Crape Myrtle aka Crepe Myrtle ( Lagerstroemia indica )

Crape Myrtle
Crape Myrtle

When we purchased the house here it had no gardens and just overgrown contractor plantings around the house. Out in front was this collection of chopped off sticks. Ah, that’ll be the first thing to go I’m thinking. Everyone said ‘No, wait those are crepes and you will love them.’. As we wandered about town I noticed these ugly sticks growing in most yards and businesses so I decided to wait. I’m glad I did.

Crape myrtles have clusters of flowers off the end of long branches when they are in bloom. They remind me of fire works with their long arching branches and explosions of color at the end. This crape is just starting to bloom. They all will be in full bloom and covered with flowers in another month. They will continue to bloom for the rest of the summer.

How to prune crape myrtle is a matter of fierce debate among gardeners. All agree you should trim any branches off the trunks lower than about 8′. And all agree suckers should be removed. After that the debate begins. Most serious gardeners will tell you to cut no branch thicker than a pencil. The landscapers will tell you cut off all branches at about 8′ off the ground or you won’t get good blooms. Gardeners sneeringly refer to this type of pruning as ‘crape murder’. I’ve seen them wild and seen them heavily pruned and crepes will put on an amazing display of blooms no matter what you do to them. So what ever makes you happy should be just fine. I prefer to let mine be.

Crapes shed their bark just before blooming. It peels off in long strips very much like crepe paper, but the name comes from the flower whose petals appear like crepe paper.

Leaves yellow then die off in the fall and reappear late spring.

Flowers come in white, pink, purple and red.

Aphids can be a problem on crepes. The indica is more likely to get aphids than are hybrids. You will know you have them when you see black sooty mold on your crepe leaves. The best treatment for aphids is an insecticidal soap. I just use a tablespoon of liquid dish soap to a gallon of water and spray them.

To remove the black sooty mold mix some powdered laundry detergent with water and spray on the leaves.  ( 1 tablespoon soap/gallon water) Let it dry. Then wash the soap off with your garden hose. The sooty mold will come off with the soap.

Mine were uprooted and flattened by a large pine tree when Ike came through, only one remains in out in the back garden.

It’s surviving the drought and heat of summer 2011, looks very bare.

More information:
lagerstroemia indica – Floridata

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