There was a time, not too long ago, when we could not grow crape myrtle on Long Island. They were not hardy enough to live through our cold winter months and instead thrived only in warmer climates like North Carolina. Luckily many of those southern varieties have been cross-bred with hardier types, making crape myrtles more accessible to areas of the Northeast. Long Islanders can now enjoy growing a variety of these hardy crape myrtle hybrids.
A large shipment of crape myrtle arrived at the nursery today. The leaves are brilliantly colored in shades of green and burgundy and many of the flower buds are just beginning to pop. Known for blooming for up to 100 days, crape myrtles are a great choice for sunny summer gardens.
Why Should I Grow a Crape Myrtle?
Crape myrtles are of interest for many reasons.
• They are highly ornamental and are available in a variety of colors including white, pink, purple and dark red.
• They bloom in mid-late summer and the flowers can last as long as 100 days.
• There is a crape myrtle for every garden! They come in a range of sizes.
• The interesting bark color and patterns of crape myrtle is a real landscape asset.
How Do I Care For a Crape Myrtle?• Wait to prune until the buds break in spring.
• If the plant has been injured by cold, simply prune out the dead wood in the Spring. *Please note: These plants are very late to leaf out in spring (late April/early May), so be patient.
• Because crape myrtles bloom on the current season’s growth, they can recover from winter injury and bloom by late summer.
• Fertilize when new growth begins to appear in late spring; use a well-balanced shrub fertilizer such as Espoma Plant-tone.
What Other Plants Look Nice with Crape Myrtle?
That really depends on the size and shape of the crape myrtle you choose. Look for plants with color and texture such as hosta, heuchera, azaleas, grasses, roses or hydrangea. Ultimately you should choose plants that you find interesting and that fit your sunlight and size requirements.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Tuscarora: Upright large shrub or small tree with showy dark pink flowers all summer. Peeling and colorful bark really adds to its appeal. Mature size: 20-25 ft. tall.
Dynamite: Large multi-stemmed plant with beautiful crimson buds that open and turn cherry red in the summer. New leaves emerge crimson then turn dark green. Vigorous grower to 15 ft. tall.
Muskogee: Panicles of light lavender-pink flowers appear amid glossy green foliage that turns red in the fall. The cinnamon-colored bark is smooth, peeling to a shiny light gray. Moderate grower to 15 ft. tall.
Coral Magic: A shrub form crape myrtle with lovely salmon-pink flowers. Outstanding reddish new growth turns a brilliant green. Moderate grower 6-10 ft. tall.
Try a crape myrtle in your garden – you won’t be disappointed!