How to Grow Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtle in bloom

About Crape Myrtles

With literally hundreds of sizes and colors available, crape (or crepe) myrtles are a terrific, low-maintenance choice for prolific blooms during hot, humid summers. Nowadays, many varieties are hybrids that maximize the colorful blooms of the common crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) and/or the distinctive bark, cold hardiness, and disease-resistance of the Japanese crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia faurei).

Crape myrtles bloom in midsummer, with colors including white, lavender, purple, pink, magenta, and red. After blooming, they develop distinctive seed heads, then the leaves tend to fall toward the end of autumn, leaving the colorful, exfoliating bark for the winter.

Peeling bark on crape myrtle trunk
Exfoliating bark on crape myrtle.

Selecting Crape Myrtles

Crape Myrtles truly come in every possible size and shape, from knee-high shrubby dwarf plants to towering tree forms, so it is possible to choose a variety that exactly fits your purpose. When choosing crape myrtles for your yard, there are several factors to consider including:

  • Height
  • Natural shape (shrub vs. tree)
  • Flower color
  • Amount of bark exfoliation
  • Disease resistance

Planting Crape Myrtles

Ideally, crape myrtles should be planted in cool weather when they’re dormant, here’s how to go about it:

  • Dig Hole: Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball on the crape myrtle.
  • Soil amendments: It’s usually not necessary to amend the soil when planting crape myrtles, unless you’re amending the entire planting bed, since pockets of high-nutrient soil can prevent the roots from branching out properly.
  • Planting Depth: Plant your crape myrtle at the same depth it was in the nursery pot, and backfill with loosened soil.
  • Mulch: Apply 3″- 5″ of mulch around the base of your crape myrtle.
  • Watering: Water your newly planted crape myrtle thoroughly after planting. Water newly planted crape myrtles at least once a week if dormant and in cool weather, and up to five times a week if planted during hot weather or in very sandy soil. Water new plants regularly for about two months, and water during drought for better blooms and healthier plants.

Blooming crape myrtle

Growing Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtles can be grown in much of the U.S., except colder climates in the north. Here’s what you need to know to grow crape myrtles in your yard:

  • Climate: Crape myrtles can be grown in hardiness zones 6-10, although in zone 6 they’re likely to die back to the ground in winter.
  • Water: Crape myrtles like humid climates. Once established, they can tolerate quite a bit of drought.
  • Light: Crape myrtles flower best in full sun (at least six hours per day).
  • Soil: Crape myrtles do well in most any kind of soil, as long as it’s well-drained. The ideal soil pH is neutral to slightly acidic.
  • Fertilizer: Crape myrtles benefit from annual feeding with a general-purpose or high-nitrogen fertilizer, in early spring as soon as you see leaves. If you want to fertilize twice, do the second application about two months later. Slow-release fertilizer can help prevent rapid sucker growth that is vulnerable to diseases and insects. Take advantage of the toughness of these plants – too much fertilization can actually result in excessive leaf growth and fewer blooms!

Pruning Crape Myrtles

Seed heads on crape myrtle
Seed heads on crape myrtle.

Depending on the variety, crape myrtles can have different shapes and sizes. The miniature, or dwarf, varieties are generally bred to have lots of branches, and they tend to look shrublike and shouldn’t need pruning unless they are growing unevenly.

Medium and large varieties tend to develop sucker growth, or small shoots at the base of the trunk. These may be pruned off if desired, and the entire plant may be pruned according to your tastes. For varieties that bloom before mid-July, deadheading can often result in a second blooming.

  • When to Prune: Crape myrtles bloom on this year’s new growth (sometimes called “new wood”), so prune during late winter before growth starts. Fall pruning, especially in warm climates, can result in a quick growth response that prevents dormancy and makes winter freezes potentially deadly.
  • How to Prune: There are two schools of thought, and quite a bit of debate, about larger pruning jobs. Some gardeners like to lop off all stems at a uniform height each year, leaving branch stubs in the winter that flush out into a ball of growth in the spring. This is useful if you want a uniform border and height control, but it can result in bunchy growth and knobby stems that may be more susceptible to aphids and disease. Other gardeners decry this method as “crape murder” and adopt a less aggressive approach that conforms more to the natural size and shape of the plant. Most growers and researchers agree that only light pruning is necessary for plenty of blooms, so the choice is really yours.
Crape myrtle in bloom
Crape myrtle in bloom!

To achieve a graceful tree shape that shows off the lovely bark, first remove all but 3-5 strong trunks. Then remove lateral branches on the bottom half of the tree. Make “heading back” cuts on long, leggy limbs to encourage branching. Don’t over prune in the beginning – make the basic cuts and then allow the plant to grow, and continue shaping over time.

