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Crape Myrtles in Southern Landscaping

Updated on June 22, 2017
Peggy W profile image

My grandpa loved gardening. I learned much from him. To this day I enjoy puttering around in our garden growing plants for beauty & food.

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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.

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Climate Requirements

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.

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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.

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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!

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Looking down at the roots of a particular crape myrtle tree in Houston.This crape myrtle tree is older.  Notice the interesting bark!Pretty bark of another crape myrtle tree
Looking down at the roots of a particular crape myrtle tree in Houston.
Looking down at the roots of a particular crape myrtle tree in Houston. | Source
This crape myrtle tree is older.  Notice the interesting bark!
This crape myrtle tree is older. Notice the interesting bark! | Source
Pretty bark of another crape myrtle tree
Pretty bark of another crape myrtle tree | Source
Nicely pruned crape myrtle used as landscape foundation plant against house.
Nicely pruned crape myrtle used as landscape foundation plant against house. | Source

The photos in this post show just a few of the many brilliantly blooming crape myrtles in our neighborhood today.

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.

Closeup of crape myrtle blossoms
Closeup of crape myrtle blossoms | Source

Do you like Crape Myrtles and do you grow them in your yard or garden?

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Location where my photos were taken.

A markerHouston -
Houston, TX, USA
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© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 24 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Donna,

      I loved climbing trees when I was young. Nice that you got to climb a large crape myrtle in your grandfather's yard when you were a young girl. If not trimmed back, they can get to be very large specimens.

    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 24 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rebecca,

      We don't have them at our current home either but all we have to do is look directly across the street to see them. There are many in our area...homes and businesses...just like where you live.

    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 24 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mary,

      We do have lots of crape myrtles here in Houston despite the heat. We are now experiencing temps in the upper 90's and should hit 100 this Sunday. It feels much hotter than that. Any more serious yard work will have to be on hold until Fall temps arrive. Enjoy that AC in Florida. I know we are certainly enjoying it here! Thank heavens...no hurricanes this year yet to knock out power. We could use some rain however. We are currently in a hot and dry spell.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 2 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I love them! I remember one in my grandfather's yard big enough to climb when I was a little girl.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      We had pretty much the same situation here. Too much rain was probably the cause I am guessing. Our official high will be 100 this Sunday if the predictions are correct. We are now regularly hitting 97 to 98 with feel like temps much higher.......so we are about the same temperature wise. Not sure you have as much humidity as we do but nonetheless........it is HOT! Thanks for the share.

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