Incredibly tough plants for our area, basking in blazing hot sun and blooming from June until September!
These small to large shrubs can be trained as single- or multi-trunked trees. All have vivid, almost neon, flowers. Modern hybrids (L. indica x faueri hybrids) are better than the old varieties of L. indica, growing more vigorously and having greater mildew resistance (some are immune).
- Size: There are very miniature varieties: 'Pokomoke' (deep rose pink)
and 'Chickasaw' (pink-lavender) won't exceed 2' in 6 years. Some are big shrubs suitable to train as trees: 'Dynamite' (cherry 'red') and 'Natchez' (pure white) will both exceed 30'. And there are dozens of varieties in between, in all shades of pink, lavender to purple, white, and a few that are so dark pink they are called red. Most grow upright; 'Acoma' is spreading.
- Where: Plant in as much sun as possible. They won't bloom in less than
half a day of sun, and older varieties will get mildew in the shade.
- Watering: The modern hybrids can be grown in lawns, but crape
myrtles can also tolerate drought. They bloom best if they are not severely stressed. Deep soakings every week or so are great. More often is acceptable, and less often is adequate to keep the plant alive. If new growth stops due to lack of water, they won't continue blooming.
- Feeding: Plant with some started fertilizer to get the young plant going.
That's it! No followup or special feeding needed. Apparent nutrient deficiencies are usually related to overwatering or poor drainage.
- Pruning: No pruning is needed, but all crape myrtles can be pruned for
size control and will still bloom well. The sizes listed are for 5 - 10 years from planting, with light or no pruning. All can be kept 25 - 50% lower with one annual pruning.
Because they flower terminally (ie., at the end of each shoot) on new growth, the best time to prune them is in the winter or early spring. You can cut them as hard as you like at that time. Any new growth you cut off in spring or summer would have flowered, so try to avoid pruning then.
But it doesn't hurt the plant.
Trees are usually thinned to remove crossing and twiggy branches. Some people remove the seed heads. Suckers from the base will continue to sprout from the trees (they're really shrubs, after all), so just keep removing those.
- Which to choose?
There are literally hundreds of varieties. The mildew resistance of the hybrids makes them better choices than the older types. If an exact color is important, select the plant in bloom. Remember that color will vary with the temperature and as the individual flowers fade--especially on the dark pink ('red') varieties. Click here for a table listing some of the readily available types.
Lagerstroemia x 'Tuscarora'
© 2008 Don Shor, Redwood Barn Nursery, Inc., 1607 Fifth Street, Davis, Ca 95616
Feel free to copy and distribute this article with attribution to this author.
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