Why Did My Crepe Myrtle Change Color?

August 26, 2010 | By | Comments (17)

Crepes 003

Some of the world’s great mysteries may never be solved — like how did the hosts of “Fox & Friends” ever graduate from high school? But there is one mystery plaguing a lot of gardeners right now upon which Grumpy will shine the light of knowledge and understanding — why crepe myrtles sometimes change color.

Take a look at the crepe myrtle bloom above. There’s a  teeny chance it’s supposed to look like that (for example, one called ‘Prairie Lace’ has deep pink blossoms edged in white). However, the much more likely culprit is the weather.

Red is the rarest naturally occurring color among crepe myrtles. People love red. And so two fairly recent introductions, ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Red Rocket’, have exploded in popularity (pun intended). They resist mildew, tolerate heat and cold, bloom for a long time, produce few seeds, don’t get too big (15 to 20 feet tall). They also flaunt vivid red flowers

But they share one weird idiosyncrasy. When flowers open during cool, cloudy weather, instead of opening red, they open white. And that’s when people freak out and invest all their life savings in bomb shelter carpeting.

I watched the color change in my neighborhood about a week ago. After a month-and-a-half of brutally hot temps in the high-90′s, we had a rainy, cloudy Saturday. Shortly thereafter, I began noticing red crepe myrtles with white flowers.

There is nothing you can do, including fertilizing with uranium or sunbathing nude on Mercury, to change this. That’s they way these new crepe myrtles are. So learn to love it.

Our Stinking Weather

Weather affects the colors of many flowers, not just those of crepe myrtles. Don’t you just love the way that “pink” daffodils and “yellow” magnolias never turn that color for you because the spring is too hot? Other flowers that you wouldn’t normally think of change color too. For instance:

 

Phlox

This phlox in my garden bloomed deep pink during the heat. Then we had that rainy weekend. When the next flush of flowers opened, a white spot adorned nearly every petal. Weird? Nope. Normal.

Anybody want to buy 5,000 yards of storm shelter carpeting? I’ll give you a deal.

COMMENTS

  1. Henry H.

    Yea the one at the top almost looks like Peppermint Lace. The Phlox is cool too. I am interested though, do you think they all/most revert to white? and whyyyyyyyyy??????

    August 26, 2010 at 3:16 pm
  2. BP

    I grow Dynamite crepe myrtles in the near-nuclear heat of central Texas and mine are dark red and gorgeous. Occasionally a cloud gets lost on its way to cooler climes though, and they get a few white blooms here or there. I love the variety!

    August 26, 2010 at 8:03 pm
  3. Donna

    Don’t have to worry about the Crepe Myrtles, but I did notice color change on phlox. Must be as you said. The 90 degree heat then the down pours. Phlox is looking a bit crappy this year, so it really doesn’t matter what color it is supposed to be.

    August 27, 2010 at 7:42 pm
  4. Jim Long

    Silly me. Living above the Grit Line, I just assumed my Red Rocket crepe myrtle was supposed to have pink around the edges of the flowers. Now I’m disappointed. Come good weather next year, I will just have bright red crepe myrtles!

    August 27, 2010 at 11:45 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Don’t worry, Jim. Have never seen a ‘Red Rocket’ or ‘Dynamite’ yet without a little white. They’re like that all over my neighborhood.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:59 am
  6. Robin B

    To be so smart about flowers and other green things, it’s amazing you are so un-smart about Fox and Friends. I think you just don’t understand good television. Oh well, I guess you can’t be good at everything.

    September 6, 2010 at 3:29 pm
  7. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    My opinion of them is not political. I just think they’re idiots who make chatty noise to fill up air time.

    September 7, 2010 at 5:03 pm
  8. enid

    4 years ago I planted a small deep red crepe myrtle next to a larger dirty pink crepe myrtle and each year since, the dirty pink one has had a more pink blossom. This year they are deep pink and beautiful. Did the little red crepe myrtle somehow make a hybrid of the dirty pink one? Or what?

    June 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm
  9. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Enid,
    No, I don’t think the little one had anything to do with it. The color change was likely due to weather, age and vigor of the plant, or all three.

    June 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm
  10. CarolH

    Thanks for explaining why they are tipped in white. My 3-yr. old Dynamite bloomed with white tips for the first time and the red is not as deep either.

    July 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm
  11. Geri

    My “red” crepe myrtle is now a stunning burgundy this year….deep, dark burgundy. And my hot pink is now pale pink; these are both along the same fence line & probably took in alot of Texas rain this spring…….not complaining, they are gorgeous!

    July 30, 2012 at 3:42 pm
  12. Steve Bender

    Geri,

    I think color changes like this are almost always due to the fickle weather. Your crepes could very well be their original colors next year.

    August 3, 2012 at 10:15 am
  13. Bonnie

    I am afended by your comment about fox and friends and I’ll never feel the same about

    Southern living magazine again. My friends are not going to believe this coming from the genteel south. Goodbye

    November 19, 2012 at 11:01 am
  14. Steve Bender

    Bonnie,

    I do not believe “Fox & Friends” has anything to do with the genteel South. So long.

    November 21, 2012 at 8:16 am
  15. Brenda

    Recently I have read recommendations to apply Superphosphate to Crepe Myrtles in Jan. or Feb. to increase the number of blooms. Do you recommend this?

    February 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm
  16. Steve Bender

    Brenda,
    Unless your soil has a phosphorus deficiency (and it probably doesn’t), you’re just wasting your money.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm
  17. Brenda

    Thank you.

    February 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm