No yard or landscape should be without a crape myrtle, or two, or three or… many! How wonderful to have something that blooms so profusely during that time of year when most other plants are looking tired and worn from the summer heat and drought. The versatility of this plant makes it suitable for many types of yards and many uses, and once established, they will go on to add charm and delight to the landscape for many years.
About Crape Myrtles
Crape myrtles bloom in late summer and can be found in flower colors of pinks, lilac, white, reds and purples. Requiring very little maintenance once established, crape myrtles need a full sun location to thrive and they do not like wet feet. Keep these needs in mind when selecting a site to plant them. They will require some supplemental watering for the first year or so to get off to a good start and develop good roots. Crape myrtles are also pretty much pest-free, except for aphids on occasion and these are easily controlled with an insecticidal soap spray. Some varieties are more susceptible to powdery mildew than others but most of the newer varieties are more resistant to this fungus problem.
Planting Crape Myrtles
Although tolerant of a wide range of soil qualities, crape myrtles grow poorly in wet locations so be sure to select a well-drained planting site. Late spring to early summer is the best time to select and plant your new crape myrtles while they are actively growing and can settle in quickly. Plant at or slightly above ground level, spreading the roots out slightly and using mulch to protect and shelter the roots after planting. They do prefer a slightly acid soil.
Crape Myrtle Types
Crape myrtles can be found in shrub, multi-stem tree and single trunk tree forms. For best results select a cultivar whose growth characteristics and ultimate mature size fit your intended use. Planting a shrub- or tree-like crape myrtle in an area of limited space will require yearly pruning to keep it from outgrowing its place. Severe pruning distorts the beauty of the Single- or multi-stemmed tree-form crape myrtles are ideal as flowering specimen trees or as small, flowering shade trees near patios, walkways and entrances.
Pruning Crape Myrtles
If you plant a cultivar whose growth characteristics and ultimate mature size fit your intended use, little pruning will be required. Don’t plant a variety that grows 25 feet tall, if you want a tree that will max out at 15 feet tall.
If adequate room is provided, little pruning is required except to maintain shape or remove any dead or crossing branches. Remove any suckers or water sprouts to maintain tree forms and elegance. Blossoms are produced on new growth so you can prune anytime the plants are dormant through the winter. For Wingard’s own “How To” video on pruning crape myrtles, click here.
With so much to love about these plants, there’s no reason not to add one to your yard this year! And next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…