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Crapemyrtle - Flower of the South

Publication Number: P2007
View as PDF: P2007.pdf

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia sp.) is a popular ornamental shrub/tree that would be a wonderful addition to any Mississippi landscape. The colorful flower clusters offer a spectacular sight from early summer through late fall. Although commonly called the “Flower of the South,” the crapemyrtle is native to China.

Crapemyrtles have aesthetic qualities other than their colorful summer flowers. The trunk color is spectacular on many cultivars and ranges from a light green-gray to a dark cinnamon. The bark on some cultivars peels (exfoliates) in long strands, exposing various colors and creating interesting patterns that enhance the winter landscape.

The foliage is another beautiful feature. While green on most cultivars in spring and summer, it offers an array of fall colors ranging from brilliant yellow to deep maroon. Seed pods develop in early fall and remain on the plants all winter, providing contrast with the exposed linear branches. All of these factors combine to make the crapemyrtle an outstanding landscape plant for all seasons.

Crapemyrtles are hardy from USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7 to Zone 10. North Mississippi is in Zone 7, and the extreme Gulf Coast area is in Zone 9, making the crapemyrtle hardy throughout the state. It is important to note that even though extremely low winter temperatures can sometimes kill plants to the ground, they normally resprout from the roots in the spring.

Planting

Crapemyrtles are multi-use plants, which means they can be used as shrubs, small trees, specimen plants, patio/container plants, border plants, and even street trees. Select an appropriate cultivar for each use.

Where to Plant

Crapemyrtles have shallow, fibrous root systems. They grow and flower best in sunny locations with good air circulation and well-drained soil. They can grow in partial shade, but flowering is typically reduced and sometimes nonexistent. Crapemyrtles grow in a wide range of soil types but prefer a soil pH range of 5.0 to 6.5.

When to Plant

Install container-grown and balled-and-burlapped plants any time of the year. However, planting in the fall or early spring allows time for roots to establish before summer heat arrives. Install bare-root plants during the winter dormant season.

How to Plant

Prepare a planting hole three times as wide as the root ball. Set the plant in the hole at the same depth it grew in the nursery or container. Then, backfill with the amended soil and water thoroughly. Mulch the planting site with 3 to 4 inches of a mulch product or 6 to 8 inches of pine straw. Taper the mulch or straw to only 1 inch deep at the base of the tree trunk. After planting, stake large plants to prevent top movement and damage to the root system.

If it is necessary to plant in a heavy clay soil, elevate the planting site because crapemyrtle roots do not tolerate wet soils. Also, do not use finely chopped sphagnum peat (peat moss) or sand to amend heavy clay soils. Subsurface drainage tiles, or “French drains,” may be used to remove excess water from the planting area.

If lime is required to raise the pH, mix it thoroughly with the native soil. If a soil amendment is needed, incorporate pine bark or compost into the soil. When planting in sandy soils, adding peat moss helps retain moisture and fertilizer. Thoroughly mix the peat moss with the backfill soil, making sure not to use more than one-third by volume of peat.

Fertilization

Have your soil tested and follow the recommendations provided when fertilizing. If you have not had your soil tested, apply 2 to 4 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer with a 2-1-1 ratio per 100 square feet of bed area. Fertilize individual plants with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fertilizer in a circle no closer than 1 foot from the base of the plant. Sprinkle fertilizer uniformly over the area out from the base of the plant, and water the area thoroughly. Fertilize in early spring and again in early summer before the plants begin to flower.

Late fertilization or overfertilization can result in little or no flowering, excessive vegetative growth, and possible winter damage from not hardening off.

Pruning

Pruning can stimulate new growth and increase the number of bloom clusters on the plant. If you choose to do so, prune in late winter or early spring before growth begins. The crapemyrtles will still flower because they bloom on the current year’s wood. Whether the plant will be used as a shrub or a small tree determines the method of pruning. The two basic methods used are thinning and cutting back.

Thinning

Thinning is the removal of old and weak branches at their points of origin. It is used to open up plants that are pruned to tree form. This does not stimulate prolific growth and leaves the plant with a more natural appearance.

Select one main stem for a single-trunk tree or three to five stems for a multi-trunk tree. Remove all other stems at ground level. Allow the main trunk(s) to reach a height of 5 to 6 feet before branching.

At this height, tip prune to encourage branching. Remove all growth that develops below the desired branch height.

Drawing of a crapemyrtle with five or six main branches and a large, multibranched crown.
Multi-trunk crapemyrtle before being thinned.

Cutting Back

Cutting back is done to maintain the plant at a certain height. Only use this method with shrub forms because it stimulates heavy branching. It also destroys the natural, balanced form of the plant. If the size of the plant is too big for the landscape, the easiest thing might be to cut it back to the ground and let it regrow, or simply remove it.

