We all can get kinda lonely sometimes, but this can easily be avoided if we fill our gardens with charming plants! From tiny ground-covering succulents and flowering lilies to adorable shrubs and friendly trees, there are have so many interesting species to choose from. Want to know a secret? You do not need to have a lot of experience to grow beautiful plants! If you understand your plants’ particular demands, you will become a pro gardener before you even realize it.
We know, the struggle is real, but we are here to make your gardening journey the most exciting experience ever! Today’s plant is something to remember and, once you read about it, you won’t be able to resist having it around.
Lagerstroemia indica, otherwise known as the Crape myrtle, crepe flower, Queen of shrubs, Pride of India, or Queen’s flower, is a species of flowering plants in the Lythraceae family. This alluring tree can be found growing mostly in the Indian Subcontinent, but it also grows in several regions of Southeast Asia, Korea, China, and Japan.
About Crape Myrtle
- Crape myrtles can be grown near a wide range of other species of flowering plants including the Pink trumpet tree, Sea mallow, Sweet olive, African iris, and jasmine.
- Their overall appearance is one of a kind and their flowers resemble the well-known lilacs. In the United Kingdom, they have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
- They are popular ornamental plants and you can see them very often in landscape decorations near highways, patios, decks, parking lots, and homes.
- Crape myrtles have many branches that give them a wide and shrub-like appearance. These plants are popular nesting places for wrens and songbirds.
- It is believed that some parts of these plants can be used to treat different afflictions. They’re thought to have a lot of health benefits like overcoming inflammation and stroke, preventing premature aging and heart attacks, or maintaining bone health.
- Like most trees, crape myrtles do well in full sunlight and warm temperatures all-year-round. They are frost-hardy, but not as tolerant of extreme heat.
- These plants will benefit from regular fertilizing during their active growing season. However, too much fertilizer can produce many leaves and no flowers at all.
- Whether you keep Crape myrtles indoors or outdoors, they can be grown safely around children and animals.
Crape Myrtle Features: An Overview
- Crape myrtles belong to the Lagerstroemia genus that contains about 50 species of flowering shrubs and trees. The most common species in cultivation include L. indica, L. fauriei, and L. speciosa.
- They are perennial shrubs or small trees that can reach between 6 and 25 feet (2-8 m) in height and 6 to 20 feet (2-6 m) in width. In their natural habitat, some specimens have grown even 23 feet (7 m) tall.
- These plants are often multi-stemmed and covered with a thin bark of about 0.07 inches (2 mm) in thickness. The bark is smooth, mottled, and comes in beautiful tones of pinkish to gray.
- Their small, circular-oval, and dark green leaves present very smooth edges. In autumn, the foliage will turn into pleasant-looking mixes of reddish-green, orange, yellow, and bright red.
- Crape myrtle plants are deciduous, shedding their bark and foliage each year. During the winter, after hypnotic color display, the leaves shed and bare branches produce new ones in early spring.
- During their flowering period, from July to September, Crape myrtles exhibit numerous inflorescences that come along with clusters of showy bloomings.
- Depending on the specimen, their flowers composed of crimped petals can appear in various shades of pink, carmine red, lilac, purple, and also white.
- Crape myrtle trees bear pea-sized berries that will eventually become seedpods. The fruits usually ripen in autumn and seeds can be collected and used in propagation.
Growing Crape Myrtle
Nothing compares to a garden full of trees and we are not the only ones who feel the same way! All species of trees are quite easy to grow and care for, and Crape myrtles are no different. If their environmental requirements and basic demands are met, these plants can make for excellent lifetime companions. And we assure you that they worth every minute and penny spent!
Light-wise, Crape myrtles prefer locations where they can receive at least six hours of bright and direct sunlight daily. When grown in a proper environment, your plants will thrive and bloom sporadically without any problems. If these trees are not exposed to enough lighting, their flowers will not be as prolific and the colors may appear more faded than usual.
