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For Spectacular Color, Try the Crapemyrtle

September 30 2010

Among the hardiest of flowering shrubs and trees, the crapemyrtle is a staple of sunny gardens, but don’t discount it because it’s common.  There are many reasons why crapemyrtles are popular.

Crapemyrtles come in all sizes and shapes, from dwarf varieties small enough for hanging baskets 10” to 12”, to bushy shrubs from 2’ to 10’, to towering trees that grow as high as 30’, according to the Tulsa Master Gardeners organization.  

They’re disease-resistant, easy to prune, and can survive freezes, even if you may have to trim frost-bitten top branches in the spring.  To protect the plants the most, mulch heavily around them before winter comes, and the roots will likely survive freezes in your area.

However, this is one plant you don’t want to coddle – you can easily kill them with too much kindness, so skip excess watering, fertilizer and pruning. 

These plants come in a stunning array of colors and blooms, from white, lavender, and purple to corals, pinks and reds.

The conditions you need to grow crapemyrtles are few – they love full sun throughout the day to bloom the most prolifically.  But there’s plenty more to consider, advises the United States National Arboretum.  Before you choose, consider the following:

Flower color – With blooms that last for weeks or months, crapemyrtles can dominate the colors in your garden, with a wide range of shades in white, lavender, purple, coral, pink, and red.

Bark color – The color of the bark is important to your overall garden scheme, as once the flowers and leaves are gone, the shape of the trunks and the color of the bark will provide stark beauty throughout the winter months. Bark colors include white, taupe, light gray, cinnamon, gray brown, dark brown, mottled chestnut or light gray, mahogany, and dark chestnut brown.

Fall leaf color – Leaves can be as colorful and beautiful as flowers in some cases. The crapemyrtle continues to delight long after its flowers have fallen to the ground, with brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red, maroon, copper, yellow orange, red-to-purple, and bronze.

Height at maturity –  Keep in mind that crapemyrtles are as small as container plants to as large as trees, so carefully choose between plants that grow to maturity between 10” and 30’. 

Growth habit – Pay close attention to the type of crapemyrtle you’re planting. A dense shrub where you prefer a towering tree would be a mistake. Available shapes are dense shrub, crowning shrub, vase-shaped tree, tall arching tree, and spreading shrub or tree.

There are over 29 varieties of crapemyrtles, so be sure to visit usna.usda.gov

Crapemyrtles can be planted just about any time of the year, so it’s not too late to plan for midsummer to late summer blooms!