely manicured to create a more formal look, or let the plant grow into its natural upright, bushy form.
Birds are attracted to the small fruit produced by the female plant.
Small spring flowers are followed by clusters of tiny fruit that matures in fall and often lasts on the plant throughout the winter.
Sometimes called Southern bayberry, wax myrtle was used by early American colonists to make bayberry candles from the fruit’s waxy, bluish coating. The foliage is also aromatic.
Commonly used as a hedge or privacy screen, this fast-growing shrub can also be grown as a tree. It’s also often planted along the edge of a pond.
This is an evergreen shrub that’s cold hardy enough to grow beautifully anywhere in South Florida.
It’s a fast grower that can be trimmed to 5 or 6 feet tall and wide, or left to grow much larger – 20 feet or more.
Avoid placing in windy locations…fast growers like these tend to have more brittle wood stems.
These plants prefer full to partial sun to look their best.
They’re salt-tolerant and perfect for beach landscapes.
They also can take “wet feet” and work well in locations by water such as a pond. Additionally, they’re considered deer-resistant (though nothing is deer-proof).
Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant. Adding composted cow manure isn’t necessary but can be beneficial.
Wax myrtles can be shaped with a light shearing of foliage using hedge trimmers.
These shrubs stay healthier and live longer if you remove no more than 1/3 of the plant during a hard pruning.
If you need to, do up to 3 hard prunings a year – spring, summer and early autumn (before October 15th), so not too much of the old wood is removed at a time.
Don’t cut back so far that you have mostly leafless stems.
Too frequent heavy pruning tends to eventually cause some patches of the plant to die back, and this practice can shorten the life of this shrub.
Water on a regular basis. Though these plants can put up with a bit of dry weather, they’ll do best with regular irrigation.
Fertilize 3 times a year – spring summer and autumn – with a high-quality granular fertilizer.
To grow as a hedge, plant these shrubs about 3 or 4 feet apart.
In a mixed bed, allow 4 feet between this plant and other shrubs.
Come out from the house 4 feet. Near a drive or walkway, come in 4 or 5 feet.
These shrubs grow too fast to make good container plants.
Landscape uses for wax myrtle
- large accent
- lining the edge of a pond
- along the driveway
- backdrop for smaller plants
- privacy screen
- shade plant by the patio or deck
- along the property border
- large anchor for a wildlife garden
- small tree
A.K.A. (also known as): Waxmyrtle, Southern Bayberry
GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? YES
COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Ruella, beach sunflower, oleander, yesterday today and tomorrow, Green Island ficus, bush allamanda, and hibiscus.
Other plants you might like: Eugenia, Viburnum
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- Large Shrubs
- Wax Myrtle
Wax Myrtle Tree
Versatile Shrub or Ornamental Tree
Why Wax Myrtle Trees?
If a partition or screen is your objective, then the Wax Myrtle performs flawlessly. Its dense foliage and quick-growing nature lends itself to being an excellent choice for shrubs. Plant them in a row to define your property line, or to accent your front patio.
And the Way Myrtle’s foliage and berries are pleasingly fragrant, making it a great addition to your outdoor living space. The fruit matures in the fall and remains throughout winter, attracting a multitude of birds. Plus, Myrtle is ‘green’ in more ways than one, as it returns nitrogen to the soil and organically repels insects.
Why Fast-Growing-Trees.com is Better
For starters, the easy-to-grow Wax Myrtle is deer resistant, heat and drought tolerant. Known for its adaptable nature, the Wax Myrtle will put up with moist or dry soil and even grows well in infertile soils. These plants are so trouble-free they practically take care of themselves.
But the best part is its strong history. You get rich foliage, tiny yellow-green flowers that are daintily aromatic in the spring and carefree benefits because we’ve nurtured our Wax Myrtles for a head start. When your Wax Myrtle arrives to your door, it’s ready to grow effortlessly.
Our Wax Myrtles are grown with expert, loving care and are healthy and ready for quick shipment. Get your own Wax Myrtle today!
Planting & Care
1. Planting: Wax Myrtles prefer well draining, slightly acidic soils, but will adapt to just about any soil type. If you’re located near a beach, this makes for a great tree as it is tolerant to sea spray. Select a location where where it will receive full to partial sunlight (4 to 8 hours of sunlight per day) and where the roots will not be disturbed.
