By Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent, August 2015
If you have had the opportunity to drive around the county lately, you may have noticed all the beautiful crape myrtles highlighting the landscape. If you’ve seen them and would like to join the color parade, now is a good time to set your plan in motion. The fall is an excellent time to plant ornamental trees.
Crape myrtles are hardy and come in a variety of sizes and colors. You even get to choose the height. Actually you can pick the flower color and the tree height in one choice. Crape myrtles are an effective component of landscapes that represent both the new and the traditional South.
From China and Southeast Asia, crape myrtles were first recorded planted in Europe in 1759. Since then, people have planted them extensively across the Southeastern United States, the Caribbean, California and Hawaii.
A common nonnative small tree or large shrub (Lagerstroemia genus), crape myrtles have showy summer flowers. They are easy to propagate, easy to grow and fairly easy to find at nursery outlets. Landscapers are increasingly using crape myrtles as small trees.
The tree-form crape myrtle also has great bark features that most people never get to see. Pruning the young trees into a single-stem tree form is easy and once you prune them into tree form, crape myrtles are easy to maintain and the bark feature is easy to see.
Many times fitting small trees in small spots and under tall objects is filled with problems because the small trees always seem to grow larger than expected, but with crape myrtles, a lot of newly designed cultivars top out at a specific height. Work in recent years has yielded many new cultivars. Listed below are several popular cultivars. These respond well to pruning into a tree form and are resistant to foliage mildew.
Crape myrtles that grow about 15 feet high include Apalachee (light lavender), Comanche (dark pink), Lipan (lavender), Osage (clear pink), and Sioux (pink). Cultivars that reach about 20 feet in height include Miami (dark pink), Tuskegee (dark pink), and Wichita (lavender). Crape myrtles that grow to 25 feet tall include Biloxi (pale pink), Fantasy (white), Kiowa (white), Muskogee (light lavender), and Natchez (white).
If your view of crape myrtles is a multi-stem, hack-trimmed shrub, expand your mind and landscape options because small trees are great and easy, if trained correctly.
For more information, contact me at the Gilmer UGA Extension office or check out the UGA Extension Crape Myrtle Culture circular (# C944) at http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=C944.