Plant A Smaller Crepe Myrtle This Year

May 23, 2013 | By | Comments (31)

Acoma
Why do people murder crepe myrtles? No, it’s not too much Neanderthal DNA. It’s that the variety of crepe myrtle they planted got way too big. Here’s a guide to which crepe myrtles won’t outgrow your house or yard, so you won’t have to chop them grotesquely each year.

What Went Wrong

Crepe murder — the grisly rite of chopping crepe myrtles into ugly stumps — really got a shot in the arm about 20 to 30 years ago, when the first mildew-resistant hybrids with native American names (‘Natchez,’ ‘Muskogee,’ ‘Tuscarora,’ etc.) were introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum. Growers didn’t know how big these crepes would get, because they hadn’t been out long enough. So they guessed — and almost always guessed wrong. Crepe myrtles they said would grow 10 to 15 feet tall ended up growing 20 to 30 feet tall. Which meant that many crepe myrtles grew too big for the spots they were in and homeowners started chopping off their heads every spring.

(To see how to correctly prune a large crepe myrtle, click right here.)

What Went Right

Gardeners and growers both saw the need for smaller, more compact crepe myrtles that didn’t need annual pruning. Growers created new selections of semi-dwarf (12 feet tall or less at maturity) and dwarf (less than 4 feet tall at maturity) types that bloomed well, resisted disease, and were hardy. Let Grumpy introduce some of his favorites, all of which are available at garden centers now.

Semi-Dwarf

‘Acoma’ — That’s it up top. White flowers atop an arching, sculptural small tree. Grows about 10 feet tall. Great in a large container.

”Burgundy Cotton’ — Upright tree to about 12 feet. White flowers appear atop foliage that changes from wine-red in spring to burgundy-green in summer.

‘Delta Jazz’ — Combines bright-pink flowers with spectacular burgundy foliage that doesn’t “green” in hot weather. Grows 6 to 10 feet tall. Part of our  Southern Living Plant Collection.

Early Bird Series — Comes in three colors — lavender, purple, and white. Long-blooming plant starts flowering in May. Grows 5 to 8 feet tall. Part of our Southern Living Plant Collection.

‘Hopi’ — Medium-pink flowers on a spreading, bushy plant 7 to 10 feet tall and wide.

Magic Series — Rounded, bushy plants 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. Colors include coral-pink, fuchsia-pink, and purple. Foliage emerges reddish and then changes to deep-green.

‘Pink Velour’ — Neon-pink flowers with wine red foliage that doesn’t fade. Nearly seedless; blooms for a long time. Grows about 12 feet tall.

‘Red Rooster’ — Brilliant red flowers. Foliage emerges maroon and changes to green. Flowers may show white or red flecking. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall.

‘Rhapsody in Pink’ — Combines soft-pink flowers with purplish new growth. Nearly seedless; blooms a long time. Upright grower to 12 feet.

‘Siren Red’ — Dark-red flowers on a rounded plant 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. New foliage emerges wine-red and then changes to dark-green.

‘Tonto’ — Red flowers and maroon foliage. Grows 10 to 12 feet tall and wide. Handsome bark.

‘Velma’s Royal Delight’ — Intense, purple-magenta flowers and deep green leaves. Cold-hardy to well below zero degrees. Bushy plant grows 4 to 6 feet tall.

‘Zuni’ — Medium-lavender flowers on a vase-shaped, spreading plant 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. Long bloomer, cold-hardy, handsome bark.

Dwarf

‘Centennial’ — Bright-purple blooms on a rounded, dense mound, 3-5 tell and wide. Quite cold-hardy. The best purple dwarf.

‘Pocomoke’ — Bright-pink blooms and deep green foliage on a mounding shrub that grows 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. Great in pots.

Razzle Dazzle Series — Mounding shrubs 3 to 4 feet tall and wide come in a wide range of colors. Do great in containers. Grumpy recommends ‘Cherry Dazzle,’ (red blooms), ‘Berry Dazzle’ (fuchsia-purple blooms and burgundy new foliage), and ‘Strawberry Dazzle’ (neon-rose flowers). ‘Raspberry Dazzle’ doesn’t bloom well.

‘Tightwad Red’ — Dark-red flowers on mounding plant to 4 feet tall and wide. Seedless.

