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Australian Grow Guide: Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica)

There’s something quite magical about a crepe myrtle tree. I love its interesting vase shape and also the magnificent burst of colour when the tree blooms in late summer.

To add to its allure, crepe myrtle is deciduous, which means the lovely green foliage changes in colour to yellow, red, or orange before dropping off the tree.

Even a bare tree in winter is quite attractive with its smooth mottled trunk and interesting shape.

I had the pleasure of growing this tree when I lived in Queensland and also enjoyed one growing on a neighbour’s property when I moved down to Melbourne a few years ago.

Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia Indica 2 | Plant care

Another advantage of growing a crepe myrtle is that it makes a gorgeous shade tree in summer and lets the sun through in winter. Plus, it’s really easy to grow and once established, requires very little care.

When to plant Crepe Myrtle

Basically, you can plant a crepe myrtle tree in your garden at any time. It does grow best in cool to mild tropical climates and there are many different varieties to choose from.

These include tall or medium-sized trees and even dwarf varieties for people with smaller gardens.

Dwarf varieties grow to a height of only 75 cm and are ideal as pot specimens. Medium-sized trees will reach a height of 5 metres while taller varieties can grow to a height of 8 metres.

How to plant Crepe Myrtle

Before you plant a crepe myrtle in your garden, you have to choose the best location. Ideally, you want a spot that receives full sun and has free-draining soil. The type of soil is not important as long as it doesn’t become waterlogged.

Once you’ve found a good spot, create a planting hole that is as deep as the pot and twice as wide.

hole for plant | Plant care

When placing your crepe myrtle in the hole, ensure that the crown is at soil level and is not covered with soil.

Water your tree well after planting and keep the soil moist until the tree has become established in its new home. Place some mulch around the base of the tree but keep it away from the trunk and the crown.

You may need to support your young tree with a couple of stakes until the roots have become well-established in the soil. It’s also a good idea to give the tree a little tip prune at this time to encourage lots of new growth.

How to care for Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia Indica 3 | Plant care

It’s important to keep your young crepe myrtle tree well-watered through the summer months. However, once the tree has become well-established and grown to a good height, it should be able to survive on just rainfall unless you’re experiencing a prolonged period of hot, dry weather.

That’s where adequate mulch is important because this will help to keep the soil moist for longer and help to sustain the tree.

In early spring, it’s a good idea to supply your tree with a slow-release organic fertiliser such as Dynamic Lifter to encourage new growth and flowers.

Lawn Fertilizer 4 | Plant care

Young trees can be shaped in their early stages but it’s not necessary to prune fully-grown trees as this may alter the lovely natural shape of the tree. The only thing you want to do during winter is to remove any dead branches and trim back any branches that are growing outside the natural canopy.

While the tree is young and still growing to maturity, you want to cut off any low-growing branches in order to reveal that beautiful smooth trunk.

As I love the natural form of crepe myrtles, I don’t prune the tree except for the tips above. Ultimately, this means that the tree is as care-free as possible.

Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia Indica | Plant care

Crepe Myrtle pests and diseases

The one problem that will mar the appearance of your crepe myrtle is powdery mildew and I did find this with the tree I had in Queensland. This is not an easy fungal disease to control, especially if the tree is large.

Thankfully, there are now many cultivars available that are resistant to this disease. So, if you live in an area that gets a fair level of humidity, even in the southern parts of the country, choose one of those disease-resistant varieties.

If your tree does succumb to some powdery mildew, the only thing you can really do is try and remove the affected foliage. Then, after the tree has lost its leaves in late autumn, make sure you rake them all up and dispose of them in your rubbish bin.

You also want to replace the mulch under your tree with a fresh batch as fungal spores can overwinter in the soil.

Crepe Myrtle varieties that you might like to try

Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia Indica 4 | Plant care

There are so many excellent varieties of crepe myrtles available that it might be difficult to stop at just one tree for your garden.

Here are just a few of the available options:

  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Miami’ – stunning shade tree with bright red flowers
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Sioux’ – stunning hot pink flowers
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Natchez’ – with masses of creamy white crepe flowers
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Acoma’ – a dwarf variety with snow-white flowers and deep green foliage
  • Lagerstroemia indica ‘Zuni Compact’ – a more compact tree (3 metres) with the most delightful mauve-coloured flowers
  • Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Tuscarora’ – with brilliant intense pink flowers

For something just a little different, Fleming’s Nurseries have released a collection of crepe myrtles called the Magic Series. This is a range of multi-stem and semi-dwarf crepe myrtles that are ideal for smaller gardens or growing in large pots.

These plants are also disease resistant which is great for gardeners in more humid areas. Some cultivars you might like to consider include:

  • Lagerstroemia ‘Sunset’ with russet red flowers
  • Lagerstroemia ‘Red Magic’ with striking deep red blooms
  • Lagerstroemia ‘Purple Magic’ with gorgeous deep purple flowers

FAQ

Which crepe myrtle is the fastest growing?

Most crepe myrtles are relatively fast growing but the variety Natchez Crepe Myrtle will reach around 8 metres in height in just over 10 years.

Can I plant a crepe myrtle next to my house?

Yes, as these trees all have non-invasive roots. This makes them ideal for growing near any type of structure and even along driveways or as street trees.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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