Skip to content

How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Learn how to properly grow and care for all types of crepe myrtle trees and shrubs, including planting, pruning techniques, bloom times and managing potential issues.

With their striking flowers, brilliant fall foliage and gorgeous bark, crepe myrtles are some of the most ornamental trees you can grow. These heat-loving plants thrive in hot summer climates and reward you with months of colorful blooms.

While native to Asia, the crepe myrtle has become a beloved landscaping tree across the southern United States. Gardeners can’t get enough of their low-maintenance care and reliable flowering year after year.

No matter where you live, crepe myrtles make an excellent addition to any yard or garden. This guide will cover everything you need to know to successfully grow and care for these beautiful flowering trees.

What are Crepe Myrtles?

Crepe-Myrtle-819x1024 How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) are deciduous trees or shrubs known for their showy clusters of crinkly flowers resembling crepe paper. They bloom throughout the summer months in a wide range of vibrant colors.

Originally from India, China and Japan, the crepe myrtle was later introduced to the southern United States in the late 1700s. It quickly became a beloved plant for its summer flowers and stunning red, orange or yellow fall foliage color.

As the crepe myrtle’s popularity grew, many new cultivars were developed with different growth habits and flower colors. Today there are hundreds of varieties ranging from dwarf sizes under 3 feet tall to larger trees over 30 feet in height.

Beyond their gorgeous flowers, crepe myrtles also have exceptional bark qualities. As the trees mature, their trunks develop beautiful mottled, exfoliating bark in shades of pale gray, beige, red and cinnamon brown.

This peeling bark adds year-round interest and winter appeal, along with the branches’ smooth, twisting sculptural form when bare.

Types of Crepe Myrtles

There are countless cultivars and varieties of crepe myrtle to choose from. They are generally categorized based on their mature plant height:

Dwarf (3-6 feet tall)

Dwarf-844x1024 How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Pecos – Bright red flowers
  • Bourbon Street – Purple-red flowers
  • Chica – Pink flowers
  • Pennlily Flare – Bright red flowers

Semi-Dwarf (6-10 feet tall)

Crepe-Myrtle-Semi-Dwarf How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Acoma – White flowers
  • Ebony Blaze – Deep purple flowers
  • Firebird – Vibrant red blooms
  • Midnight Marvel – Deep purple-red flowers

Medium (10-20 feet tall)

crepe-myrtle-Medium How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Natchez – Pure white blooms
  • Tuscarora – Coral pink flowers
  • Miami – Dark pink flowers
  • Dynamite – Cherry red blooms

Tree (Over 20 feet tall)

crepe-myrtle-Tree How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Muskogee – Light lavender flowers
  • Tuskegee – Deep pink blooms
  • Yodogan Ornamental – Purple flowers
  • Sioux – Bright pink flowers

In general, the larger the crepe myrtle, the later it will bloom during summer and the more cold-hardy it will be in winter.

Besides the bloom color and plant size, there are also weeping and multi-trunk varieties as well as compact patio types well-suited for containers. No matter your planting needs, there’s a crepe myrtle to fit the space!

Planting Crepe Myrtles

Planting-Crepe-Myrtles How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crepe myrtles need at least 6 hours of direct sun per day to bloom and grow their best. Choose a planting site with well-drained soil and protection from strong winds, which can damage the branches.

Dig a hole that’s twice as wide as the root ball but no deeper. The top of the root ball should sit slightly above soil level when planted to prevent excessive moisture around the trunk.

Water thoroughly after planting, applying a few inches of mulch around (but not touching) the tree’s base. Provide regular irrigation for the first year to allow the roots to establish.

Younger plants will require staking for the first 6-12 months as well. But remove the stakes as the plant matures to prevent trunk girdling.

Garden centers often sell crepe myrtles grown in containers, as their fleshy roots make them easy to transplant successfully. The best times to plant are in very early spring or in fall once temperatures start to cool off.

General Crepe Myrtle Care

General-Crepe-Myrtle-Care How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Once your crepe myrtle gets established, it’s a very low-maintenance plant to care for. Here are some basic care guidelines:

Watering While young plants need regular irrigation, established trees and shrubs only require deep watering during periods of extreme drought or heat. Allow the soil to partially dry out between waterings.

Soil Crepe myrtles thrive in slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Sandy or loamy soils are ideal, while clay can lead to root rot issues if overly wet. Amend heavy soils with compost to improve drainage.

Fertilizing These plants are moderate feeders and typically only need an annual application of a balanced fertilizer each spring. Avoid over-fertilizing which can promote lots of leafy growth but reduce flowering.

