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Crape Myrtles

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)

Crape Myrtles were native to China, Japan and Korea and introduced to Charleston, South Carolina and the United States in 1790. Crape Myrtles are chiefly known for their colorful long lasting flowers that bloom 60 to 90 days in the summer. Flowers are borne in summer and autumn in panicles of crinkled flowers with crape like texture. Colors vary from deep purple to red and white, with almost every shade in between. Its seed is a capsule, green and succulent at first, then ripening to a dark brown or black dryness. These capsules release small winged seeds.

In the wild most Crape Myrtle are multi-stemmed large shrubs, but in today landscape it is possible to find crape myrtle filling every landscaping need from small trees to dense barrier hedges to dwarf types that grow only 2 foot tall.

Today many of the new crape myrtle varieties were developed at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. These were developed to be disease resistant and hardier for northern climates. They have become the mainstay of the crape myrtles that are used in the landscaping of corporate parks and home gardens.

Arapaho, Tonto, Catawba, Sioux, Tuscarora, Tuskegee and Yuma are just a few that have been introduced with many more being developed by other people. Some of the newer varieties have burgundy leaves with blooms from purple to brilliant pink and others are dwarf growing only to 3 feet.

Crape myrtle bloom on new growth so you can prune in the spring and they will still flower that summer. Many semi dwarf varieties will reboom if you remove spent bloom and fertilize. Many crape myrtles are often injured in bitterly cold winters and they are one of the last of the deciduous shrubs to begin growth in the spring so wait until late spring or early summer to prune. Never prune crape myrtle in the fall and winter since it compromises their hardiness.

Crape myrtle flower most heavily in full uninterrupted sunlight. Even an hour of shade during the day will compromise flowering. Other things that cause Crape Myrtles to bloom less are frequent irrigation, lack of heat, and over fertilization.

Some of the newer burgundy varieties are Pink Velour (bright pink), Plum Magic, Coral Magic, Delta Jazz, and Purple Magic. The dwarf varieties include Color me Pink, Cherry Dazzle, Pocomoke, and Ruby Dazzle.