All About Crepe Myrtle – How to Plant and Grow

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) bushes are the go-to bush for regions that experience hot, dry summers.

Popular in the southern part of the United States, crepe myrtle bushes are drought tolerant and require very little care.

A drive anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line will reveal these tall bushes with colorful crepe paper-looking blooms growing everywhere from highway medians to state parks to front lawns and courthouse lawns.

Exhaust fumes from passing vehicles, neglect from county road maintenance employees and lack of water or food does not stunt the growth or impair the long-lasting blooms of this hardy bush.

Use these tips for planting and growing the hardy crepe myrtle bush in your landscape.

Size Choice

The crepe (or crape) myrtle bush comes in different heights and width.

A dwarf variety will reach a mature size of 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide and a standard bush can reach a mature size of 30 feet and 20 feet wide its never pruned.

Regardless of which variety you plant, the bush can be kept pruned to fit any outdoor space you want it to grow in.

Planting

Select a full-sun planting location that has well-draining soil. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball.

Place compost in the bottom half of the hole, then place root ball in the center of the planting hole.

Add or remove soil as needed under the root ball until it’s even with the surrounding soil.

Back-fill the planting hole, firming soil in place.

Water newly planted bush and lay three inches of organic mulch around the base of the bush, being careful to keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the crepe myrtle.

Pruning

Save severe pruning until late winter when crepe myrtle bush is dormant. Start pruning in the center of the bush and prune away all criss-crossed growth.

Next, prune off side branches that have developed on the main trunk up to about 4 feet in height.

If the bush needs to be shortened prune the remaining branch tops in a semi-circle, starting low on the outside branches, working up and over, then heading back down on the other side.

Branches will become heavy when in full bloom and may bend low towards the ground, especially after a rain.

The branch wood is soft and flexible and rarely will one break off. After the rainwater evaporated, the branch will return to its normal position.

Food and Water

One application of any tree or balanced lawn fertilize a year applied in spring is plenty of food for a crepe myrtle. Water bushes only during times of extreme drought.

Blooms

Blooms look like one large bloom from a distance, but they are actually a multitude of tiny blooms on the end of a long stem.

The tiny flowers are thin and delicate, looking and feeling much like crepe paper.

The blooms are born on long, straight stems and make good cut flowers, however, they will only last a few days after being cut.

Bloom colors are deep pink or light pink, deep purple or lavender and white and will appear in mid-summer and last till summer’s end.

The bushes also put on a brilliant color display of fall foliage. The small leaves will turn bright shades of orange and red before falling off for the winter.

Bark and Birds

Crepe myrtle bushes have an interesting bark.

The bark is smooth and as the trunk and branches grow, the old bark splits and is discarded by the bush, mush like the way a reptile sheds its skin.

The bark can be left hanging from the trunk or pulled off with very little effort.

A variety of birds are attracted to the thick foliage and berries produced by the crepe myrtles.

The berries form on the stems after the blooms begin to fade and will be quickly eaten by birds and squirrels.

New Bushes

Crepe myrtle bushes will propagate themselves via underground roots.

A few years after planting, a new bush typically will sprout up a foot or so away from the original bush.

Dig the new bush up and transplant it to a new location or keep it pruned off at the ground.