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Lilac of the South Lagerstroemia indica

Previously known as:

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

Common crape myrtle is a deciduous, erect, multi-trunked, tree or shrub in the loosestrife family (Lythraceae). It is native to the Philippines, Japan and central Himalayas to southern China and Indochina. The genus name honors Magnus von Lagerstroem, who was a Swedish botanist and director of the Swedish East Indies Company. The species epithet references its native origin in India. The common name is derived from the crepe paper-like petals and the bark and foliage features that are similar to the myrtle plant.  

It requires full sun and moist, well-drained soil, though it will tolerate occasionally wet or dry soil once established. Place it in a sheltered location protected from winter winds and mulch the soil to protect the roots. It resists deer, drought and pollution. Propagate it by seed or stem cutting. A rapid grower, common crape myrtle can reach 6 to 30 feet high and wide, depending upon the variety selected. Severe pruning or topping of the crape myrtle should not be needed to control the plant size. If pruning is required to thin the tree or shrub, it is best done in late winter or spring before growth begins. 

Common crape myrtle blooms from July to September with numerous and showy flowers. The flower color of the wild-type species is rose to red, but there are cultivars offering a variety of colors. The leaves are light green with tinges of red initially that become dark green by summer and colorful in the fall. Another highlight is its exfoliating bark.  

The common crape myrtle is used as a specimen in a variety of ways including a lawn, recreational play area, and butterfly, children’s, cottage or pollinator gardens. Dwarf varieties may be grown in a container. Groups of crape myrtle are commonly used as a hedge, privacy screen or street tree landscape. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Twigs have decurrent ridges.

  • Has short petioles.

  • Leaves are opposite, alternate, or in whorls of three.

  • Flowers are 6-parted, ruffled, and have clawed petals.

  • Flowers with style-like staminodes.

  • Inflorescence is a terminal panicle.

  • Fruit is a dehiscent capsule, six-valved and brown.

  • Bark exfoliates, exposing hues of brown to gray.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems: Aphids, scales and flea beetles are problems for the crape myrtle. The crape myrtle bark scale is particularly an issue in western Tennessee and is best treated by the use of pesticides. Scrub brushes may also be used to remove scales. 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.

"The Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center has a factsheet on common crape myrtle pests and diseases."

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:
Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border Flower Bonanza Garden Mountain Ridge Top Garden - North Lawn and Upper Drive Border Cottage Style Foundation Planting
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#white flowers#pink flowers#red flowers#deciduous shrub#accent plant#espalier#flowering tree#street tree#moist soil#fast growing#cpp#well-drained soil#transplant#deer resistant#lavender flowers#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#landscape plant sleuths course#hedge
 
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#white flowers#pink flowers#red flowers#deciduous shrub#accent plant#espalier#flowering tree#street tree#moist soil#fast growing#cpp#well-drained soil#transplant#deer resistant#lavender flowers#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#landscape plant sleuths course#hedge
  • 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:
    Perennial
    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:
    6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • 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
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    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:
    Asian Garden
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Flowering Tree
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems
    Frequent Insect Problems