When growing L. indica plants in full sunlight, you must pay attention to how much heat they experience. The ideal temperatures for your flowering trees to grow healthy range from 70 to 75 °F (21-24 °C). Although they are pretty tolerant of freezing conditions, these plants cannot withstand temperatures above 115 °F (46 °C).
Crape myrtles are susceptible to sooty mold, powdery mildew, and other fungal infections. To reduce the risk of infected plants and prevent any overall damage, you can apply a general-use fungicide once or twice a year.
In terms of pests, Crape myrtles are generally bothered by aphids, scale insects, Japanese beetles, or other intruders that feed on their leaves. If you notice any sign of infestation, treat the unhealthy parts with neem oil, insecticides, and suitable pesticides.
Planting Crape Myrtle
When it comes to planting your Crape myrtles in a substrate, you should know that they are not as picky as you might think. However, it is very important to grow these trees in soil that has good drainage to avoid waterlogging and root rot. They can tolerate a wide range of soil pH, though the best types are slightly acidic and neutral.
Crape myrtles are independent plants that can grow on their own without any extra fertilizer. For optimal growth and brighter blooming, you must provide these trees with fertilizers regularly during their active growing season. Feed your plants with a slow-release fertilizer that is high in nitrogen once every two weeks in spring and summer. They are quite sensitive to over-fertilizing, so you should follow the package instructions accordingly.
To promote new flowering in the next year, Crape myrtles need regular pruning in late winter or early spring. If you want to maintain a certain size or shape for your plants, so you have to remove any tangled branches, suckers, or irregular-shaped leaves. Moreover, you can trim off branches from the bottom 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) of the trunk to allow the bark to show its interesting and attractive appearance.
Watering Crape Myrtle
As with most trees, Crape myrtles need supplemental irrigation in the first two years after planting until they are settled in their new growing medium. But do not worry! You cannot do something wrong as long as you provide them with little water only in the evening, especially during the hot summer months.
Once these plants are established, they are pretty tolerant of drought for short periods. Root rot is one of the most common problems that occur while watering Crape myrtles. To avoid over-watering, make sure you always check the soil in-between waterings.
When the top 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) of soil has dried out, your thirsty trees will appreciate a deep soaking. This watering technique is recommended from spring through autumn, but Crape myrtles will require watering less often in winter.
The amount of water may vary depending on the type of soil they are grown in and their size. Although they are drought-tolerant, keep in mind that it is also possible to provide your Crape myrtles with less water than needed. Watch out for suspicious signs, as the most common of under-watering are withering or yellow leaves.
Propagating Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtles are so lovely and easy-going that it would be a pity not to propagate them and have more babies around! Or, why not, to fill the gardens of your family and friends with their mesmerizing foliage and flowers. Luckily, these plants can be propagated as easily as you can imagine−from semi-hardwood cuttings. Find your courage and get to work, as they cannot wait to be loved unconditionally and cared for by a new mother!
Crape myrtle trees respond well to propagation if the cuttings are taken during their active growing season. Look for young branches and cut about 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) off them using a sharp and sterilized knife. You must remove all the leaves until you have only three or four nodes on each cutting. The branches must be allowed to form a callous in a warm and shaded location for a few days. For optimal results, dip the cuttings in rooting hormone after they calloused well.
The cuttings can be grown in pots or outdoor rooting beds filled with proper potting soil combined with peat moss, pine bark, or leaf mold. If you keep the baby Crape myrtles moist by misting them regularly, they will develop a strong root system in three or four weeks after planting. Once this period has ended, the cuttings are ready to be transplanted in the garden or their individual pots in fall or winter.
The best part of growing and caring for Crepe myrtles is that they are very low-maintenance plants, making them an excellent choice, especially for beginners. And with their stunning autumn foliage and lilac-like flowers, these plants will be an eye-catching piece for every pair of eyes!
Are you growing Lagerstroemia a.k.a. Crepe Myrtles? Share your experience in the comments below!