in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Lagerstroemia indica: Crepe Myrtle

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Form: Many-stemmed shrub or small tree.
Lifespan: 20-50 years.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Moderate to rapid.
Mature Size: 1-30' high and 1-25' wide, depending on cultivar and rootstock.
Flowers: Red, purple, pink or white, clustered, crinkled.
Bloom: In summer, for one to three months. Cold climates may cause fall blooming.
Fruit: Dry capsule containing seeds.
Leaves: Green, ovate, may turn yellow, orange or red in fall. Often last plant to leaf out in spring. Moderate shade.
Stems: Densely branching, fluted, bark sheds in summer and fall. No thorns.
Roots: Shallow and fibrous. May have a grafted rootstock to reduce size. Extensive roots prevent other plants from growing underneath.
Wildlife: Unattractive to most wildlife except aphids and molds.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: Asia.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 7b-10. Often dies to ground in zone 6 but recovers in spring or summer.
Heat tolerant: Only up to 100°F; leaf scorch and premature leaf loss above 100°F.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun except: needs afternoon shade in hot desert climates. Avoid reflected heat and light.
Water after becoming established: For plants over two years old, monthly in summer, every two months in winter.
Soil: Well drained, deep, clay or loam, pH 5.1-7.8 (strongly acidic to slightly alkaline). Plants are subject to root rot in wet soil.
Mulch: Spread 3-5" organic material under canopy but one foot away from trunk. This reduces water loss and heat stress.
First Year Care: Water after planting, and every other day for first month, reducing to weekly as temperatures cool. Second year watering should be every week in summer and every two weeks in winter.
Planting: Compact cultivars can be grown in containers.
Prune: Removal of seed capsules triggers second bloom. Blooms on new wood, prune in winter. Late spring pruning reduces blooms. Never top chop a Crepe myrtle tree (pollarding). Purchase a dwarf tree or shrub instead, or allow the plant to grow to its natural height.
Litter: Spent flowers, leaves in fall.
Propagation: Seed or cuttings.
Pests: Aphids, powdery mildew.
Uses: Summer ornamental.

Some drawbacks of this overused plant are its dead look in winter, its lack of wildlife appeal, the "plastic" look of its flowers that do not match native vegetation, and the tendency of some owners to lop off the top of the tree, giving it a grotesque appearance.
The problem of not flowering can be caused by insufficient sunlight, temperatures too cool, too much water or rain, and over-fertilization.

Do you have additional information or a different experience for this plant that you would like to share?
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Lagerstroemia indica: Crepe Myrtle - flower cluster

Lagerstroemia indica: Crepe Myrtle