The best decision about the size of your crape myrtle is made when you buy it. Buy the right variety to fit the space! If you buy a 15′ variety and try to keep it 7′ tall, you will prune yourself silly. Instead, buy a 7′ variety, and you will find yourself with an incredibly low-maintenance plant.

Pests and Diseases for Crape Myrtles

Crepe myrtles are susceptible to several diseases and pests, including:

  • Powdery Mildew: The most common scourge of crape myrtles is powdery mildew – particularly during hot, humid days followed by cool, dewy nights. Treat with a general fungicide.
  • Sooty Mold: This is caused by the excretions of pests such as aphids. Treat with the appropriate insecticide.
  • Leaf Spot: Another common problem is leaf spot (Cercospora lythracearum), which resembles dark brown spots on the leaves that then turn yellow and fall off. Treat with a general fungicide.
  • Root Rot: Crape myrtles can also be affected by root rot, caused by poorly-draining soil.

Printable Crape Myrtle Variety List

Further Information

70 COMMENTS

  1. How do I stop growth of new plants from areas where the root was cut during landscaping activities? I’ve thought of using Round-Up but I’m afraid of damaging the original 21-yr old tree!

  2. Crape Myrtles are new to me. Mine have some type of problem on ‘some’ of the branches. Looks a little like a gritty, bumpy, discolored growth before dieback begins, (almost how poison ivy looks on a persons skin). I am guessing it to be a disease as the only insect pests are j. beetles, ants, some spiders. I’ve search the web and found little. I would rather treat for the specific problem then a general disease control. Any ideas or good sites?

  3. Crate Myrtles are my favorite trees in the summer. I’ve planted several in my back yard. Will they survive do to the fact they were transplanted in mid April? I’m really looking forward to seeing those beautiful blooms this summer.

  4. Bridget, they should be fine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they bloom this season, unless they were overly stressed during transplanting. Keep them well watered (especially in hot summer) until the roots get established.

  5. Judy, those sprouts are called suckers, and you’re right that spraying them with Round-Up can damage your tree. And cutting them above ground will only encourage them!

    You’ll need to dig down to where the suckers are sprouting, then rip them off at the base, or cut them off flush, to remove both the sucker and the bud they’re sprouting from. You can also buy a product called Sucker Stopper that supposedly stops them from regrowing, although I’ve never tried it.

    If that area is part of a planting bed, I’d also cover those roots with a couple of layers of landscape fabric and mulch, too.

  6. My crepe myrtles have little white fuzzy spots on the trunks and limbs. This is not the mildew..this looks like the mealy bugs I used to see on my house plants. When I touch them it looks like blood on my finger. One of my trees has it really bad on the top branches. What is this?

  7. Our two white Natchez crepe myrtle’s leaves are turning red to yellow and droppin off the tree in June to July in Austin, Texas. They were planted two years ago and have abundant blooms and good tall growth. No afids are present. What could be stressing the trees?

  8. Is it possible to start new plants from the suckers and buds that you say to dig to remove? Also I read somewhere to take cuttings in June-July to root. I have had some to start and others to die. Is there more information about this method?

  9. I live in Zone 6 and notice that you recommend to plant when the Crepe Myrtle is totally dormant. Well, that is in the winter and quite possible the ground will be frozen or covered with snow. Is there an alternate time to plant. I have planted 2 of them in the last 2 years and each has died. Help?

  10. You’re right, you wouldn’t want to plant anything when the ground is frozen – spring or fall would be fine. Shrubs and trees benefit from 4-6 weeks to get established before the ground freezes or the weather gets too hot. Crape myrtles are usually pretty tough – zone 6 is borderline for winter hardiness, though. You may want to plant them in a sheltered spot that stays a little warmer.

  11. Some of my crepe myrtle’s leaves are also turning red to orange in early August in Georgetown, TX. The trees were planted three plus years ago and have had abundant blooms this year and have grown very tall. What could be causing the reddish/orange leaves?

  12. Every year I get the white fly on my crapes…..
    I have lavendar, and deep pink on my bushes and trees. It’s awful… black leaves and then blooms hardly appear in the in season..June is good but by August YUCK what can i do? please help!!! Robin

  13. I live in zone 6 in PA and am wondering what kind of crape myrtle you would recommend for my area? I would prefer a tree form instead of a shrub type. It will receive full sun and we have good snow cover in the winter.

  14. steve,

    I take the suckers and also dig up the shoots, dip in rooting hormone and stick them in a good potting soil. Water them and I always end up with new crepe myrtles to plant or give away!

