There are a few species of trees that produce blooms throughout the summer, and as you travel through the South, you will see spectacular displays of fuchsia flowers in gardens, on lawns, and along the highway. Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees and bushes are responsible for this explosion of colour. In addition to the fuchsia-colored blooms, you could also see dazzling white, vivid orange, blazing scarlet, and royal purple crape myrtle flowers since there are many different species of crape myrtle. Because of their crepe-like appearance, they were given this name. They produce the most fruit when grown in plant hardiness zones 7 and higher, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, but certain hybrids can even survive in zone 6, where the temperature can drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
History of the Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtle trees have been growing in the United States since since the nation was established, despite their origins in China and Korea. According to an article published in Southern Living, the crape myrtle disdained the temperature of Britain when it was introduced there and failed to blossom as a result of the chilly weather. In order for the plant to react with a dazzling display in Charleston, South Carolina in 1786, it was necessary for French botanist Andre Michaux, a plant explorer and chief botanist to King Louis XVI, to transport the tree there. The rest of what happened after that is history.
The crape myrtle and its Japanese relative, the Lagerstroemia fauriei, were the subjects of a breeding programme conducted by botanists. The characteristic peeling, jigsaw-like bark of orange, white, and brown that can be seen on the trunks of most crape myrtles today is the result of the creation of a new cultivar of crape myrtle. According to the National Gardening Association, the upshot of the cross-breeding was the creation of cultivars with names that are associated with Native American Indians. These cultivars include Lagerstroemia indicia and Lagerstroemia fauriei cross.
Crape Myrtle Types
It is quite difficult to tell the many varieties of crape myrtle apart from one another. According to Southern Living, cross-breeding has resulted in the production of so many cultivars and variants that DNA testing is the only way to determine an individual specimen’s true botanical lineage.
The Japanese crape myrtle, also known as L. fauriei, is a tree that is native to Japan and may grow to a height of 20 to 30 feet. It has a dense cluster of tiny, white flowers that bloom in the spring and autumn, and the bark of the tree has a lustrous brown colour. Crape myrtle, also known as L. indicia, may be purchased as either a shrub or a tree and is particularly popular in the South. In the autumn, the leaves transform from a deep crimson to an orange hue, while the bark takes on a variety of hues.
The Queen’s crape myrtle, also known as L. speciosa, is the crape myrtle with the most colourful coloration. In June and July, enormous clusters of blooms that might be pink, white, lavender, or purple bloom on this plant. After that, throughout the autumn, the leaves become a vibrant crimson. The bark is flaked and has a silky texture.
Crape Myrtle Trees in Florida and Australia
The spectacular L. indicia crape myrtle is referred to as the “lilac of the South” by the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Large flowers in shades of white, pink, purple, and red illuminate the landscape for over one hundred days throughout the warm months of summer and autumn in Florida. The plant’s need for full sun makes it well suited to the state’s environment. The crape myrtle is a common sight in planned communities since it requires very little upkeep and because it creates an impressive entrance while also bringing brilliant colour to the lawns and pathways.
According to Gardening Australia, all types of crape myrtles are able to thrive in the climate of Australia; however, the L. indicia species is the most common since it thrives in warm, arid environments. Due to the fact that the nation is located in the Southern Hemisphere, the blossoming season lasts from January all the way through the end of March. After the blossoms have faded, the tree’s ornamental, multicoloured bark will continue to lend visual appeal to the outdoor space. When planted in the Australian winter, the crape myrtle takes well to the bare-root method.
Maintaining Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtles may be grown with little effort and do not demand a lot of maintenance from their owners. They thrive in warm environments, and the heat that is reflected off a road or sidewalk is particularly beneficial to their development. In addition, they need very little soil, and their sturdy roots may even thrive in clay. They do need forty-five minutes of watering with a soaker hose during times of extreme drought, and you should not plant them in places that are prone to being flooded during the wet season.
Crape myrtle seems to have a primary issue with its inability to tolerate salt, which is particularly problematic when the plant is cultivated in regions along the ocean that have a low water table. Do not irrigate with water that contains salt, and if at all feasible, use distilled water to water the plant if you are growing it in a container. Saline water may kill the plant. It is advised that a 10-10-10 fertiliser be used since the more fertiliser that is applied, the denser and fuller the blossoming growth will be. The fertiliser should begin in the spring, and then there should be a little application every two weeks during the summer, followed by watering.
Deadheading Promotes Longer Flowering
Old flowers, seed pods, and flower clusters can be easily removed with a pinch or with a sanitised garden tool, especially when the tree is young and the tree is still in its early stages of development. Deadheading the blooms as they appear and then fade in the spring, summer, and fall will encourage new growth. If done correctly, deadheading may result in a second and even a third wave of fresh flower growth. The crape myrtle, on the other hand, does not need any kind of deadheading since it produces a enough number of flowers throughout the growing season.
When they mature into seed pods, the fruit becomes rather heavy, which may cause the branches to droop. They need to be deadheaded so that your tree can keep its form. This is especially true for younger trees, since this is the stage in their development when the branches are still growing. It may become impractical to deadhead or even trim the tree as it continues to mature and attain greater height. It is in everyone’s best interest to let the tree develop whatever it pleases.
Preparing Crape Myrtle for Winter
The crape myrtle begins to become dormant when the temperature drops below a certain point. Put an end to the fertilising routine, and gradually reduce the amount of water being applied. The tree will become more resistant to the harsh circumstances of winter as a result of what you are doing to it. When all of the leaves have fallen off the tree, trim it.
According to the Crape Myrtle Company, the following are some helpful hints about effective pruning:!!-!! Unfortunately, landscaping personnel often commit “crape murder” when they prune or top the crape myrtle in an excessive manner. A “witch’s broom” look, which is practically identical to giving the tree a crew cut, gives the impression that the tree is dead and encourages vigorous growth at the place of the pruning, which is often too thick and heavy for the branches. Because of this, the tree is now more likely to get infested with insects and disease.
Unfortunately, landscaping crews often commit “crape murder” by topping, or pruning, the crape myrtle too severely. A “witch’s broom” appearance, almost like giving the tree a crew cut, suggests that the tree is dead and leads to intense growth at the site of the pruning, which is often too dense and heavy for the branches. This leaves the tree susceptible to disease and insect infestation.