General Pruning Tips

A crapemyrtle with three main branches and a compact crown with many blooms.
Prune to extend the flowering season.

You can prune fading bloom clusters to encourage the development of additional blooms and to extend the flowering season. Occasionally, heavy bloom clusters and branches have to be removed during the growing season to keep limbs from breaking. Limit this type of pruning to only what is necessary.

Do not prune crapemyrtles in the fall following leaf drop. This may stimulate new growth and make the plants susceptible to winter injury. Heavy pruning also destroys the natural appearance and form of the plants, which will be obvious during the winter months until growth resumes in the spring.

For more information on pruning crapemyrtles, visit https://extension.msstate.edu/southern-gardening/video/2018/crape-murder.

Cultivar Selection

There are crapemyrtle cultivars suited to most situations in today’s landscapes. Some are dwarf and are adapted to growing in containers; others may grow more than 20 feet tall. Some cultivars are upright and narrow in form, while others have a more spreading form. Bark characteristics, flower color, fall color, plant size, plant shape, and disease resistance have been greatly improved in recent years as the result of private, state, and federally funded breeding programs. See Table 1 for cultivars for Mississippi landscapes. It should be noted that the Ebony series of crapemyrtle is also sold under the Black Diamond product line.

Table 1. Recommended crapemyrtle cultivars for Mississippi.

Cultivar

Flower color

Mature height (feet)

Growth habit

Hardy

L. indica or fauriei

Tree form

Exfoliating bark

Mildew resistant

Fall color

Date of first flower

Days of flowers

Pixie White

white

3

rounded

good

indica

no

yes

good

red yellow

June

90

Hope

white

4

open dwarf

good

indica

no

no

good

yellow

mid-June

65

Delta Moonlight

white

10

upright

very

×

no

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Ebony & Ivory

pure white

10

upright

very

×

yes

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Acoma

white

14

umbrella

very

× fauriei

yes

yes

high

purple red

late June

90

Byer’s White

white

20

very upright

very

indica

yes

yes

good

yellow

late June

90

Sarah’s Hardy White

white

20

upright

very

indica

yes

yes

high

yellow

late June

90

Natchez

white

30

broad tall tree

very

× fauriei

yes

best

high

orange red

mid-June

110

Chickasaw

pink

2

miniature

good

× fauriei

no

yes

high

orange red

early July

90

Ruby Dazzle

pink

3

dwarf spreading

very

no

no

no

high

red

late June

90

Hopi

medium pink

7

low spreading

very

× fauriei

no

yes

high

orange red

late June

100

Pecos

medium pink

7

low spreading

very

× fauriei

no

yes

high

maroon

early July

100

Delta Jazz

bright pink

8

upright

very

×

small

yes

high

purple brown

June

90

Ebony Glow

light pink

10

upright spreading

very

×

yes

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Delta Breeze

light pink

10

upright

very

×

no

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Tuscarora

dark pink

16

broadvase

good

× fauriei

yes

yes

high

red orange

early July

70

Tuskegee

pink

16

broad spreading

very

× fauriei

yes

yes

high

red orange

late June

100

Potomac

clear pink

20

upright

good

indica

yes

no

high

orange

late June

90

Miami

dark pink

20

upright

very

× fauriei

yes

best

high

orange

mid-June

110

Biloxi

pale pink

25

vase shaped

very

× fauriei

yes

yes

high

orange red

July

80

Pocomoke

red

2

dwarf compact

good

indica

no

no

good

bronze red

June

90

Victor

dark red

4

dwarf compact

very

indica

no

no

good

yellow

late June

85

Raspberry Dazzle

raspberry red

4

dwarf compact

very

no

no

no

high

red

late June

90

Ebony Flame

dark red

6

upright spreading

very

×

no

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Ebony Fire

crimson red

6

spreading

very

×

no

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Delta Flame

red

10

upright

very

×

no

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Ebony Embers

deep red

10

upright

very

×

yes

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Tonto

red

12

compact globose

good

× fauriei

small

yes

best

bright maroon

mid-July

80

Centennial Spirit

wine red

16

upright

very

indica

small

yes

good

red orange

late June

110

Dynamite

red

20

upright round

very

indica

yes

no

good

orange red

mid-June

100

Red Rocket

cherry red

20

upright

good

indica

yes

no

high

bronze

early June

100

Arapaho

bright red

20

broad upright

very

× fauriei

yes

yes

high

red

late June

85

Carolina Beauty

dark red

20

very upright

fair

indica

yes

yes

poor

orange

mid-July

65

Centennial

bright purple

3

compact dwarf

good

indica

no

no

good

orange

mid-June

70

Velma’s Royal Delight

purple

4

compact

good

indica

no

no

good

yellow orange

June

90

Delta Eclipse

lavender

10

upright

very

×

small

yes

high

burgundy

June

 

