Common Names: crape myrtle, crepe myrtle
Family: Lythraceae (loosestrife Family)
Known colloquially as crepe (or crape) myrtles, these are excellent deciduous trees . They are unfazed by hot summers, need very little attention and will grow in ordinary soil. The original species grows to a height of around 8 m. They are in full bloom in from January to March, with generous trusses of soft, crimped blooms in colours of pinks, white, reds, mauve and deep purple, forming a pretty backdrop to summer border flowers. Petals fall to make a carpet below. The trees have wonderful smooth young bark in attractive patterns, revealed each summer after the old bark has peeled off. They have a beautiful open vase-like shape if not pruned, which forms an attractive framework in winter.
Traditionally, the trees were pruned very hard every winter to ugly stubs in order to create a mass of bloom on straight stems fanning out from the pruning point, but these days we tend to appreciate more the natural shape of the tree left to its own devices. The leaves turn to pretty golden and red tints in autumn , and all-in-all the crepe myrtle is a good choice for a small garden. They grow best in full sun and such a position will minimise problems of powdery mildew, which older varieties were subject to in our humid summers. Newer types (such as the ‘Indian Summer’ hybrids) are supposedly resistant to this fungal disease. Avoid disturbing the surface roots of the tree, as this may result in suckering. If this happens, the suckersshould be cut off as low down as possible.
There are a number of named hybrids, including multi-stemmed shrubby varieties around 3-4.5 m tall (such as white ‘Acoma’ and bright pink ‘Hopi’) and miniatures growing to 1 m or less (such as lavender-blue ‘Cordon Bleu’ and mauve-pink ‘Delta Blush’) for very small spaces or pots.
Flowers in January, February, March, December.
Light: Good sun.
Moisture: Moist, well drained soil.
Propagation: By cuttings from medium wood in early fall or hard wood in winter. Also by seed. Easy to root.