Crape Myrtles in Southern Landscaping
Shrubs and Trees
One of the most beautiful of summer blooming shrubs and trees in southern landscapes is the Crape Myrtle.
The official name of this eye catching plant is Lagerstroemia.
This particular plant can be grown as a bushy shrub or as a tree all depending upon how it is pruned and trimmed. New draping varieties can even be displayed in hanging baskets.
The height of the various forms vary from about 18 inches to over 40 feet.
Color variations and shades of the different varieties can range from white to pink to lavender to purple and even red.
The plants thrive in hot and sunny climates so are generally seen in Zone 6 and below in the United States.
There are however newer and hardier varieties that can grow in colder climes.
The Lagerstroemias are native to India, Australia and southwest Asia.
Their very showy blooming period lasts from 60 to 120 days and adds so much in the way of grandeur to yards, parks and esplanades when the right time of year arrives. Summertime here in the south is when they are at their showiest.
The blooming period can actually be extended if the spent flowering heads are pruned off. As the flowers develop on the new growth each year, this allows for another flower head to develop in time to reflower.
Proper Pruning Methods
We used to have two of these small trees in the front of our yard at our old house years ago. They grew fairly rapidly as most plants do in the south and produced gorgeous flowers.
One problem we had with them and why we ultimately removed them was the constant battle we had with powdery mildew, leaf spot and black sooty mold.
All of these things can occur on crape myrtles and I have now discovered how this could have been better handled.
At the time I took leaf samples into a nursery and all that they told me to do was spray with fungicide every week or two until the problem was resolved.
I have since learned that our plants were not pruned properly to allow much needed air flow through the branches which could have kept the problem from developing in the first place or at least minimized it.
There is a good video and link describing how proper pruning can not only alleviate fungal problems from developing, but can also create a much more pleasing appearance to these plants as they grow into wonderful specimens of great beauty.
Be sure and watch the video if you are considering planting these in your yard or garden.
The other thing that has happened over the course of years is that hardier disease resistant varieties have been developed.
So do some homework before you purchase crape myrtles and you will be rewarded by years of flowering splendor for many months of each year.
The bark of these plants keeps shedding and peeling off and what eventually results is a white-like hard stalk that is smooth and is alluring in its own right.
One neighbor that used to live near my mother at her former house was cutting down a couple of her shrubs but was saving the attractive branches to be utilized as drapery rods. They would have provided not only support for the curtains or drapes but would have been focal points of beauty all by themselves.
What a clever use of these eye catching hard wood branches!
The photos in this post show just a few of the many brilliantly blooming types of crape myrtle.
When my family moved from Wisconsin to Texas many years ago we heard someone refer to this particular plant as the "lilacs of the south."
They do have a similar shaped flower head but do not have the fragrance of lilacs.
If you think of crepe paper and then look at a crape myrtle blossom, you will understand how it got that name. Very delicate ruffled and thin petals make up a crape myrtle flower.
Landscapes all over the south are graced this time of year with the varicolored beauties in a heyday of peak color. Few blooming shrubs or trees offer so much coloration for so long a time. As the heat sizzles, these rewarding plants are at their sublime best.
Do you like Crape Myrtles and do you grow them in your yard or garden?
Location where my photos were taken.
© 2009 Peggy Woods