The crepe myrtle is a small, short-lived tree popular for its vivid and extravagant flowers that bloom from summer through fall.
It is most commonly grown in the warmer parts of the United States but is actually native to Asia.
It can adjust to different types of soils and weather conditions, but you need to plant them at the ideal time for them to thrive.
When to plant crepe myrtle? Many people buy and plant crepe myrtles during summer while they are blooming. However, the ideal time to plant these gorgeous trees is in the later parts of fall up to the earlier parts of spring. If you plant them during summer, they will require a lot of watering.
What Are Crepe Myrtles Grown For?
Before we talk about how to grow your own crepe myrtle trees, you’ll have to decide what purpose they’ll serve first.
If you know what you are growing them for, you’d be able to decide on the type of crepe myrtle you want to grow.
Here are the most common reasons why home gardeners choose to grow these trees:
There are tall varieties of crepe myrtles that grow up to 20 feet tall, creating outstanding screening trees.
These types are deer-resistant, grow really fast, and are adaptable to most kinds of soil.
The best part, though, is that they bloom all throughout the summer.
As screening trees, they will give your garden some visual privacy and prevent strong winds from damaging your more delicate plants.
For Their Blooms
Some choose to grow the shorter varieties to add a colorful focal point to their yards.
Only a few flowering trees bloom during the summer, so crepe myrtles are a staple.
If you decide to do this, make sure you pick the sunniest spot in your garden, as this is where this tree will thrive.
What’s more, you will find crepe myrtles in different colors, so choosing one to fit your yard’s color scheme will be easy.
As Background Trees
Got an enormous garden? Chances are, you already have tall shade trees placed far away from its center.
A green background is pleasant to look at, but imagine how exciting it’ll be if you have colorful trees in bloom instead of the usual green.
The taller crepe myrtle varieties will look pretty planted in the sunny parts of your garden in front of taller shade trees.
As a Shrub Border
Since these beautiful trees go in full bloom during summer, they make perfect complements for planting together with shrubs that bloom in spring.
The flower display in your garden will not cease throughout the whole season.
You can place them behind smaller shrubs to form a green and fresh backdrop during spring when those shrubs are blooming.
In turn, you will create a colorful show in summer when the spring flowers are gone.
Choosing the Crepe Myrtle Variety to Grow
Whatever your reasons for planting crepe myrtles, there will be the right variety to match your needs.
Keep in mind that the larger trees will require a lot of room to grow, though. As such, they are ideal for spaces without walkways, power lines, or buildings nearby.
There are also medium-sized trees that grow up to about 15 feet.
If you have a compact courtyard or a home garden, these kinds are the best for you.
Then again, you can opt for the dwarf types, which are perfect for foundation plantings and large containers. You can even integrate them in a perennial bed.
Where To Plant Crepe Myrtles
These beautiful trees have a variety of landscape uses, the most common being planting them together to make a long and fleeting screen or hedge.
If you decide to plant one single tree at a specific location, it can serve as a landmark or a unique central point.
Others have a pair of crepe myrtles by their front door, warmly welcoming their visitors.
Whatever crepe myrtle type suits your situation, always remember that these beautiful trees require a lot of sunlight.
If placed in an area with light shade, flower production will be greatly hindered.
Do not put them in full shade, as doing so can ultimately stop the tree from blooming.
How To Plant Crepe Myrtle Seeds
Once the flowering stops, crepe myrtles produce berries that eventually turn to seed pods.
These capsules ripen around late fall, and you can collect and save them for planting in spring.
If you’d like to grow crepe myrtle trees from seeds, here’s what you should do:
Step 1: Gather the seed pods.
Each pod contains about six seeds. You will want to wait for the pods to turn brown before gathering them.
Be careful not to wait too long, though, as these pods may burst open and spill the seeds useless on the ground.
Step 2: Remove the seeds from their pods.
Keep the seeds in a jar until spring, which is the best time to plant them.
One month before sowing, put the seeds in the refrigerator.
It would be a good idea to start the seeds indoors, roughly two months before you’re scheduled to plant them in your garden.
Step 3: Start the Seeds Indoors
Mix potting soil using equal amounts of peat moss, perlite, and dirt until it is dark, rich, crumbly, and moist.
Use it to fill a pot that is about four to five inches in height.
Then, gently press each seed into the pot’s center. Use your mixed potting soil to cover the crepe myrtle seed very thinly.
Put a thin sheet of sphagnum moss on top of the potting soil.
Step 4: Protect the pot using a plastic bag.
Putting a plastic bag on top of the pot will allow the air to keep the humidity.
This way, the seed will have enough moisture to germinate.
Step 5: Put the pot in a sunny and warm location.
Ensure that the soil is not soggy but remains moist. The germination of the seeds takes about two to three weeks.
Step 6: Take off the plastic cover.
Put the pots directly under a fluorescent light.
Make sure you position the light at least seven to eight inches away from the plant.