When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root system. Tamp the soil down as you back fill the hole to cut back on any air pockets from forming. After planting, be sure to give your Wax Myrtle tree a deep watering for about 5 minutes. Mulching around the tree will help insulate the roots and keep your plant warm in the colder winter months as well.
2. Watering: Wax Myrtles do best when watered around the drip line every 10 to 14 days. As a rule of thumb, if the soil is moist 2 to 3 inches down, avoid watering your tree until it’s dry.
3. Fertilizing: Wax Myrtles generally do not require very much fertilizing. If you do fertilize, avoid anything with an excessive amount of nitrogen.
4. Pruning: When growing your Wax Myrtle as a hedge, minimal pruning is required to maintain a desired shape. Be sure to do any pruning in early spring before new growth starts. When the shrub is young, it can be trained into a tree form by choosing the largest and strongest stem (or stems if you’d prefer a multi-trunk tree) and pruning all other stems to ground level.
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- Attributes: Genus: Myrica Species: cerifera Family: Myricaceae Uses (Ethnobotany): The fruits of this species have been used for many years to make bayberry candles, soaps and sealing wax. Life Cycle: Woody Country Or Region Of Origin: New Jersey to Central America, Caribbean, NC Fire Risk Rating: high flammability Wildlife Value: Waxmyrtle provides excellent winter and extreme weather cover. It is a host plant for the Red-Banded Hairstreak butterfly. Flowers provide an excellent source of nectar for honeybees and butterflies. The fruits are eaten by birds, especially yellow-rumped warbler (which are very efficient at digesting the waxy fruits) in the fall and winter. Play Value: Buffer Fragrance Screening Wildlife Food Source Wildlife Larval Host Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): Waxmyrtle is highly salt and wind tolerant, and highly resistant to deer damage. Dimensions: Height: 20 ft. 0 in. – 25 ft. 0 in. Width: 8 ft. 0 in. – 10 ft. 0 in.
- Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Native Plant Shrub Tree Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Deciduous Semi-evergreen Habit/Form: Dense Erect Irregular Multi-stemmed Multi-trunked Rounded Spreading Growth Rate: Rapid Texture: Fine
- Cultural Conditions: Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil pH: Acid (<6.0) Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Moist Occasional Flooding Occasionally Dry Occasionally Wet Available Space To Plant: 6-feet-12 feet NC Region: Coastal Piedmont Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
- Fruit: Fruit Color: Blue Gray/Silver White Fruit Value To Gardener: Fragrant Long-lasting Showy Display/Harvest Time: Fall Winter Fruit Type: Drupe Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: Pollinated female flowers are followed by small attractive sessile clusters (2-6 fruits on previous season’s growth) of tiny, globose, gray fruits that are each surrounded by an aromatic waxy substance. The fruits mature in fall and persist through winter. Birds eat the fruits in fall and winter, thus helping the plants to naturalize by disbursing the seed.
- Flowers: Flower Color: Gold/Yellow Green Flower Inflorescence: Catkin Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Size: < 1 inch Flower Description: The flowers of the Waxmyrtle are fragrant but non-showy, with only the flowers on male plants (catkins to 1” long) displaying some color (a drab yellowish-green). They are apetalous. Male flowers have multiple stames, while female flowers are a one-celled ovary.
- Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Deciduous Semi-evergreen Leaf Color: Green Leaf Feel: Glossy Leathery Rough Leaf Value To Gardener: Fragrant Good Cut Good Dried Long-lasting Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Oblanceolate Obovate Leaf Margin: Serrate Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 3-6 inches Leaf Width: < 1 inch Leaf Description: The leaves of the waxmyrtle are alternate, simple, glossy, aromatic, narrowly obovate or oblanceolate, serrate at the apex, attenuate, olive green leaves (to 3-5” long) which are glabrous above and are dotted with tiny yellow resin glands on the bottom. The leaves, particularly the new growth, emit the distinctive bayberry candle fragrance when crushed.
- Bark: Bark Color: Light Brown Light Gray White Surface/Attachment: Smooth Bark Description: Grey-brown, almost white, with a thin, smooth surface.
- Stem: Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Cross Section: Round Stem Description: Stems are rounded or angular and resin-dotted when young.
