Florida Friendly Plant of the Week: Crepemyrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.)

by LILLY BROWNING, Hernando County Florida Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator

Crepemyrtle (Lagerstroemia species) has become one of our southern beauties. They have just started blooming in central Florida, and their blooms will stick around in abundance through late September.

There is a wide variety of crapemyrtles to choose from. You can find a chart of the many varieties in the University of Florida publication entitled, “Crepemyrtle in Florida.” http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg266

Crepemyrtles can be found from the Carolinas on down, and throughout Florida. The most common varieties we see in central Florida have white, lavender, light pink or fuchsia colored flowers.

Crepemyrtles are one of the easiest plants to take care of. They could get by with little to no care and survive just fine. But it won’t hurt them to LIGHTLY prune them. By that, I mean, clean the twiggy growth out and cut off the suckers on the bottom. Wait until the leaves fall, and the tree is dormant to prune. Severe pruning of crepemyrtles is strongly discouraged. But everyone does it! Well, if everyone jumped off a bridge…..Pollardizing, hat-racking, crape murder, whatever you wish to call it, shortens the life of the tree, encourages basal, weak, whip-like branches each year, with bigger but fewer flowers. Not to mention, you take a small tree that could have beautiful winter interest in its natural trunk form and turn it into a stumpy, angry trunk that looks like it wants to punch someone.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping Principle Number One is: Right Plant, Right Place. This holds very true for our beautiful crape myrtles. Choose a dwarf variety if you need a small tree. Don’t try to force a plant that has “grow to 30 feet” in its very DNA, to be a 12 foot tree. Plant your crepemyrtle in a sunny location. It adapts well to almost any soil type, but doesn’t like wet feet.

If you have inherited a crepemyrtle in need of rehabilitation due to years of severe pruning, look up this
UF link: http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/lawn_and_garden/crape_murder.shtml

Enjoy the beautiful blooms!

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