Sioux

light purple

15

dense upright

very

× fauriei

yes

yes

high

maroon

late June

110

Catawba

violet purple

15

upright vase

good

indica

yes

no

good

red orange

mid-July

70

Lipan

medium lavender

15

upright globose

very

× fauriei

no

best

high

orange

mid-July

80

Twilight

purple

18

upright

good

indica

yes

yes

fair

yellow orange

early June

75

Muskogee

light lavender

20

broad tall tree

very

× fauriei

yes

yes

high

red orange

mid-June

120

Diseases

Powdery Mildew

The major disease affecting crapemyrtles is powdery mildew. This fungal disease reduces flower performance and weakens plants by attacking flower buds, growing tips, and young leaves. It is most common when cool nights are followed by warm days and occurs most often in crowded landscapes with poor air circulation. The fungus overwinters in dormant shoot buds, sheltered places on the plant, and diseased plant debris on the ground.

Powdery mildew infection appears as a grayish-white powdery fungal growth. As leaves expand, they become curled and distorted. On older leaves, large white patches of the fungus appear without much leaf distortion. Flower buds covered with the fungus either fail to open or open improperly. The infection may also spread to mature flowers and cause flower blight.

Crapemyrtle cultivars released in recent years with Lagerstroemia fauriei in their parentage are resistant to powdery mildew. Cultivar selection is an effective way to control the disease. These cultivars are noted in Table 1.

Cultural methods for controlling powdery mildew involve sanitation procedures and applying fungicides. In the fall, remove and destroy all diseased twigs. In late winter, proper pruning will improve air circulation and reduce the possibility of disease development.

Begin applying recommended fungicides in the spring when growth begins and immediately after the first sign of disease infection. You may also apply fungicide during the flowering period to prevent blossom blight. It is best to alternate applications of a systemic fungicide with one of the protectant fungicides. Use sulfur only at temperatures below 85°F to avoid leaf burn.

More about powdery mildew and fungicides to control it can be found in Extension Information Sheet 1666 Powdery Mildew on Crapemyrtles.

Sooty Mold

Sooty mold is a black, powdery coating that develops on leaves and twigs during cool, moist, cloudy weather. Several causal fungi grow in the sugary honeydew deposited on the plants by small sucking insects, such as aphids and white flies. If you control the feeding insects that produce the honeydew, you can control sooty mold.

The fungi that cause sooty mold do not attack the plants but derive nutrients from the honeydew deposited by the insects. Although sooty mold does not directly attack crapemyrtles, its presence destroys their beauty and can weaken the plants by shading the leaves from sunlight. Heavy infestations of insects that secrete honeydew weaken crapemyrtle plants.

Several insecticides are approved for use on crapemyrtles to control sucking insects. More about sooty mold can be found in Extension Information Sheet 1938 The Plant Doctor: Sooty Mold and Publication 2369 Insect Pests of Ornamental Plants in the Home Landscape.

Anthracnose

This disease causes the leaves to fall off the crapemyrtle and is most common in late summer. Leaves will have black spots and may turn reddish or yellow, then fall off. The black spot is the fungus. Spraying is seldom needed unless the crapemyrtle is in a high visibility area. Leaf removal and destruction is the best management tool for this disease.

Crapemyrtle Bark Scale

Crapemyrtle bark scale (CMBS) is a fairly new pest that can cause heavy damage to trees. Soil-drench insecticides allow for the most efficient control. See Extension Publication 2938 Crapemyrtle Bark Scale Identification and Control for more information.


Publication 2007 (POD-05-21)

Revised by Jeff Wilson, PhD, Assistant Professor, North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, from an earlier edition by David Tatum, PhD, former Extension Horticulturist; Alan Henn, PhD, Extension Plant Pathologist; and Blake Layton, PhD, Extension Entomologist.

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Authors

Portrait of Dr. Jeff Wilson
Assistant Professor
Horticulture: State Master Gardener Coordinator
Portrait of Dr. Alan Henn
Extension Professor
Extension Plant Pathologist, Disease management of ornamentals,peanut, turf,fruits, nematode program
Portrait of Dr. Blake Layton, Jr.
Extension Professor
Entomology; extension insect identification; fire ants; termites; insect pests in the home, lawn and

Related Publications

Publication Number: P2472
Publication Number: P3302
Publication Number: P3589
Publication Number: P2421

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