Crepe myrtles 

Crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica and its hybrids) are flowering trees and shrubs widely grown in Australian gardens. They are grown for their pastel crepe-like flowers, which appear for many months from late spring to autumn in colours of bright pink, pale pink, mauve, red and white.The flowers are very appealing to bees, beneficial insects and birds.

The trees also have excellent autumn leaf colour and attractive bark. These deciduous plants can be grown as a stand-alone shade or feature tree, as an informal hedge or screen, or as a container or courtyard plant. They are also suited to street tree planting.

There are many varieties of crepe myrtle to include in a space in your garden or a very large pot. Visit your hardware or garden centre for advice on varieties and flower colour that would suit your garden. Here are a few to consider.

  • Lagerstroemia indica range in size from small shrubs to trees. They have varieties with white, pink or red flowers and showy bark with green foliage.
  • The Indian Summer series is tough, hardy and powdery mildew resistant. From small to large trees it has stunning blooms ranging from white to fuchsia pink with silky exfoliating bark and great autumn foliage.
  • The Magic series, is a more compact habit than the other two series and includes varieties with deep purple or green foliage. It also has a stunning range of flowers from bright bold reds to bold striking white.

Growing conditions

Aspect Crepe myrtles need a sunny location with full sun but tolerate some shade for part of the day. They need good air circulation.

Soil All grow best with well-drained soil. Before planting add home-made compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super CompostIf planting into a pot use a large container with a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix.

Climate Crepe myrtles grow in all climates and tolerate both heat and frost. The flowering season is shorter in cold climates where it may be delayed until mid to late summer. In tropical areas select the stately queen crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia speciosa), which grows to around 9-15m high.

General care

Watering Established crepe myrtles are drought hardy but all plants grow best with regular watering. Water regularly if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or if they are growing in containers. If water is pooling on top of the soil or running down the insides of the pots, it may be repelling water. Apply a soil wetter such as Seasol Super Soil Wetter and Conditioner.

Feeding and mulching Crepe myrtles like to be fed from spring as new growth resume through to the last flowers in autumn. Feed  with a fertiliser for flowering plants such as Seasol plus Nutrients Roses & Flowers. Supplement this with a liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Roses & Flowers every two to four weeks.

Use organic mulch around trees and shrubs such as sugarcane mulch, lucerne or pea straw and keep plants free of competing weeds.

Pruning Crepe myrtles can be pruned lightly or given a hard prune. Light pruning includes removing spent flowers and is mostly only necessary for small plants and shrubs where the spent flowers are easy to reach. Heavy pruning is done in winter when the plants are dormant and involves cutting the tree back to a basic framework of main branches. Heavy pruning maintains plant size and encourages vigorous new growth that flowers heavily. The availability of named varieties in a range of sizes from 1m shrubs to 5-6m tall spreading trees means it is possible to select a shrub or tree that will grow to the desired size without the need for major pruning. If a plant produces suckering growth at its base this should also be pruned away to reveal a slender clear trunk.

Watch for Generally crepe myrtles are problem-free although some old varieties may develop powdery mildew on foliage and flower buds. Treated with EarthCare Rose Black Spot & insect spray and spray both sides of the foliage. Repeat applications maybe needed for further control. Remember not to spray when beneficial insects and bees are around. New varieties have been selected for disease resistance including powdery mildew.

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