Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
Crepe Myrtle Tree: Beautiful in Any Season
The common crepe myrtle is a deciduous, small-to-medium shrub or small tree with a variable, somewhat dense habit, growing in an often multi-stemmed form.
Crepe Myrtle Tree Overview
- It has very showy pink flowers with wrinkled petals that resemble crepe paper, thus the name. In the fall, you will see the dark green foliage change to yellow, orange, and red.
- The bark of the tree is thin and gray that peels to expose a smooth, varicolored under-bark that ranges from brown to gray.
- A crepe myrtle tree needs lots of moisture when it is young. But after it is established, it will grow very well in limited soil spaces, becoming reasonably drought tolerant.
- New growth can be pinched to increase flower number and "branchiness" during the growing season, and you can expect the branches to droop slightly as the tree grows.
A Fabulous Form
Many people choose to thin the lower branches to show off the stunning form and color of the tree trunk.
Crepe myrtle trees are hardy in zones 6–10, depending on which variety you choose. They can grow to a height of 15–25 feet with a spread of 6–15 feet at maturity. Read on to learn how to propagate these wonderful trees using cuttings.
Propagating Crepe Myrtle Trees
Crepe myrtle trees can be easily propagated using cuttings; and June, July, and August (the growing season) are the perfect times to take those cuttings and get them rooted.
Propagating with Hardwood Cuttings
While the tree has gone dormant and lost its leaves (usually in late November) you can cut off a branch that is about two to three feet long. Cut that branch into four to eight-inch cuttings that are approximately half-inch in diameter. Make your cuts just below a leaf node/bud along the branch (see illustrations).
- Using a good potting soil mix, plant the cuttings in one-gallon pots (or directly into a well-prepared bed) with the leaf buds pointing upward. Whichever you choose, the cuttings should be in a sunny location outdoors. You should see no more than two inches of the cutting above the soil.
- Depending upon whether you want a single or multi-trunk tree, plant one to three cuttings in the soil. The cuttings will be okay outside but be sure to protect them during severe freezes (wrap them up or move them into an enclosed structure such as a storage shed or a garage).
- When you begin to see foliage emerging in the spring, if you have put your cuttings in pots, place them in a sunny location, watering enough to keep the soil damp. When the new roots have spread about the container, you can then plant them in their permanent home in your yard.
Propagating with Softwood Cuttings
New growth on crepe myrtle trees is at the tips of the branches. Softwood cuttings are taken from that growth when it is green and soft. They can be taken at any time during the tree's most vigorous, active growth season (usually between late May and mid-June is the best time).
Taking softwood cuttings early in the summer will allow them plenty of time to become established before the winter season of dormancy. You should avoid taking softwood cuttings after July.
- Take softwood cuttings from the ends of the stems, where the new growth is green and soft, making your cut just below a leaf node. Your cutting should be no longer than about six inches.
- Once you have your cuttings, remove the leaves from the bottom of the cuttings leaving a couple of leaves at the top of each one.
- Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone powder after you have removed the leaves. Then put them into small containers or trays filled with a good potting mix.
- It's a good idea, if you are rooting several different varieties, to label the cuttings with the names of each variety.
- If you've got a greenhouse, place the cuttings inside under bright light. If not, place them in an area of high humidity. Mist the cuttings regularly and keep the soil damp. You don't want the soil to dry out before the roots have a chance to form, which should happen quickly; it usually takes about three to four weeks.
- Once the roots have formed, your cuttings can be transplanted into a larger pot. You can put from one to three rooted cuttings in a large container, depending on whether you want a single or a multi-trunk tree.
- When roots have filled out the soil in the larger container, plant your crepe myrtle in your landscape. Provide sufficient water, especially during the first year, to keep the soil from completely drying out.
Now you are well on your way to growing one of the most beautiful trees in the world!
A Bountiful Feast for Birds in the Winter
Ornamental crepe myrtle trees in the southern and central regions of the United States provide a feast of bright flowers in pink, lavender, purple, red, and white from summer to fall each year.
The Feast Begins in Winter
But during the cold winter months, the feast really begins for the birds, as many of them (juncos, house finches, cardinals, goldfinches) visit the trees from December through late February to partake of the plentiful seed crop that they provide.
Crepe Myrtles Produce Almost a Million Seeds Annually
A large crepe myrtle tree will usually produce a few pounds of seed each year (brown ovoid capsules with six cavities, each containing four-winged seeds). In just over two pounds of seed, there are over half a million individual seeds. Considering that there are millions of crepe myrtle trees growing in the United States, that's a lot of birdseed!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on August 17, 2020:
And thank you for following my work; your comments are always appreciated.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 17, 2020:
Great article with wonderful information about the Crepe Myrtle tree.
I have seen them, and admire their beauty. Appreciate you for providing the readers with so many interesting details about these beautiful wonders of nature.
Thanks for sharing.
Danny from India on August 17, 2020:
Nice post. I liked the Myrtle tree leaves changing colors. It should be a pleasant addition to your yard.
Marilyn McKay from North East, Victoria, Australia on August 16, 2020:
I hadn't thought of taking cuttings from a Crepe Myrtle tree. I adore this small shrub, to have a few more around the garden has now been added to my garden bucket list. Thanks for this idea.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 16, 2020:
I really like Crepe Myrtle trees and have two of them. I appreciate all your excellent information about this tree as it is one of my favorites.