  15. The main trunks of my crepe myrtles died during the winter. There are suckers coming up at the bottom of each tree. Will these suckers eventually bloom and form a new tree? Should I cut back the dead branches of the main tree?

  16. We planted a crepe myrtle 3 years ago, it did have flowers on it when planted but as of today 6/8/11 still no blossoms. Do we have a problem or may it still bloom? Thank you

  17. First, PEOPLE DO NOT PLANT CRAPE MYRTLES on your fence line without first considering your neighbor! My neighbor decided to plant one within 10 feet of my pool! It is well over 30 feet tall and my pool decking and spa is cracked and leaking. I was forced to cut all branches hanging over into my property and I am hiring a professional to dig the ground up, grind down the roots and chemically treat the ground to kill all the roots that are shooting!

    It is not fair to plant such and invasive tree/weed near another neighbor! This tree is not near neighbors house but it is damaging my lawn and my pool! Their insurance is not going to pay for it and mine is not either! So my only recourse as to not let that tree further damage my pool and decking and costing me over $10,000 to fix, I will kill the roots and hopefully the tree from my property!

  18. We planted to 20 gal. crepe myrtles in the dfw area in march. They were dormant when we got them and still look the same. Are they dead? They also look brittle. We planted them in sunny spots with mulch on top of the ground. How do we know if they are alive or dead? Please help!

  19. Can the seeds off an existing CM be used to grow another one? If not, can I buy seeds to grow one or do I need to buy the entire plant?

  20. I PLANTED A 4FT. DYNIMIGHT CRAPE MYRTLE LAST SPRING,IT DOUBLED IN SIZE AND FLOWERED GREAT LAST YEAR. I DID NOT PRUNE IT JUST CUT OFF THE SEED PODS THIS SPRING
    IT LOOKS VERY HEALTHY BUT IT HAS NOT GROWN MORE THAN A FEW INCHES AND NO SIGNS OR FLOWERING AT ALL.I GIVE IT PLEANTY OF WATER AS I DID LAST YEAR AND IT GETS ABOUT 6 HOURE OF FULL SUN. please help thank you.

  21. I have a crape myrtle bought in s.carolina, I live in Ohio, I would like to bring it in as a house plant . it is only 2 feet tall. What do I need to know??? HELP,

  22. the leaves on my crape myrtle are turning red already and it’s only june….what’s happening??? thanks. bp

  23. Good morning

    thanks for the info. my crape myrtles have the dark leafs
    mildew look with the bugs.
    I quess any fugi pesticide will work?

  24. I brought a crepe mrytle from greensboro, nc to pittsburgh pa. They grow wild on my cousin’s property. Ive had it for two years and nothing but yesterday, i looked at it and there appears to be blooms / buds. Im not sure of the color yet or if they’ll open and bloom. Is there anything i should do?

  25. Our 4 ft crepe myrtle only has 1 trunk right now. There are a lot of suckers/ shoots growing from the bottom of trunk. Will these suckers form into a second and/ or third trunk that we are waiting for?

  26. I have a crape myrtle that my husband and I purchased and planted. I LOVE IT! It is easy maintenance and the colorful blooms are beautiful. This year I have lots of blooms and the leaves are perfect except one thing. When we got the cm it was tall and then I pruned it with little knowledge on how to do so. This year it only grew half way up the main branches. Did I mess it up? Or will it eventually grow at the top half. So we have these beautiful blooms and then three bare main branches sticking out the top. This year I vow not to prune it just to see how it turns out. Dose any one have any suggestions?

  27. I just received 6 muskogee crape myrtles that I ordered. How long can I wait to plant them? I live in Corinth TX and it has gotten very hot again and I am a little leery of planting them right now. Please advise. Thank you so much!

  28. I need to transplant one and I would like to know the best time for this. I live in middle of Oklahoma. Weather change often. I need to transplant from a mostly shaded to a very sunny spot. Can it be done this fall.

    Thank You
    Doug

  29. I am new to gardening and decided to prune a perfectly good myrtle hat the previous owner had taking great care of. I tried to prune like I had seen neighbors prune only to learn later that it was Crepe “Murder”! I pruned really short and one of the main branches split…probably from the dull blade. (Like I said…newbie) now only half of the tree has new wood shooting. Am I at the point of no return or can I bring it back to life?