Step 7: Take the crepe myrtle pots outdoors to harden them off.
Move the pots in a safe area where the wind and direct sunlight can’t get to them.
Routinely do this for two weeks and add one hour to their outdoor time every day.
After that, you can go ahead and transplant the fully established tree in an area where it can receive full sun.
How To Grow Crepe Myrtle From Roots?
Aside from growing from seeds, you can also plant crepe myrtle trees from roots.
Crepe myrtles have specific germination requirements, so home garden-bound trees are almost always developed from saplings.
Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Plant crepe myrtles in late fall or winter
Crepe myrtles are best planted in the later months of the year, from late fall to early spring.
You can opt to wait until winter, but if you do, your tree won’t sprout leaves until the weather starts to warm up again.
Do not plant crepe myrtles at the end of summer. They need enough warmth to survive.
Step 2: Choose a sunny spot.
Crepe myrtles require consistent amounts of light to thrive.
As such, you’ll want to select an area that receives at least six to eight hours of full sunlight every day if possible.
The central area of your garden or yard is an ideal place to place your young tree.
Make sure you plant your tree away from tall fences, your house, or other things that will cast a shadow on your tree.
Step 3: Till the soil.
Once you’ve found the perfect spot for your tree, it is time to start tilling the soil.
For a crepe myrtle tree to strongly take root, make sure you use well-draining and loose soil.
Free a patch of about one meter long and one meter wide. Remove any vegetation that would be considered competition for nutrients.
Break up the soil lightly to aerate it using a rake or a shovel.
Check that even the lower layers are loosened, as well as the topsoil.
Step 4: Amend the soil.
If you’re growing your crepe myrtle tree on sandy or dense soil, it can help to add in a tiny amount of rotted manure or peat moss.
Doing this will keep the soil moist and full of nutrients.
The pH level of the soil should be around 6.0 to 7.3. A soil testing kit should be available at any local gardening center.
If needed, increase acidity by adding organic matter, such as garden compost or manure.
To lower acidity, buy tiny amounts of agricultural lime and add it to the soil.
Step 5: Start digging.
Dig a hole approximately three to four times as big as the root ball.
The depth of the hole should be the same as the pot that was holding the plant.
You can measure the pot’s height to know the exact depth you need to dig.
Do not place the root ball deeper, as the soil surrounding it should stay oxygenated.
Step 6: Put the root ball in the hole.
Gently remove the young crepe myrtle tree from the pot and slowly lower the tree into the hole.
Be extra careful not to harm the roots or bend the trunk.
Once the tree is in the ground, put some loose soil at the base to firmly hold the tree in place.
Remember never to hold the saplings by the trunk but by the root ball.
Step 7: Fill the hole.
Put the remaining surrounding soil into the trunk and roots. Then, lightly tamp the soil down to secure the tree.
The soil should be balanced so that it is firm enough not to shift or erode.
At the same time, it should be loose enough to let the roots of the crepe myrtle expand.
How To Care For Crepe Myrtle
Of course, planting the seeds or the saplings is only half the battle.
As your young trees adapt to their new surroundings, you need to give them proper care.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Step 1: Mulch the base.
Use hardwood mulch and spread them around the base of the tree.
As with any other tree, mulching will help hold in moisture and discourage the growth of weeds.
Step 2: Water your trees regularly.
Water your tree one to five times every week, depending on the temperature in your area.
Young trees require watering once a week when they are still dormant and the temperatures are not warm enough.
Generally speaking, they will need watering five times every week if the weather is hot or the soil is dry.
Occasionally water when you are experiencing drought to help your trees thrive.
Step 3: Fertilize.
In the first year of your crepe myrtle trees, you should fertilize them at least once a month.
Buy any organic fertilizer and apply it to the soil freely in spring as the leaves of your crepe myrtle trees start to appear.
After the first year, only fertilize once every year.
Step 4: Prune.
Pruning should be done in the latter period of winter. These trees are shapely trees and only need light pruning.
Cut the dead branches to give room for healthy growth when the spring comes.
Step 5: Check for pests.
These trees attract common pests like Japanese beetles and aphids.
Repel them off using mild insecticides, or you can also just remove them by hand.
However, if you are experiencing a serious infestation, do not hesitate to have your trees treated with an organic insecticide.
Step 6: Regularly inspect for disease.
Black mold, powdery mildew, and leaf spot are the most common threats your trees will encounter when they bloom.
Most of the time, these are harmless and will heal in time.
That said, diseases that do not go away on their own after a week or two are best treated with fungicide.
Crepe myrtles are loved by many home gardeners, and it is no secret why.
They have colorful blooms in the summer, and they provide a beautiful autumn leaves show in the fall.
What’s more, they are drought tolerant and are easy to care for once they are established.
With colors that last, beautiful shapes, and most importantly, low maintenance, the crepe myrtle is definitely worth the effort.