- Landscape: Landscape Location: Coastal Naturalized Area Pond Recreational Play Area Riparian Small Space Woodland Landscape Theme: Children’s Garden Drought Tolerant Garden Native Garden Water Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Barrier Hedge Screen/Privacy Small Tree Attracts: Butterflies Songbirds Resistance To Challenges: Deer Drought Poor Soil Salt Urban Conditions Wet Soil Wind
Wax myrtles are a fast-growing shrub
There are many trees that are a good choice for homeowners and the landscape; for example, the wax myrtle — scientific name Myrica cerifera.
This is a broadleaf evergreen shrub or tree that grows quickly to 15 to 20 feet high and wide. It thrives in full sunlight to partial shade and prefers a fertile, moist acidic soil but is tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions.
Wax myrtles are often used as screen plants, informal hedges or as single or multitrunked trees that are excellent for planting for wildlife.
Brief recognition factors include:
excellent wildlife food — females bear berries.
can be shaped and pruned as a tree.
tough and durable.
Some of the negatives of the species include:
water suckers at base of large plants.
flammable plant because of oils in leaves.
Overall this is a very strong, hardy plant that grows very fast and utilized as wildlife food for many birds in the area.
South Louisiana is in the ideal time to fertilize the landscape trees as most are beginning to enter a growth phase with the air and soil temperatures beginning to warm up.
The Terrebonne Tree Board and Apache Oil Co. just completed a tree giveaway in the parish. These trees need to be established, preferably for a year before they are fertilized, so the tree has a chance to establish a strong root system.
For older trees in the urban setting, now is the time to fertilize. The LSU AgCenter office has a very good publication titled “Trees for Louisiana Landscapes” publication number 1622, that explains how to fertilize trees in the landscape.
Now is the time to fertilize citrus trees. The AgCenter office gets a lot of calls about citrus trees and care and often AgCenter officials ask if the trees were fertilized. Many times the answer is no, not this year.
Citrus trees require annual fertilization for good growth and high yields of good size and high-quality fruit.
The AgCenter has an excellent publication number 1234 titled “Louisiana Home Citrus Production” that you can get online on the agencys Web site or at your parishs local extension office.
Remember that newly set trees should not be fertilized until they show signs of growth, usually six weeks after they are set in the spring.
A general recommendation after the second year is to apply 1-1-1/2 pounds of 8-8-8 and 13-13-13 per year of tree age up to 12 years. Increase the rate of fertilizer 1-1-1/2 pounds per year as the tree gets older.
Also remember to avoid fertilizing citrus trees after the end of June as this can encourage vigorous growth and delay fruit maturity and decrease cold hardiness of the tree.
Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, turnips, mustard, spinach, parsley, Chinese cabbage, radishes, Irish potatoes, leaf lettuce, head lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, snap beans and sweet corn the latter part of the month.
Question: Why should I worry about frost on plants?
Answer: Even though south Louisianas climate is nearly tropical year round, there are cold periods with frost in early spring. These cold periods usually are not gradual and can harm plants that have not been hardened off.
Question: What are some good recommended varieties of snap beans?
Answer: Bush varieties — Bush Blue Lake 274 (white seed), Provider (purple seed), Strike (white seed).
Pole varieties — Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, Rattlesnake and Louisiana Purple Pod.
Barton Joffrion is an area agent with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at 873-6495 or [email protected] Visit the AgCenters Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.
Wax Myrtle Care: How To Plant Wax Myrtle In Your Garden
Growing wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) as an evergreen shrub or small tree is an excellent addition to the landscape. Learning how to plant wax myrtle is relatively simple. The wax myrtle tree or shrub is often used for a fast growing hedge or privacy screen and may be used singly as an attractive specimen plant in the yard.
Wax Myrtle Care Tips
Wax myrtle care involves fertilization and pruning for shape or pruning when limbs are damaged or split off by heavy ice and snow. Historically, leaves of the wax myrtle tree were used for fragrance and flammability when making candles. This fragrance, still used today, has earned the shrub a common name of southern bayberry.
Wax myrtle often exhibits
growth of 3 to 5 feet a year. As a shrub it has a rounded, narrow form and is attractive when limbed up for use as a small tree. Use the wax myrtle tree in mixed shrub borders and as shade for the deck or patio. When growing wax myrtle, avoid planting annuals and perennials around the roots of this plant. Root disturbance or injury results in numerous suckers that must be pruned to keep the plant healthy and for proper wax myrtle care.