‘Victor’ — Deep-red flowers. Grows 5-5 feet tall and wide. Cold-hardy.

Take These Little Guys Home

Pinkvelour

‘Pink Velour’

3044m-Early-Bird-Purple-Crape-Myrtle

‘Early Bird Purple’

05Rhapsody

‘Rhapsody in Pink’

‘Tonto’

Delta_jazz-3

‘Delta Jazz’

Burgundycottona

‘Burgundy Cotton’

Red Rooster L'Scape

‘Red Rooster’

Velmasroyaldelighta

‘Velma’s Royal Delight’ 

Strawberry dazzle container

‘Strawberry Dazzle’

Crepe myrtle

Photo by John Vining.

‘Pocomoke’

 

So the Final Question You Need to Ask Yourself Is….

January 2008 018
 ….do you want your crepe myrtles to look like this?

Acomarow
Or do you want them to look like this?

 

COMMENTS

  1. Steve Bender

    Kathy,

    Seedlings from a hybrid can vary greatly, so don’t expect all the same colors. ‘Cherry Dazzle’ would make a fine foundation plant as it is very neat and tidy, stays low, and has very pretty flowers.

    September 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm
  2. Kathy

    Hi, Thanks for this wonderful information about the new dwarf crape myrtles. I have many crape myrtles that have popped up from my other myrtles. They are gorgeous, but could they be hybrids and not produce cloned offspring? My other question about the dwarfs, can they make good foundation plants, say 2-3 feet from a building with, ugh, siding?

    September 7, 2014 at 9:26 am
  3. The Infestation | Silver Threading

    […] I would like the deep pink color which is quite impressive.  An image from Southern Living at http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/2013/05/23/choose-a-smaller-crepe-myrtle/ shows the dusky pink color of Crepe Myrtle that I was looking […]

    July 21, 2014 at 12:17 pm
  4. Celeste Brown

    That is great news!! thank you very much.

    June 30, 2014 at 3:28 pm
  5. Steve Bender

    Celeste,

    All of these smaller crepe myrtles will grow fine for you in full sun.

    June 30, 2014 at 2:37 pm
  6. Celeste Brown

    Can a dwarf crepe myrtle tolerate long hours of direct sunlight? I’m not sure what zone I live in, but it is Newport News, VA.

    June 26, 2014 at 11:48 am
  7. Steve Bender

    Beewee,

    All you have to do is remove all side branches growing from the main trunks up to a height of about 4 feet.

    June 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm
  8. beewee

    just purchased to Tonto about 5 ft tall. do I prune the small branches that are growing from the bigger branches. want it to look like the tonto you have pictured with just the three or four branches so it liooks like a tree.

    June 17, 2014 at 9:58 am
  9. daddyisgroovy

    The pictures are really captivating. I like the Early Bird Purple.

    May 23, 2013 at 8:32 am
  10. Arthur in the Garden!

    Beautiful!

    May 23, 2013 at 8:31 am
  11. Steve Bender

    David,
    I don’t think that’s too late to get roots established. Plant it, water it, and it should be fine. Mulch it after your first hard frost.

    October 5, 2012 at 10:55 am
  12. David Tucker

    David Tucker: I recently bought a Berry Dazzle Crepe myrtle bush. They said I should receive it around mid Nov. I live in zone 6. I just wonder if that might be to late for the roots to get established before going dormant. The first hard freeze date for my zone is Nov. 12th. I would like your advice. Thanks in advance. David Tucker.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:54 pm
  13. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Joy,
    In your area, part sun should be fine.

    April 16, 2012 at 10:12 am
  14. Joy

    One more thing I should have mentioned…the acoma would be elevated…sitting on the deck of a second story patio balcony and being right on the water…we get a steady breeze.
    Thanks
    Joy D.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm
  15. Joy

    Question…I’m interested in growing an acoma in a pot on my patio. Is it possible to adapt the acoma to part sun? I think I may have a chance since I live in Zone 10, but would like your advice.
    Thanks,
    Joy D.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm
  16. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Helen,
    Yes, that’s a good idea, but do it right away. If you wait too long, there won’t be time for more blooms.

    August 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm
  17. Helen Reynolds

    my crape myrtle blooms are turning to seed. Should I cut back the old dead bloom to stimulate more blooms?

