Looking to add a focal point to your landscape? Consider the Crape Myrtle tree, a versatile ornamental tree that can be used in a wide variety of landscape applications. Sometimes known as Crepe Myrtle, the tree originates from Asia but now grows widely throughout the United States. It is especially popular in Southern climates, but hybrids have been created that grow as far North as New England.
Crape Myrtle Trees are deciduous blooming trees that have multiple main stems, as opposed to a single trunk. They come in an incredibly wide range of sizes and colors. Sizes range from large shrubs to upright trees reaching up to 100′. It is one of the longest blooming trees with flowering periods of 60-120 days in a variety of colors including white, pink, purple, and red. The flowering period can also be extended by deadheading (removing the dead blooms) which convinces the tree to produce a second or even third round of blooms.
Due to its versatility, the Crape Myrtle can fill a variety of landscaping needs. Planted alone, a larger variety can provide a stunning anchor to your landscape design. Smaller varieties can also be planted in groups to form a decorative border or privacy hedge. This is a tree that doesn’t mind confined spaces, so go ahead and use them in tight spaces or for street side plantings.
Crape Myrtles are generally very hardy and disease resistant. They do require a little extra care and maintenance, though. First, they are fast growers and can add several feet in a single growing season. Take care not to over-fertilize as this will produce extra foliage at the expense of its flowering capabilities. Since the tree has a multi-stemmed trunk cluster, it tends to get very “bushy” and can require thinning. Prune the tree by removing cross branches to increase air flow and reduce the chance of mildew damage. Also, since they are prolific re-seeders, you’ll likely have to spend some time removing all the baby crapes from your lawn. Finally, aphids absolutely love them and often leave a gray, sooty coating on the leaves that is not harmful but diminishes the beauty of the tree. Control aphids with a soapy water solution.
You will not regret the extra time and effort to maintain these bold, versatile trees. The vibrant colors, the extended flowering time, and the autumn foliage can transform ordinary into extraordinary. Whether you’re looking for a single tree, a decorative border, or a privacy hedge, the multi-talented Crape Myrtle can complete your landscape.