    Thanks!
    Steven

  30. PLEASE HELP ME IM AT MY WITTS END MY CRAPE MYRTYLE APPERES TO BE DYING ITS LEAVE ARE TURNING WHITE POWDER LOOKING THE TRUNK LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING IS DRILLING FROM THE INSIDE OUT BOREING HOLES IN IT ANY ADVICE PLEASE
    THANK YOU LISA

  31. Three of the four main trunks of my crepe myrtle tree died over the winter. There is new growth coming from the ball of the tree, will this new growth eventually grow to form a new tree? Should I cut back the dead trunks of the main tree?

  32. I would love to have a crape myrtle bush but I live in Cleveland ohio.is it possible for me to grow it here or what can I do? pot and bring in in winter? Help I love the plant.

  33. I live in Lakeland Florida I have a Crepe Myrtle that has not had any new growth since we moved. I thought it was in shock so I left it alone. Well the branches started to fold up, no leaves or flowers, and now I have new growth coming out from the ground. I don’t know if this is new growth and take the whole tree down and start over from the new growth or what. PLEASE HELP

  34. A CREPE MYRTLE TREE WITH 3 THIN BARKS WAS PLANTED ON OCT. 9,2014 IN MEMORY OF MY HUSBAND IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE ON THE NORTH SIDE. I LIVE IN PALM BEACH GARDENS FLORIDA. THE LEAVES ON THE TREE LOOK LIKE THEY ARE FALLING. I AM VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE TREE. WHAT IS WRONG?

  35. Planted it last year. It’s dead on top, has shoots coming up. Do I cut off and let a new one cone up? R the roots living ?

  36. I have 2 crape myrtles and for the last 2 years they have been coming up from the ground. Is this normal? The stems that are left from last season. Does not produce any leaves. I would like to know if this normal.

  37. Can I grow these in New York State. Middletown, New York to be exact??? We have short summers but they are very HOT at times… I grow my own Herbs and tomatoes as well during our short Summer months!!!

    Thank you,

  38. Bought a crape myrtle tree in April. It was doing well until now (mid June). Looks wilted and blooms gone. Water twice a day (also deep water). We live in Scottsdale, Arizona. Is it simply too hot for this tree here? Certainly hope not, I truly love this lovely tree.

  39. Central Florida sandy soil well drained–I transplanted a Large 8-10″ White Crape Myrtle and its doing fine after 4-5 weeks making a tub of water for it and watering each day, it bloomed, growing stems from cut branches prior to moving and looks healthy for the leaves, my question is this: How long do I continue to fill the tub circle around the tree full of water? When can I stop and let mother nature take over plus the lawn sprinkler system to take care of business?

  40. Hi I just planted my crape myrtle a few weeks ago. Its been really hot and I’ve been watering it about every other day really good. I have a drain that goes down about 3 ft and I make sure water goes in there really good. Still it looks like the tree is in shock. The leaves are turning brown and the small branches are becoming brittle. help!!!

  41. I have two 3-4 foot crepe myrtles that were planted in March. They are very important to me, as the parent of this tree is in my mother and father’s yard. They are gone, but these are an important rememberbrance for me. A freeze will be coming soon, sure. (North Louisiana) What should I do to protect them?

  42. I recently planted 2 black diamond crape myrtle on the north side of my home in zone 9B. In the winter months there is a significant amount of shade. In the summer the sun shifts and they will receive 6+ hours of sun. Should I expect them to grow and bloom normally or will they be hindered?

  43. How have you not noticed that you spelled crepe wrong???!!!!! How do you have an entire article about a tree that you can’t spell? Why did you not correct this after seeing your readers comments? Boggling!

  44. I purchased 6 Crepe Myrtles from a nursery last September during a very hot couple of weeks, then had to leave for 2 weeks and could not plant right away. The nursery worker told me to set the plants / pots in water, which I did in a kiddie pool of about 4″ of water. After a couple of weeks when I returned, I planted them and shortly afterward the leaves browned, curled and dropped. I’m hoping the time spent in water didn’t kill them. My contractor building my house at the time said they were just shocked, but said they should not have been set in water.

    Is there a chance they will recover this spring?

  45. Can I plant a crepe myrtle next to my house on the beach in Lewes Delaware if dirt is added to sand. Or sand is amended some how?

  46. I purchased three black diamond plants last fall. I kept them in pots and brought them when weather became cool, I have kept them in house by windows with sunlight. I noticed that leaves are starting to come on two of the plants. I do water them once a week. Should I keep them in house or move them to the garage where it is cold until the weather becomes warm again. My location is southern KS.

