Another Perfect Plant: Lagerstroemia indica

Probably the most popular plant in southern gardens, crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica and cultivars) are drought tolerant floriferous small trees or large shrubs.  They come in a range of brilliant flower colors from white and pale pink to lavender, red, magenta and fuchsia. Some cultivars have lovely exfoliating red flaked bark.

A common pruning strategy is colloquially termed ‘crape murder,’ when plants are chopped back to remove current season’s growth. Crape myrtles bloom on new growth so when chopped in the spring flowering doesn’t decrease. There isn’t any health benefit to the plant and it isn’t necessary to encourage blooming; the practice appears to be a generally accepted cultural practice that if not properly performed can be aesthetically unfortunate.

Current breeding programs are focusing on increasing cold tolerance and developing resistance to the main disease problem, powdery mildew, as well as breeding in dark purple foliage. One of the other limiting factors for growing crape myrtles in northern zones is heat – if there isn’t enough heat they won’t flower. While a very attractive plant without flowers, the flowers are definitely the main attraction.

 References:
Pacific Horticulture
The Washington Post
Black Diamond Blooms

Photo reference:
Arizona State University

 

Paul Cady

Paul is a landscape designer with a professional background in public horticulture. His years of experience maintaining both public and private gardens provide an informed perspective on choosing, arranging, and placing plants in the landscape. He is committed to creating landscapes that will survive and thrive over time through making informed plant choices and developing written landscape management plans.