Crape Myrtles

By Mark Montoya

Two Familiar Varieties of Crepe Myrtles: Natchez, left; and Tuscarora, right.

I’m sure that you have noticed the incredible crape myrtles in our older neighborhoods. They just love the sun and heat. Crape myrtles are originally from Asia, and have become as traditional a part of the Southern landscape as camellias and azaleas, which are also from Asia.

Crape myrtles are very easy to root from cuttings. Make a clean 45-degree angle cut anywhere under a joint of new growth.  You must cut from a woody part of a branch at least ¾” in diameter. Trim your cutting from the top to a length ten inches long. Remove all foliage.  The joint of new growth should be at the bottom.

Drive the cutting (or cuttings) straight into damp clay soil, with a hammer, somewhere in the yard where they will stay damp. Do this now, so that you will know exactly what color you are getting. You will have new growth sprouts from the bottom by fall, and a nicely rooted tree to transplant next spring. While it is possible to grow crape myrtles from seed, this may produce plants of numerous colors, and not necessarily the color of the mother plant.

Here are just a few varieties of crape myrtles that we have in our area:

  • Catawba, purple
  • Tuscarora, watermelon pink
  • Muskogee, light lavender
  • Natchez, white, and usually the first to bloom
  • Sioux, dark pink
  • Red Rocket, red

To learn more about crape myrtles, check out this website:  www.greenwoodnursery.com, and look under deciduous trees.

In closing I would like to mention that crape myrtles are often a topic of heated discussion:  whether to be left alone when it comes to pruning, or to prune and risk the accusation of “crape-murder.” I have decided at this point in my life — and in my article, to say to those of you who know how to care for crape myrtles, “Thank you!” And, for those of you who don’t know what to do for them, or don’t care to find out, I say, do whatever you’re going to, because most likely, the crape myrtle is going to outlive you anyway.

Mark Montoya is a Montgomery native who first learned gardening from his father. He has designed, planted and nurtured gardens in our city’s neighborhoods — both old and new – for twenty years.

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