Beginner's Guide to Crepe Myrtles

Kate Mitchell

March 21, 2024

If you were born and raised in the South, chances are you are familiar with crepe myrtles.

Even if you don't know it by name, you can spot one a mile away. The colorful flowers of these striking plants can add beauty to any yard and are often found in homes throughout the South East.

With a little care, a crepe myrtle tree will brighten your yard with its colorful blooms almost the whole year round. Not only that, but its leaves will put on a display during the fall. Even the bark is pretty, peeling away to reveal a warm cinnamon color underneath.

Whether you already have these beautiful trees in your outdoor space or are thinking about planting some, we have some helpful tips for their care.

Clusters of bright pink crapemyrtle flowers against a blurred green background
Crepe myrtle, with its beautiful pink flowers, is a popular choice for Southern landscapes

Getting Started with Crepe Myrtles

A word of warning before we begin: crepe myrtle is not a tree to buy on impulse. Do your research first! It's particularly important to check the mature height of the variety you choose. There are lots of types of crepe myrtles and whilst this popular tree can be small - dwarf varieties may reach just 4 feet in height - some varieties will grow into surprisingly tall trees. Healthy growth can see these beauties reaching up to 40 feet in height.

Tiny pink crape myrtle flowers with a bee crawling on them
Crape myrtle's beautiful, bright flowers will impress the local wildlife as well as your guests!

Different types of crepe myrtle (and by the way, both crepe myrtle and crape myrtle are considered correct spellings!) are available in a range of red, purple, pink and white colors. Make sure you go for one you'll enjoy looking at. It's also important to choose a suitably hardy variety that will cope with cooler temperatures during our North Central Florida winter months.

Planting Crepe Myrtles

The crepe myrtle can be planted solo or in a bunch. If you decide to plant a single tree, it can be a major focal point for the whole yard; however, planting a few together can add privacy to your home. Many people decide to line their driveways or sidewalks for curb appeal.

Two crepe myrtle trees with bright pink flowers in front of a building
Crape myrtle trees can enhance curb appeal - but make sure to choose a variety that will grow to a suitable height.

Here are a few tips to help you choose a suitable location to plant your crepe myrtle: 

  • Make sure there is enough room for your crepe myrtle to grow. Buying a tree too large for your yard can cause it to crowd your home, walkways, and even power lines.
  • A medium-sized crepe myrtle is ideal for small courtyards or in a home garden. The smaller trees, known as dwarf selections, look great in containers or can be planted in perennial beds.
  • Be aware that your crepe myrtle tree will drop flowers or leaves, depending on the time of year. This can cause a lot of mess or make decks or walkways slippery, so think carefully about placing your crepe myrtle in a suitable spot.
  • A suitable spot for a crepe myrtle must be very sunny - at least six hours of full sun per day. Shelter from the wind is also needed. Crepe myrtles prefer well-drained soil too.

When to Plant

Crape myrtle tree with pink flowers and green leaves
Late fall to early spring is the best time of year to plant your crepe myrtle

The crepe myrtle should be planted in late fall to early spring. If you do buy one during the summer when it's in full bloom, it will need more frequent watering than usual. No matter the time of year, make sure the ground is well saturated before you plant.

After your hole is dug and the plant is in, lay down a solid layer of mulch to conserve as much moisture as possible and to keep the weeds out. Lastly, apply fertilizer and let the tree do the rest!

The first thing to remember with crepe myrtles is that they will grow - a lot! Gentle pruning throughout the year will control overgrowth and increase blooms.

When your crepe myrtle has fully bloomed, it will shed its first flowers. Each flower contains small seedpods which add extra weight to the limbs of the tree. This is why sometimes you will notice your tree sagging. In this scenario, it is recommended to use clippers to cut off the seedpods. After seedpods are cut, you can expect your crepe myrtle to bloom again with a second bloom. As long as the temperatures stay mild‚ you may even see a third or fourth bloom. If temperatures drop for an extended period of time, be sure your tree is cut, watered, and mulched to maintain its moisture.

Common Crepe Myrtle Problems

Clusters of pink crepe myrtle flowers with a blue sky background
If you have problems with your crepe myrtles, contact LawnMore Gainesville for advice!

If you ever see some of the leaves of your crepe myrtle begin to roll up or fold, check them for aphids. These small insects, also known as plant lice, are some of the most destructive pests in warmer regions. These tiny insects leave a sugary excretion on the leaves that causes mold, leaving foliage looking black. If the infestation spreads, it can prevent the tree from blooming. 

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can also affect crepe myrtles. Like aphids, it can keep the tree from blooming. The Plant Doctor has some great tips for preventing and treating powdery mildew on crape myrtles - including a home made fungicide that uses baking soda.

Our team at LawnMore in Gainesville, Florida is expert in working with crepe myrtles. For more than 20 years, our team has been planting and maintaining trees, yards, shrubs and more throughout the North Central Florida area. If you're looking to add crepe myrtles to your yard, or want help caring for these beautiful trees, contact LawnMore of Gainesville today!

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