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Similar but less problematic plants:
Sophora affinis Sophora affinis
Lagerstroemia indica is often confused with:
Lagerstroemia limii Bark
Lagerstroemia 'Natchez' 'Natchez' Form
Native alternative(s) for Lagerstroemia indica:
Chionanthus virginicus Flowering branch
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Quercus nigra Quercus nigra
Salvia rosmarinus Rosmarinus officinalis
Acer rubrum Acer rubrum
Lagerstroemia indica has some common insect problems:
Crape Myrtle Pest Management Calendar
Pests of Crape Myrtle

Crape Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica

Previously known as:

  • Lagerstroemia chinensis
Phonetic Spelling
la-ger-STRO-me-a IN-di-ka
Description

The crape myrtle is a favorite of many southern gardeners in the United States, but the traditional spelling in the south is "crepe myrtle."  It is a favorite because it blooms from July to September during a time when most trees are not blooming. If the plant is healthy, it will be covered with blooms that will last for months during the hottest part of the summer. It is an erect, wide-spreading, multi-stemmed, medium-sized, deciduous, flowering shrub or small tree that grows rapidly. It typically grows 6 to 30 feet tall and equally as wide. The crape myrtle has exfoliating bark, a long blooming period of showy flowers during the summer, and beautiful fall foliage.

The blooms are terminal, crepe paper-like flowers that bloom in a cluster or panicle measuring 6 to 18 inches long. In the wild, the flower color is rose to red, but there are many cultivated varieties in colors of white, pink, mauve, lavender, and purple. The leaves are light green with tinges of red initially, and then become dark green by summer. They are leathery, elliptic, and measure up to the 3 inches long. The fall color ranges from yellow, to orange, and red. Round seed capsules follow the flowers and will persist through the winter months. The bark is smooth, exfoliating, and pale pinkish-gray. 

The crape myrtle is native to China, Indochina, the Himalayas, and Japan. They are found in fields in the semi-shade and may be wild or cultivated. This plant has become naturalized in the United States and ranges from Virginia to Texas and Florida. 

The genus name, Lagestroemia, honors Magnus von Lagerstroem who was a Swedish botanist and Director of the Swedish East Indies Company The specific epithet, indica, references its native origin in India. The common name, crape myrtle, is derived from the crepe paper-like inflorescences as well as the bark and foliage features that are similar to the myrtle plant. 

They will grow in almost any kind of soil including sand, loam, or clay, and it prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sunlight. This plant is easily transplanted and is drought-tolerant once established. It is best to plant this tree or shrub in a sheltered location to protect it from winter winds and provide adequate mulch to protect the roots. They will grow in partial shade; however, the best flowering will occur on plants that receive more than 6 hours of direct sun.  It is even possible to grow them in containers if they are watered and fertilized properly. This plant blooms from June until fall, and it is best to trim off seed pods to promote continued flowering. This plant is propagated by cuttings and seeds.

Severe pruning or topping of the crape myrtle should not be needed to control the plant size. It is always wise to select the right plant for the right place. Many varieties are available in different sizes. Select the proper size for your landscape so that topping or heavy pruning is not necessary. If pruning is required to thin the tree or shrub, it is best done in the later winter or spring before growth begins. 

The species is not usually found in commerce, but many cultivars are available ranging from dwarf to tree size. Crape myrtle breeding and cultivation have produced several different colors of flowers, ranging from white to purple to every shade of red. They can be purchased for small spaces with plants that reach a mature height of 3 to 5 feet, large shade trees reaching heights of 40 feet, and almost any size in between. Work has been done in breeding this original crape myrtle Lagerstroemia indica with a Japanese crape myrtle Lagerstroemia fauriei, which features red, flaky bark and resistance to powdery mildew. Most new varieties that are on the market today are a result of this breeding program.

Crape myrtle is a lovely flowering tree or shrub. It may be planted as a specimen, in groups, as a hedge, screen, espalier, or street tree. 

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Summer, Fall, and Winter   Bloom:  Summer     Foliage:  Summer and Fall    

Quick ID Hints:

  • Twigs have decurrent ridges
  • Has short petioles
  • Leaves are opposite, alternate, or in whorls of 3s
  • Flowers are 6-parted, anthocyanin, and have clawed petals
  • Flowers with style-like staminodes
  • Inflorescence is a terminal panicle
  • Fruit is a dehiscent capsule, 6-valved, and brown
  • Bark exfoliates, exposing hues of brown to gray

