August 10, 2012

Plant of the Month: Crape Myrtle

Lagerstroemia indica

I know what you're thinking: A gardener in USDA zone 5 has no business posting about a plant that's only hardy in zones 6-10! I hope you'll forgive me for breaking the rules again. This month I'm highlighting a plant that doesn't, and probably shouldn't, grow in my garden.


But I got such a kick out of the Crape Myrtles growing all over the place in Branson, Mo., when we vacationed there in June. They were all around town, and seemed to be the signature plant/shrub/tree at the resort where we stayed. It seemed to have just about every size, shape, and color of Crape Myrtle available.


Different sources spell the name differentlyCrape Myrtle, Crepe Myrtle, Crapemyrtlebut I'm going with the spelling I found on the USDA site. I seem to remember seeing Crape Myrtles on trips to Texas, Louisiana, and other points south, but never so many of them planted all in one small area.


The blooms are unique with their crinkly petals.


And the fruits are equally fascinating.



They look great planted with ornamental grasses and other landscape plants, and they compliment hardscape focal points like bridges, pathways, and fountains.


I have to be clear that I don't plan on planting any Crape Myrtles in my northern garden. But if I lived in Texas or Missouri, or another southern or middle-range state, I might think about it. While they're not native to the U.S. (they originated in China and Koreathey fill an ornamental landscaping niche similar to our Lilacs here in the north.


Some other interesting facts about Crape Myrtles, all gathered from the USDA and the U.S. National Arboretum:
  • They're drought-tolerant, which most U.S. gardeners can appreciate this year;
  • They bloom from spring through summer;
  • Their fall foliage apparently (although I've never seen it) is quite lovely; and
  • The bark has a variegated, mottled appearance (sorry, I didn't get any bark photos).


Plus, they're simply beautiful, fascinating plants. (Be sure to visit Elephant's Eye for the Dozen for Diana meme!)




39 comments:

  1. Being in North Carolina, we have crape myrtles in abundance. They are gorgeous, and it is so nice to have blooming trees giving some much needed color in the heat of summer. I don't have any, but they are commonly planted by landscapers around here. The bark and form of the taller trees are also really lovely. They certainly don't smell as heavenly as lilacs do though!

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    1. True about the scent! Nothing compares with Lilacs. ;-) But I love them both. I guess I found a new favorite--along with Bougainvillea, huge Wisteria vines, and others--for when I visit the south.

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  2. It doesn't hurt to dream occasionally about plants you can't have. I think what I would like most that I cant have are bougainvillea and figs. Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for the nod to dreaming, Jason. I, too, am a huge fan of Bougainvillea! It's so majestic and colorful when it's in bloom.

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  3. One of my favourites, and they grow well here.

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    1. Ah, you are truly fortunate, Lyn. They are lovely in all their forms.

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  4. Wow, beautiful! I'd never heard of it before...
    Ciao Beth. :)

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    1. I had heard of them and seen them, but hadn't really seen such a nice collection altogether before. Makes me want to go back to Branson in the fall and winter to see them in all their seasons. :)

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  5. I cannot grow them either but they are very colorful. If I could, I would!

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    1. Yeah, I think I would plant a couple near my house--probably one of the smaller or medium-sized shrub varieties.

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  6. I have one right in front of the house. It is gorgeous and the bark is my favorite part however, it is in the wrong place and much to big for its location. The bees LOVE the blooms and you can hear them buzzing from the other side of the garden, its that loud!

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    1. Jealous! Another reason to visit Georgia again! Yes, there were some pollinators on the Crape Myrtles in Branson. But not a lot--I think it was too hot and dry when we were there. I just stopped over at your blog to check out past posts on Crape Myrtles. Wow, they are stunning in the fall!

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  7. I have several crape myrtles in my garden. They are tough and reliable. They deserve a spot as the plant of the month! Also, it seems that now there is a crape myrtle in every size and color for almost any garden - except, I suppose a garden in zone 5!

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    1. Yep, we're beyond the edge here in zone 5. Oh well, I can enjoy them when I travel. :) I remember your post about "Crape Murder." That is truly weird and sad.