Fruit of the wax myrtle tree is an important source of food for birds in the winter. Grayish-white clusters of fruit with a bluish, waxy coating remain on the plant throughout the winter in USDA Zones 7 -9, where the growing wax myrtle is hardy. Include the wax myrtle tree in your natural or wildlife friendly area. Flowers appear in spring; small with a greenish tint.
How to Plant Wax Myrtle
Plant wax myrtle in a full sun to part sun area where roots will not be disturbed. This plant is salt tolerant and takes sea spray well, making it an exceptional beach front planting. The wax myrtle is adaptable to a range of soils, but prefers the soil to be moist. When growing wax myrtle, plant it where you can enjoy the bayberry fragrance emitting from the glossy leaves and berries.
Photo – Ngoc Minh Ngo/Gettyimages.com
Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
We think the Indian Summer crepe myrtles are simply the world’s best summer-flowering trees. Intense flower colour, a long flowering season, good autumn colour, handsome bark and attractive spring foliage mean they enjoyed in all seasons. Each of the Indian Summer cultivars is named after an American Indian tribe, and they range in size from around 3-6m fully grown. Select the height you need so you don’t have to prune which spoils the arching elegance of the mature tree.
Description: The ‘Indian Summer’ range of crepe myrtle consists predominantly of deciduous trees to small shrubs that are robust and very rewarding. Crepe Myrtle’s are popular due to their beautiful crepe-paper textured flowers that appear throughout summer. Improved varieties have bigger flower heads and longer flowering period with a resistance to powdery mildew (common to older varieties). Flowers come in a variety of colours, from deep reds, to hot pinks, purples and white.
Foliage: Most varieties colour well in autumn with leaf colours ranging from bright red, deep maroon, vibrant yellow, pink and burnt orange, all on the one tree.
Bark: The bark is also beautiful, exfoliating early summer to revealing bold, gnarled, sinuate and twisted trunk in mottled colours.
Size: Dependent on variety. Range from 8m – 9m high trees to 2m – 3m high shrubs. Width is generally reflective of height. Small shrubs have a width of 1m – 2m and larger trees being 5m – 7m.
Special Comments: Crepe myrtle offers a wide selection of colours, shapes and sizes. Plants are generally very hardy and have multiple uses. Many varieties are also available as bare rooted stock in winter.
Care: Water plants regally until established. Provide well draining, fertile soil that is rich in compost. Plant in a full sun position for best results.
Flowers: Will last from 60 – 90 days depending on the cultivar. When the flower starts to age, cut it immediately below the head so that the shoots down the stem at each leaf can open and the next flower heads can develop. This can be repeated over three to four months. A light prune in autumn or winter (just to remove the finished flowers only) will result in many more flowers next summer.
Use: Plants look outstanding on mass, planted along a fence line or driveway. Crepe myrtle makes a perfect edition to backyards as a single specimen plant and is widely used in council strips and common areas.
Troubleshooting: Past varieties of crepe myrtle are known to be susceptible to powdery mildew. This has been largely corrected due to plant breeding and plant selection. Some varieties can ‘sucker’ and may require maintenance.
Crepe myrtle is often produces as ether a ‘bush’ form or a ‘tree’ form. Bush forms are those that have been left to develop into their natural shape. Little to no pruning is performed in this case. This creates a more natural look, although less flowering heads are produced.
Tree forms are those that have been carefully pruned to provide a more ‘formal’ product. A more distinguished trunk is created through this method. More abundant flower heads develop as a result of pruning.
‘Acoma’. Pure white flowers. 3m high – 3m wide.
‘Biloxi’. Pale Pink flowers. 7m high – 5m wide.
‘Lipan’. Lavender flowers. 4m high – 3 wide.
‘Natchez’. Superb white flowering. 8m high – 6m wide.
‘Sioux’. Hot pink flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.
‘Tonto’. Pink to red flowers. 3m high – 3m wide.
‘Tuscarora’. Dark fuchsia pink flowers. 6m high – 4m wide.
‘Yuma’. lavender flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.
‘Zuni’. Dark lavender flowers. 4m high – 3m wide.
‘Fantasy’. White flowers. 9m high – 8m wide
‘Kiowa’. Pure white flowers. 8m high – 7m wide.
‘Townhouse’. White flowers. 8m high – 8m wide.