  47. I have 2 two yr and two one year old crepes myrtles.. I live in Zone 6 and have not cut them back yet. It is the end of April . The only growth I see is at the bottom. All the branches look dead. I am assuming I should have pruned them sooner. My 2 yr.old trees bloomed nicely last summer. Is there any hope for them and if so what should I do. Thanks

  48. I live on the eastern Connecticut shoreline and purchased two ~3′ tall crepe myrtle plants from a nursery on Long Island, NY early last summer and planted them right away. After ~ three weeks they began to bloom and continued to bloom until October. It appeared that one pot contained two different kinds of crepe myrtle plants because it yielded two different color blooms, one appearing later than the other and the other pot contained all of the same kind of of crepe myrtle since all of the blossoms were the same color. I was not sure they would survive a severe Connecticut winter so covered them with tent-like covering that I purchased online. Last week the planting with the blossoms all the same started to bud and is also sprouting new growth from the roots. The other planting which appeared to be mixed is sprouting buds from one part that bloomed first last summer but the other part seems lifeless. I haven’t done anything to either yet but am thinking I should prune both. Can anyone advise me as to how I should proceed?

  49. I installed a red crape myrtle about 4 years ago in lower Pa. Its suppose to be a 10 foot tree, but the bush never gets higher then 4-5 feet. It does flower, before it grows any higher winter comes and then it starts the process starts all over again with the same results. What’s the problew?

  50. i have a healthy beautifuul red crape myrtle in my front yard. huge clooms, perhaps too large. with thee first heavy summer rain the tree is badly broken. limbs on the ground and some limbs just hanging down. we had a storm last night and the crape myrtle is again badly damaged. can i do anything to prevent this or must i replace it with another tree?

  51. Hi, there – I have a question about over-wintering my baby crepes. I am in Zone 7A (Maryland\DC).

    I have grown 7 or 8 little guys from seeds I gathered from a more mature crepe in my yard, and they’ve done extremely well outside this Spring and Summer. They are planted together in a large material pot that has allowed them to root easily and breathe.

    Now, though, the time has come to decide where they go during the winter. I am not quite ready to put them in the ground, so they will need to stay in the pot for now.

    What are my options? I do not have a garage that can protect them from the cold wind. I can put them in a greenhouse (with a ceramic heater) but wonder whether that would be the best thing to encourage growth next year.

    Can I simply drop the entire pot in the ground so they winter as they normally would?

    Thanks – any input would be greatly appreciated.

  52. I had a beautiful crepe myrtle tree at my last home. My current home is new and has a small bush in the front. It’s only November, but is it too early to prune and bind to start the tree?

  53. I AM IN AGREEMENT WITH OTHERS — PLEASE CORRECT YOUR ARTICLE TO SPELL “CREPE” CORRECTLY. IT IS NOT SPELLED
    “CRAPE” – THAT IS JUST DISGUSTING. CRAPE AS IN CRAPPY, THE FISH. IT IS NOT A “CROP” MYRTLE, IT IS A “CREPE MYRTLE”!!!!!

    • Hi, Elsie!
      Both spellings are actually correct. The American Horticultural Society spells it with an “A.” So does the Arbor Day Foundation. Of course, to each his or her own. Thanks for reading!

  54. We have a small crepe myrtle that has bloomed beautifully for three years in a row. We had a very cold winter and here it is late May with no signs of growth. Is it dead? We live in WV.

  55. Have a crape myrtle now a year in the ground. It constantly grows branches from the ground level of the tree. I cut them to encourage growth at the top. The neighbor says to leave them. Who’s right?

  56. Elsie,
    Crape is how the scientific name is spelled so that is likely the proper spelling horticulturally speaking.
    By the way the fish is crappie, not crappy.

  57. Vivo en Long Island. Me regalaron 20 arbolitos de CAFÉ Orgánico,tengo buen espacio para sembrarlos pero me preocupa si ahora que vendrá el invierno les afecta, yo no se nada de sembrar Cafe pero me interesa que crescan sanos y no se por donde comensar y que clase de fertilizantes le puedo poner y si ellos les dan algunas plagas y como combatir esas plagas, agradecerse su cooperación

  58. We have clay soil (bottom land ex pecan orchard) with flood irrigation with river water. How well will crepe myrtles do here?
    El Paso, TX

  59. We have a small corner area in our courtyard that we’d like to plant a crepe myrtle in. The area is about 4’x4’. Up against a wooden fence and bordered by concrete. Next to a detached garage. We live in California in the Central Valley whew it gets really hot. The area gets a lot of sunlight. There are usually any hills right there. Does it sound like a good spot to plant the crepe myrtle? If so what type would thrive in this situation?

    • Hi, Rich,
      It’s good that the area gets plenty of sunlight. So far, sounds good.
      But we suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association for the best recommendation tailored to your geographic area. Here’s where you can do that: http://mg.ucanr.edu/
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.