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  8. Thank you for the lovely pictures of a beautiful plant. I love crape myrtles in bloom, and in winter their bark adds interest to a garden. Their name derives from the French word crepe (as in crepe de chine) which is a fabric with a crinkly texture (like their flowers). The British have changed it into crape, but both spellings are used.

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    1. Thanks, Masha. That's funny, because my immediate thought was Crepe, and I even started writing the post that way. But then I kept finding it as Crape. Thanks for the info.

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  9. I have three crepe myrtle trees in my garden! Mine have lavender flowers that have just started to bloom. They're beautiful and super easy to grow, as long as you don't live in zone 5! But we can't grow delphiniums, so there's a trade off.

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    1. Oh, you are lucky! I think the lavender ones are especially pretty. Delphiniums aren't doing so well in my garden the past couple of years, either. I guess it's global warming?

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  10. They sure are pretty, love those colors. No matter how you spell it, they look beautiful.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. Me, too. I didn't realize there were so many colors and types of Crape Myrtles.

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  11. Now that my zone moved from 5 to 6, maybe I will a Crape Myrtle a try.

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    1. Apparently there are some that will work. Keep me posted. :)

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  12. That is a plant that I wish I could grow. I know people love lilacs up here, but I really love all the plants south of here. I think a move south should be in the cards for me. Too many fragrant and colorful plants live in warmer climes.

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    1. I love Lilacs, too. I think I need to spend time in the north and the south. That will be my plan for retirement--many years from now! ;-)

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  13. Beth these are indeed native to TX and parts South. I would love to try them but not in my zone 5b at this point. But I have heard about these from Southern gardeners so it was nice to see your profile... gorgeous blooms and pictures.

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    1. Yeah, I don't plan to plant them here, but I sure appreciate them. Actually, I think they're native to Korea and China. But so common for so long in the south, that people think they're native. At least that's what I read.

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  14. Gorgeous photos. There's already one crape myrtle that's supposedly hardy to zone 6, so let's hope they can go even a zone lower in the near future. Would definitely like to grow these in my garden.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I suppose we could grow the smaller varieties as annuals in pots. If I ever have a garden in the south, I think I'll plant at least one of these.

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  15. We have Crape Myrtles here in Malaysia, as trees and shrubs. Those you have highlighted in your post are beautiful, they flower so profusely. I have a tree just outside my house. It attracts birds, butterflies and bees. They are deciduous here, and the leaves change to brown, sometimes even red before falling off, so I imagine it is autumn in my place :-)

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    1. You are very fortunate! And perhaps they're native to Malaysia, too? I can just imagine the butterflies swarming around them!

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  16. I first saw these in CA and was so enamored that I had to find a nursery just to ask someone to tell me what they were! I had only seen them in books before. I love their bark and use Natchez in designs for our milder microclimates here in the Seattle area

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    1. They are very unique, aren't they? They seem like they'd be good foundation plants.

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  17. Gorgeous crape myrtles! We've been thinking of bringing a crape myrtle into our front lawn which desperately needs color. Your pictures are very inspiring!

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    1. Oh, sounds wonderful! From your pictures of your garden on your blog, I bet they would look spectacular!

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  18. I've admired these on Southern blogs for years; you've got to love a flowering tree/shrub that blooms for so long. There is supposed to be a cultivar hardy enough for us, but I haven't found it on any plant sites yet.

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    1. Yeah, I remember reading about/seeing them on blogs, too. But they're so fun to see up close with their crinkly blooms.

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  19. Drought tolerant - absolutely. We have inherited 3. I've never seen any berries ... will look out for them. Flowers are fleeting, but the bark and graceful structure are appealing thru our long hot months, and now while the trees are bare.

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    1. You are so fortunate, Diana! And thanks for sharing the links for info from previous posts!

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  20. http://elephantseyegarden.blogspot.com/2012/01/january-garden-walk.html the bark

    http://elephantseyegarden.blogspot.com/2011/06/red-yellow-and-bare.html the autumn fiery leaves

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