Text: Linda Ross
Crepe Myrtle: Essential Southern Plant
Crepe Myrtle Information:
- Deciduous shrubs and trees
- US, MS, LS, CS H10–6, except as noted
- Full sun
- Moderate water
The crepe myrtles are among the most satisfactory of plants for the South: showy summer flowers, attractive bark, and (in many cases) brilliant fall color make them year-round garden performers. Long, cool autumns yield the best leaf display; sudden frosts following warm, humid fall weather often freeze leaves while they’re still green, ruining the show.
Most crepe myrtles in gardens are selections of L. indica or hybrids of that species with L. fauriei. The latter species has attracted much notice for its hardiness and exceptionally showy bark. Queen’s crepe myrtle, L. speciosa, grows only in the Tropical South.
Crepe Myrtle Care
All crepe myrtles bloom on new wood and should be pruned in winter or early spring. On large shrubs and trees, remove basal suckers, twiggy growth, crossing branches, and branches growing toward the center of the plant. Also gradually remove side branches up to a height of 4–5 ft.; this exposes the handsome bark of the trunks. During the growing season, clip off spent flowers to promote a second, lighter bloom. Also prune dwarf forms periodically throughout the growing season, removing spent blossoms and thinning out small, twiggy growth.
Crepe myrtles are not usually browsed by deer.
Types of Crepe Myrtle Trees
Japanese Crepe Myrtle
L. fauriei. Native to Japan. Tree to 20–30 ft. tall and wide, with erect habit and outward-arching branches. Light green leaves to 4 in. long and 2 in. wide turn yellow in fall. Especially handsome bark: the smooth gray outer bark flakes away to reveal glossy cinnamon brown bark beneath. Small white flowers are borne in 2- to
4-in.-long clusters in early summer; often blooms again in late summer. Resistant to mildew and best known as a parent of hardy, mildew-resistant hybrids with L. indica, though it is handsome in its own right. ‘Fantasy’, with even showier bark than the species, has a vase form―narrow below, spreading above. ‘Kiowa’ has outstanding cinnamon-colored bark.
Indica Crepe Myrtle
L. indica. The premier summer-flowering tree of the South. Tolerates heat, humidity, drought; does well in most soils as long as they are well drained. May be frozen to the ground in severe winters in the Upper South, but will resprout. Gardeners there should plant cold-hardy selections such as ‘Acoma’, ‘Centennial Spirit’, and ‘Hopi’. Variable in size (some forms are dwarf shrubs, others large shrubs or small trees) and habit (spreading or upright). Dark green leaves are 1–2 1/2 in. long and somewhat narrower, usually tinted red when new; they often turn brilliant orange or red in fall. Crinkled, crepe-papery, 1- to 1 1/2-in.-wide flowers in white or shades of pink, red, or purple are carried in dense clusters.
Trained as a tree, it develops an attractive trunk and branch pattern. Smooth gray or light brown bark peels off to reveal smooth, pinkish inner bark; winter trunk and branches seem polished.
Mildew can be a problem. Spray with triforine (Funginex) before plants bloom, or grow mildew-resistant hybrids of L. indica and L. fauriei. Almost all selections with names of Native American tribes, such as ‘Hopi’, ‘Miami’, and ‘Zuni’, are mildew resistant.
Queen’s Crepe Myrtle
L. speciosa. Zones TS; 12–9. Tree to 25–30 ft. tall, 15–25 ft. wide. The showiest and most tender of the crepe myrtles, displaying huge clusters of white, pink, lavender, or purple flowers in June and July. Individual blossoms reach 3 in. across. Large leaves (8–12 in. long, 4 in. wide) turn red in fall. Smooth, mottled, exfoliating bark. Rank grower; annual pruning in winter is especially important to control size and form.
Crepe Myrtle Pruning Tips
When pruning a crepe myrtle, don’t chop your large crepe myrtles down to ugly stubs each spring just because your neighbors do. This ruins the natural form and encourages the growth of spindly, whiplike branches that are too weak to hold up the flowers. To reduce a crepe myrtle’s height, use hand pruners or loppers to shorten the topmost branches by 2–3 ft. in late winter, always cutting back to a side branch or bud. For branches more than 2 in. thick, always cut back to the crotch or trunk. Don’t leave big, ugly stubs.