    August 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm
  18. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Carroll,
    Had this happen years ago in Alabama. What you need to do is select 4-5 well-spaced shoots to become the new trunks and prune the others to the ground. As these shoots grow, prune off all side branches to a height of at least 4 feet. Keep up this discipline for 3 years or so and your crepes will form nice, new plants.

    July 24, 2011 at 11:43 am
  19. Carroll Bolton

    Due to lightening and pine beetles we had to have 13 very large pine trees taken down. In the process of getting the bucket truck in a position to cut, several of my 35-year-old never pruned crepe myrtles were cut flat to the ground. They have returned as a massive plant crowding out everything around them. If I remove some of the new shoots to make them less massive, how do I keep the new cuts from sprouting even more shoots?
    Thanks for any suggestions.

    July 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm
  20. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Any time you cut down a live crepe myrtle or damage its roots by digging, it responds by sending up suckers from the remaining roots. Spraying the suckers with Roundup would kill them, but it would also kill your St. Augustine. Other than digging up all the remaining roots, the only thing I can recommend is mowing off the suckers when you cut the grass. Eventually the roots will starve and die.

    July 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm
  21. Shebbie

    How do we kill the root of crepe myrtle trees? We cut two down and had the stumps ground out, but now have all these little shoots coming up. We have St. Augustine grass planted over the area, but the shoots are coming through.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm
  22. ExcitedNewbie

    Thanks Grumpy & Synthetic! My husband and I looked them over this weekend and are planning to cut back/prune them in late Feb coming up.

    July 5, 2011 at 9:18 am
  23. Synthetic tennis courts

    If pruning is delayed until the new shoots have begun to grow and they are cut off, flower buds will not form. The tree is basically all right and will bloom next season. Always prune before growth starts in the spring.

    July 5, 2011 at 5:40 am
  24. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Hey Newbie,
    Crepe myrtles are tough. Pruning them down to 4-5 feet won’t hurt them, but they won’t look very good for a while. Type “crepe myrtle” into the search box on my blog to find articles dealing with the right way to prune these plants.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:51 am
  25. ExcitedNewbie

    Grumpy, my husband and I live in his great grandmothers house who was an avid gardener when she lived there. With that being said, I have recently taken up the time to try and work on creating what she had. I have about 4 CM trees that she probably planted at least 15 years ago. Therefore they havent been pruned in a very long time and are VERY tall now. My question is, is is safe to prune them way down (4-5′)? I dont want to shock them by cutting so much at one time. I’m north of Houston. They are blooming very well but they are so tall you cant see them because the tops are with the other trees.

    June 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm
  26. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Henry, I agree with you about ‘Zuni.’ It’s also one of my favorites — a great small purple with a fountain-like shape.
    January, it’s true that crepe myrtles generally grow bigger in the deep South, because they have a longer growing season and don’t suffer winter damage as often.
    Mtn Brook Farm, thanks for the offer, but Grumpy is overwhelmed with yardwook right now.

    June 27, 2011 at 7:07 am
  27. Mtn Brook Farm

    Only just found Grumpy! Couldn’t agree more WRT planting size choice (told clients for years).
    Did you all do the Crepe Murder Rescue article? I only just found that too. I have 4 if you want to do it. They are still tall – but have been cut once.

    June 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm
  28. January

    I recently learned that location may make a difference in size. The Missouri Botanical Gardens says that in our area (SE Missouri) that some crape myrtles will be much smaller than if they are grown in the deep south. Hope this is correct as I recently planted two.

    June 22, 2011 at 11:17 am
  29. Henry H.

    Don’t hate on the ‘Zuni’. Another spectacular dwarf, vivd purple to 9′. Nice write up Steve. Now on the other hand, I need to find the pic of the GA State Crape Myrtle Champion…….who just so happens to reside in my backyard thank you very much…I’ll shoot it over to you when I find it. Its a MONSTER!!!!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm
  30. Savannah

    I am so glad to see this post. For years I’ve wondered why people butcher their crepe myrtles. Now we need to get landscapers on board…I think they may be the worst offenders.
    Savannah
    http://www.hammocktracks.com

    June 20, 2011 at 6:17 pm
  31. Katie @ Yoga Gal

    I have the cherry dazzle. They look great in front of my black fence.
    Happy Vaca!

    June 20, 2011 at 10:03 am

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