Pruning The main pruning task for crepe myrtles is removing any dead, damaged or rubbing branches in late winter before growth resumes. Topping or excessive pruning should be avoided.

Winter Protection In colder northern climates, wrapping burlap around the trunks can help protect the tissue during harsh winters. Some dieback is normal with excessive cold, but the plants typically regrow from the roots.

With the right care, crepe myrtles are regarded as virtually disease and pest-free landscape plants, aside from the occasional issue like powdery mildew or aphids. Their ease of care makes them very popular trees.

Flowering and Bloom Time

Flowering-and-Bloom-Time How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

The reason gardeners love growing crepe myrtles is for their incredible clusters of eye-catching blooms that last for months on end. Flowers emerge in spring and continue blooming prolifically all the way through fall.

Crepe myrtle flower colors span the spectrum from pure white to bright reds, pinks, purples and even rare yellow varieties. Some have solid color petals while others feature bicolored streaks or edges of contrasting colors.

Large panicle clusters up to 12 inches long are packed with individual crinkled, crepe-paper like blooms. As the flowers age, they develop papery seed capsules that provide additional ornamental interest.

The overall flowering period for crepe myrtles ranges from late spring through summer and into early fall in most regions. But the exact bloom window varies based on your climate and the variety grown.

For example, dwarf types often flower first, typically starting sometime between May and July depending on your USDA zone. Their larger tree-sized counterparts will hold off blooming until between June and September.

Cooler fall temperatures actually seem to spur more prolific bloom production in many cultivars, as long as day length is still sufficient.

For maximum flowering, plant crepe myrtles in a location with at least 6 hours of full sun exposure per day. Too much shade or overcrowding from other plants can reduce blooms.

Fertilizing and pruning properly is also key to keeping these beauties in constant bloom for months rather than in sporadic flushes.

Pruning and Shaping Crepe Myrtles

Pruning-and-Shaping-Crepe-Myrtles How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

The key is to use selective thinning techniques rather than shearing or severely cutting back all the branches. This preserves the plant’s graceful, natural form and flowering potential.

After pruning in late winter, you may notice fewer blooms that first spring as the plant puts more energy into regrowth. But by summer, you should see plenty of fresh flowers appearing on the new growth.

Only very light pruning, if any, is recommended once the plant begins actively blooming and setting buds to avoid removing the flowering wood.

Some landscapers or homeowners make the mistake of over-pruning crepe myrtles through a practice called “crepe murder.” This involves chopping off all the upper branches and heavily stubbing back the main trunks.

While sometimes done with good intentions for size control, crepe murder is extremely damaging. It promotes weak, unsightly knob growth, reduces flowering, and goes against the plant’s natural vase-shaped growth habit.

So unless you absolutely need to rejuvenate an older, neglected plant, avoid overtly disfiguring crepe myrtles through excessive pruning. A lighter touch allows them to thrive.

Crepe Myrtle Problems

When planted in the right conditions and cared for properly, crepe myrtles are regarded as fairly tough, low-maintenance plants. But they can occasionally run into some potential issues:


Pests-1024x682 How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Aphids
  • Bark Scale
  • Sooty Mold (from honeydew secretions)


Diseases How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Leaf Spot Diseases
  • Cercospora Leaf Spot

Environmental Issues

Environmental-Issues1-1024x1024 How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Frost/Freeze Damage in Cold Winters
  • Bud Drop from Late Spring Frosts
  • Stunted Growth from Too Much Shade
  • Iron Chlorosis in High pH Soils
  • Heat Stress / Drought
  • Salt Injury in Coastal Areas

The best way to prevent most pest and disease problems is through proper cultural care. Don’t over-fertilize, provide adequate spacing for airflow, and water at the soil level rather than from overhead.

In cold climates, wrapping the trunks with insulation can help prevent frost cracking over winter. But some dieback is normal and the plants will regrow from the roots once spring arrives.

With their beautiful summer blooms, exfoliating bark, and brilliant fall color, it’s no wonder crepe myrtles remain such popular landscape trees and shrubs, especially in the south.

By providing the right growing conditions and care, you can enjoy these elegant flowering plants for years to come. They’ll reward you with months of vibrant color and hassle-free beauty.

Meta Description: Learn how to properly grow and care for all types of crepe myrtle trees and shrubs, including planting, pruning techniques, bloom times and managing potential issues.

1 thought on “How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)”

  1. Pingback: How to Grow & Care for Crepe Myrtle (Lagers...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *