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Lifestyle * Literary

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Crape Myrtle Cultivation for New Gardeners

Crape Myrtle’s are hugely popular in many parts of the world, especially here in Central Florida.  Their botanical name is lagerstroemia (lay-ger-stree’mi-a) and they belong to a tree family of about thirty other species with showy blooms that make them most attractive to gardeners.  They originated in the warmer regions of the Old World like many plants.  So ancient are they, that they were originally named by Linnaeus for his friend Magnus von Lagerstroem.

Crape Myrtle Cultivation

Crape Myrtle Dark Pink, photo by Jerilee WeiOne of the things that make crape myrtles attractive to gardeners is the fact that they are known to bloom the first year just from planting the seeds.  They also grow readily from cuttings and that is usually the way they are cultivated.  Young cuttings are simply set out in the fall and often bloom profusely the following summer.

Because after the flowering season of young crape myrtles is over, if they aren’t cut back almost to the ground, the next summer’s bloom is likely to be sparse - this has led to the practice of severing crape myrtles once they are old without understanding that this practice should not be continued.  So very often, you’ll see crape myrtles being forced into quite unnatural shapes.  

So it is advised that very young crape myrtles be cut back for the first three to five years, after that let them grow.  By then, the root system has become strong enough to supply both foliage and flowers and you will not be disappointed, nor will you have the chore of cutting them back each year.

In most places crape myrtles flower from June to October and depending on where you live they will have a two week peak period when first flowering. This is when they are most photogenic.

If you achieve crape myrtle blooms of extraordinary quality and you want more quantity, simply cut the superfluous shoots out, prune back the tops during the dormant season and you’ll be rewarded in the spring.  However, I do warn you don’t do this to your crape myrtle every year.

Eventually the crape myrtle develops into a tree covered with little tufts of fine crepe.  Here in the old South they are so popular that you’ll see many that have been trained by pruning back that they will have long drooping lilac-shaped panicles of flowers at the end of each and every shoot.  This can quickly become a laborious thing or you’ll have to cut the crape myrtle back severely each winter to achieve a symmetrical shrub instead of the tree it was meant to be.

This close-up of a Crape Myrtle’s flower shows the way its petals arise from the hypanthium on slender “claws”. Photo: John Conrad, Public Domain via Wikimedia CommonsThere are several popular colors of crape myrtle, among them: 

  • Purple
  • Red
  • Dark Pink
  • Light Pink
  • White

If you’d like to know more about crape myrtle trees!

How To Grow Crape Myrtle Trees

 How to Propagate Crape Myrtle Trees

Pruning Crape Myrtles