Caring for Crepe Myrtles
Crepe Myrtles are considered by many as the supreme suburban tree. Native to Eastern Asia, these robust trees are small, easy to maintain and furnish highly ornamental displays throughout the year. Many councils opt for streets skirted with crepe myrtles because of their small stature, hardy characteristics and vivid coloured displays in the heart of the Australian summer just when all else seems to be wilting.
Originally, the deciduous trees used to be heavily pruned in winter to discourage growth and promote beautiful arching branches and flowers. These days, this isn’t necessary as in recent years many cultivars of Crepe Myrtles have sprung up all offering different characteristics. Below, we run through The Tree Shop’s curated selection of Crepe Myrtle cultivars and how to care for them.
Crepe Myrtle ‘Natchez’
One of our more sizeable Crepe Myrtle varieties with between 6-8m maximum height, ‘Natchez’ has beautiful, delicately coloured white flowers and looks stunning as a feature in larger-scale gardens. This cultivar flowers from mid-summer to early autumn and is specifically bred for resistance to powdery mildew - a white fungal growth which used to plague earlier cultivars of Crepe Myrtles.
Crepe Myrtle ‘Lipan’
One of our favourite cultivars from the Indian Summer® range, ‘Lipan’ is a compact unit which packs an aesthetic punch. Growing to only around four metres, this cultivar is extremely popular thanks to its beautiful lilac tones throughout summer followed by earthy orange foliage in autumn. Often seen around buildings and carparks, after around three years the bark will start exfoliating revealing beautiful textures.
Crepe Myrtle ‘Tuscarora’
Another Indian Summer® variety, ‘Tuscarora’ flowers later than most Crepe Myrtles, but when it does you sure know about it. Exploding in coral pink blossoms, this romantic tree has an upright branch habit and grows to around 6m high. You can even enjoy the full arresting colours no matter what your soil type.
Crepe Myrtle ‘Tonto’
Similar to the ‘Tuscarora’, the Crepe Myrtle ‘Tonto’ offers some of the best blossoms of any tree in Australia. Hundreds of coral pink blossoms erupt during the height of summer and its easy care makes it a sure bet. The main difference between the ‘Tonto’ and ‘Tuscarora’ varities is the size. ‘Tonto’ is perfect for space-limited projects, growing to a maximum height of around 4.5m.
Thankfully, Crepe Myrtles are some of the easiest and hardiest trees to care for. They’re perfect for beginner or time-limited gardeners and offer striking visuals for minimal effort. Crepe Myrtles love sun. Plant them in full sun and well-drained soil to achieve optimal results maximising bloom. They can, however, adapt to most soils unless consistently moist or poorly drained. Preferably, soak the tree’s root ball in a seaweed solution (which you can buy from The Tree Shop) before planting. This enables the crepe myrtle to absorb water more efficiently after planting. Water and prune heavily once planted. Once established, however, they are remarkably drought tolerant. Crepe myrtle prefers a soil pH of 5.0 to 6.5.
Boosting the Bloom
After crepe myrtles have bloomed and their flowers have disappeared, they will set seed. The seedpods depress the branches, making them droop. Sever the pods with a pair of clippers and fresh shoots and buds will swiftly grow and you’ll be treated to a second bloom.
Tackling Crepe Complications
When ensuring the health of your crepe myrtle, there are two primary issues you should look out for. The first, powdery mildew, is a fungal infection that attacks leaves and leaves myrtles less visually appealing but thankfully doesn’t affect the tree’s physical condition.
Powdery mildew used to be a much bigger problem in the past. In recent years, dozens of cultivars have sprung up specifically bred to resist powdery mildew and its effects. In particular, the Indian Summer® range have done a fantastic job of minimising powdery mildew in crepe myrtles. All of The Tree Shop’s crepe myrtles have been specifically bred to resist powdery mildew.
The second issue to look out for is aphids. These small insects spread rapidly due to asexual production, and attack leaves, stems, buds, flowers and fruit. They can reduce the plant’s vitality and cause the leaves to look worn and unattractive. Usually a strong water wash is enough to dislodge the population, however sometimes sustainable pesticides need to be used.
Photo Credits: Pinterest