FYN logoUF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail: indianco@ufl.edu 

August 8, 2008

Quick Links:   Another Great Crape   Dwarf Myrtles     References 

Feature Article - for release the week of  August 10, 2008

Angela Sachson & Dan Culbert – Florida Yards & Neighborhoods

 

Crape Myrtle for Florida Yards  

One of the most rewarding of Florida Friendly plants is the Crape Myrtle.  It is native to India and very well suited to Florida. It can be used as a tree, a large shrub, a container plant and, in the case of newer dwarf varieties, a small shrub.

 It is a beautiful plant with peeling bark and clusters of blooms in many colors of reds, pinks, lavenders and white In south Florida, it blooms from spring through summer and if seed pods are removed it will bloom longer since the flowers appear on new growth.

 Crape Myrtle is drought tolerant once established and can be pruned to take many shapes— tree, multi-stemmed small tree, and bush. Once it gets established the Crape Myrtle is not demanding. Plant it in full sun in any kind of soil. Feed it a with slow-release fertilizer, water until it gets established and it will reward you with beautiful foliage and six to twelve inch ruffled flowers.

You will probably need to cut off sprouts at the base of the plant. Root them if you want to— Crape Myrtle is easily propagated by removing a few lower leaves, poking the sprout or cutting in a pot, and keeping it moist while it grows roots. Give away these little Myrtles and we can all enjoy seeing more Myrtles around here.

Crape Myrtle is nearly pest free—especially if you purchase one which is bred to resist aphids and resulting sooty mold. If you do see aphids on your plant, at­tack them weekly for a couple of weeks with insecticidal soap.

This plant can be easily pruned in very early spring but pruning should be done with care. Small twiggy growth and cross­ing, crowded branches should be thinned out from underneath and within the canopy. This keeps the trunk clean and allows air circulation, helping to prevent powdery mildew. But severe topping and pruning is referred to as “Crape murder” and should be avoided.

Blooming crepe myrtle 

A typical summer landscape in the South includes colorful crepe myrtles.  Photo: UF/IFAS

colorful trunk of Crepe Myrtle

Trunks of Crepe Myrtle show a patchwork of colors, adding to interest in the winter when this plant is dormant.  Photo: UF/IFAS

This Crepe Myrtle has been pruned to keep only one central trunk.  It  looks like a tree, know as a "standard" to gardeners.  Photo: UF/IFAS

  Hatracked Crepe Myrtle

This improperly pruned Crepe Myrtle will not produce any bloom during the next few growing seasons. This is an example of "Crepe Murder." Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS

Queen Crepe Myrtle  (a.k.a. Pride of India) is a larger species of this plant.  Photo courtesy: Yamasaki Lab. Plant Photo Gallery

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This Gator is smiling at the nice dwarf crepe myrtle, a so-called myrtlette.   Photo courtesy of http://www.crapemyrtle.com/ 

 

Other Great Crapes

I know you probably have a Crape Myrtle or two in your landscape but since I am promoting them today let me tell you about some lesser-known beauties. One of these may become your new Crape Myrtle.

Queens Crape Myrtle (see photo above) is a kind of spectacular giant Myrtle on steroids. It is considered a moderate to large tropical tree and can reach a height of 40-60 feet and 30-40 feet wide.  It can grow in our zones 10B and 11 and features 12-inch leaves and foot-long blooms in pink or lavender. It is, like your Crape Myrtle, deciduous; and the leaves turn red before falling in winter. It has most of the attributes of the smaller Crape Myrtle except that it is not frost tolerant, especially when young.  There are some growing in Okeechobee now but it is some time since Okeechobee has had frost. If you want to try this mammoth beauty, consider the pink cultivar “Nong Nooch,” a real beauty.

Looking for something smaller?

Sometimes referred to as “Myrttlettes”, dwarf Crape Myrtles grow only three to four feet high. They are good for mid-range in a border and could even be used as a ground cover on a slope. They come in all the colors of their larger relatives and their needs and attributes are basically the same. They are also often used for bonsai culture.

Lastly, some newer cultivars are the mini-myrtles. These plants are usually smaller, ranging from 12 to 30 inches tall. The Southern Nursery Association has developed a list of favorites including one called Houston which tops out at 20 inches tall. I have not seen one of the minis but am looking around now. I would think they would be good in a pot—especially a hanging pot.

Crape Myrtles are a landscape bargain. They grow quickly and with minimal care. New ones are easy to propagate and older ones are drought tolerant. They like just about any soil. Their roots are not invasive so they can be planted where other trees might not make it. There are disease and pest resistant varieties and even the pests that do attack are easy to defeat. They come in many colors and sizes from 60 feet to several inches. Let's have as many as we have room for!

For more information and especially to learn about different cultivars, follow this link: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG266.  If you need additional information on Crepe Myrtles, please email us at indianco@ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469. In Highlands County call 863-402-6540 and in Glades County call 863-946-0244.  Okeechobee residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee. Go Gators!

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Trade  names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida, Nick Place, Dean for Extension. Last update: 07/24/2012.  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert.

References

Common Crape Myrtle.  Auburn University Extension Service,  Alabama. [covers cultural practices for the deep south, plus an extensive cultivar chart complete with photos.] http://www.ag.auburn.edu/landscape/crapemyrtle2.htm

Gilman, E & Watson, D. Japanese Crape-Myrtle Lagerstroemia fauriei. [ST-341]. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, November, 1993. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/LAGFAUA.pdf 

ibid.  Crepe Myrtle [ST-342]. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, November, 1993.  http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/laginda.pdf 

ibid. Queens Crape-Myrtle Lagerstroemia speciosa [ST-349]. UF/IFAS Extension Service, November, 1993. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/lagspea.pdf 

Herbert, John  and Mizell,  Russ F. IIICrepe Myrtle Aphid (Featured Creatures).  EENY-365  Gainesville: Florida Cooperative Extension Service,  February, 2012.   http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in663 

Jordi, B.  "Nassau County Extension and Lowes Form Crepe Myrtle Partnership." Callahan: UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension Service, February, 2012. http://nassau.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/lowes.html 

Knox, Gary. Crape Myrtles in Florida [ENH 52].  Gainesville: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, 12/2003. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg266 

Mullins, Daniel E. Santa Rosa County Extension Agent. Improper Pruning Damages Crape Myrtles.  Pensacola News Journal,  February  9, 2002. http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/News_Columns/2002/021402.pdf

Parsons, Jerry and Lineberger, Dan. Characteristics of Crape Myrtle Varieties. [Nice reference webpage showing photos of many varieties of Crepe Myrtles..] College Station: Texas A&M University, 8/12/2005.  http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/databases/crapemyrtle/crape_myrtle_varieties.html 

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