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The aphids and scales have been found on the crape myrtle. The crape myrtle bark scale is particularly an issue in western Tennessee and is best treated by the use of herbicides. Scrub brushes may also be used; however, that would be a difficult task. Potential diseases include leaf spots and powdery mildew. In hardiness zones 5 to 6, the tree or shrub is susceptible to winter injury, especially any top growth. Be aware that the flowers can stain walkways or the paint of your car. Avoid planting near a walkway or driveway.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Cottage Style Foundation Planting Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border Flower Bonanza Garden Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border Mountain Ridge Top Garden - North Lawn and Upper Drive Border Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Acoma'
    14 to 16 feet tall, white flowers
  • 'Biloxi'
    25 feet tall, pink flowers, mildew resistant
  • 'Black Diamond Red Hot'
  • 'Carolina Beauty'
  • 'Catawba' Lagerstroemia indica 'Catawba' Fall Color Form
    dark purple, blooms July to fall, mildew resistant, 12 ft. tall
  • 'Centennial Spirit'
  • 'Cherokee'
    red flowers, 10-12 ft. tall
  • 'Dallas Red'
    very cold hardy, large panicles of deep red flowers, 20 ft. tall
  • 'Firecracker'
  • 'Glendora White'
    White flowers
  • Infinitini®
  • 'Muskogee'
    hybrid, lavender flowers, long bloomer, tan-medium brown bark, mildew resistance, over 20 ft. tall
  • 'Natchez'
    hybrid, 30 feet tall, pure white flowers, resistant to aphids
  • 'Near East'
  • 'Peppermint Lace'
    deep pink flowers with white edges, candy striped appearance, 20 ft. tall
  • 'Petite Plum'
    dwarf
  • 'Pocomoke'
  • 'Powhatan'
    purple flowers, 14-20 ft. tall
  • 'Tightwad Red'
  • 'Tuscarora'
    hybrid, coral pink flowers, 16 ft. tall
  • 'Whit IV' Red Rocket Flower
    brilliant cherry-red flowers
'Acoma', 'Biloxi', 'Black Diamond Red Hot', 'Carolina Beauty', 'Catawba', 'Centennial Spirit', 'Cherokee', 'Dallas Red', 'Firecracker', 'Glendora White', Infinitini®, 'Muskogee', 'Natchez', 'Near East', 'Peppermint Lace', 'Petite Plum', 'Pocomoke', 'Powhatan', 'Tightwad Red', 'Tuscarora', 'Whit IV'
Tags:
#cultivars#showy flowers#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#specimen#pink flowers#red flowers#deciduous shrub#espalier#flowering tree#street tree#hedges#moist soil#fast growing#cpp#well-drained soil#transplant#deer resistant#children's garden#playground plant#hybrids#alkaline soils tolerant#pollinator plant#fantz#deciduous tree#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#medium size tree#accent#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Acoma'
    14 to 16 feet tall, white flowers
  • 'Biloxi'
    25 feet tall, pink flowers, mildew resistant
  • 'Black Diamond Red Hot'
  • 'Carolina Beauty'
  • 'Catawba' Lagerstroemia indica 'Catawba' Fall Color Form
    dark purple, blooms July to fall, mildew resistant, 12 ft. tall
  • 'Centennial Spirit'
  • 'Cherokee'
    red flowers, 10-12 ft. tall
  • 'Dallas Red'
    very cold hardy, large panicles of deep red flowers, 20 ft. tall
  • 'Firecracker'
  • 'Glendora White'
    White flowers
  • Infinitini®
  • 'Muskogee'
    hybrid, lavender flowers, long bloomer, tan-medium brown bark, mildew resistance, over 20 ft. tall
  • 'Natchez'
    hybrid, 30 feet tall, pure white flowers, resistant to aphids
  • 'Near East'
  • 'Peppermint Lace'
    deep pink flowers with white edges, candy striped appearance, 20 ft. tall
  • 'Petite Plum'
    dwarf
  • 'Pocomoke'
  • 'Powhatan'
    purple flowers, 14-20 ft. tall
  • 'Tightwad Red'
  • 'Tuscarora'
    hybrid, coral pink flowers, 16 ft. tall
  • 'Whit IV' Red Rocket Flower
    brilliant cherry-red flowers
'Acoma', 'Biloxi', 'Black Diamond Red Hot', 'Carolina Beauty', 'Catawba', 'Centennial Spirit', 'Cherokee', 'Dallas Red', 'Firecracker', 'Glendora White', Infinitini®, 'Muskogee', 'Natchez', 'Near East', 'Peppermint Lace', 'Petite Plum', 'Pocomoke', 'Powhatan', 'Tightwad Red', 'Tuscarora', 'Whit IV'
Tags:
#cultivars#showy flowers#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#specimen#pink flowers#red flowers#deciduous shrub#espalier#flowering tree#street tree#hedges#moist soil#fast growing#cpp#well-drained soil#transplant#deer resistant#children's garden#playground plant#hybrids#alkaline soils tolerant#pollinator plant#fantz#deciduous tree#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#medium size tree#accent#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Lagerstroemia
    Species:
    indica
    Family:
    Lythraceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The crape myrtle has been used for medical disorders, and environmentally as animal food, and fuel.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central Himalaya to S. China and Indo-China, Philippines, Japan
    Distribution:
    Native: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Introduced: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Korea, Laos, Pakistan, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and the United States--Al, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, LA, MD, MS, NC, OH, SC, TX, UT, and VA.
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts pollinators.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This tree is resistant to damage by deer.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    This plant produces 6-valved dehiscent capsules that are brown and 1/2" wide. They persist through winter, and the disc-shaped seeds are 3/8" in diameter and winged. The capsules split open and release the seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Irregular
    Flower Petals:
    6 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are numerous, irregular, and 1"-1 1/2" wide. They are anthocyanin-pigmented. They commonly have 6 petals, are clawed, and cristate. The petals look like crepe paper. There are 6 staminodes, similar to the style. They grow on a terminal panicle on the current year's growth and are rose to red on the species. The panicles measure 6 to 18 inches long. Cultivated varieties have blooms of either white, pink, red, or purple. Flowering occurs from July to September.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Opposite
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are initially green with red tinges, and by summer, they appear dark green, smooth, and leathery with entire margins. They measure 1 to 2.75 inches long and 0.75 to 1.5 inches wide. They are simple, and opposite, and the upper leaves appear alternate to sub-opposite or in whorls of three. They are oblong to elliptic to obovate, acute to obtuse, broadly cuneate, and have stipules. They are sessile or have a very short petiole. Leaves are yellow, orange, or red in the fall.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Peeling
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    The bark is thin, smooth, pale brown to gray, peeling, and exfoliating.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are green to brown, slender, often almost squarish, with prominent wings. Older stems are smooth and exfoliating.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems
    Frequent Insect Problems