Summer Tree Fireworks Spectacular

We probably spend more time in our yards in the summer than any other time of year. Almost all of the other trees have finished blooming, however the Crape Myrtles have yet to burst into bloom. Colors range from pinks, to purples, to whites, and reds. Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia) used to be a tree that could only be enjoyed if you lived in Cape May or further south. There have been several things that have changed that have helped to bring these wonderful trees into our gardens.




For those that are interested, there seems to be a debate over the common name. There are lots of gardeners that argue that the name is “Crape Myrtle” and others “Crepe Myrtle.” The flower resembles crinkled “crepe” paper, but the proper English spelling is “crape.” My opinion is that either spelling would be acceptable. The flowers look delicate, but are very sturdy. The bloom lasts for almost three months, making them one of the longest blooming trees in the garden. They generally start blooming here late June or early July.

Crape Myrtles originally were USDA hardiness zone 7-9. The USDA recently has changed our hardiness zone. Our average winter temperatures have not been as cold in Westfield, so our current hardiness zone is now 7a. There also has been quite a bit of breeding and selection of hardier varieties, which has led to more choices of varieties that will grow in our area. I generally like to grow my Crape Myrtle as a multi-stem tree, as it seems that it responds to our winters better. Crape Myrtles flower on new wood which means that the best time to prune them is early spring. Powdery mildew seems to be the only problem that affects them, but many of the newer varieties are resistant.

These are some of the more popular varieties: (All zone 6 unless noted)

  • Lagerstroemia ‘Catawba’ : Dark Purple flowers. Grows 15’ tall. Foliage has a bronzy cast in spring, bright green in summer, and orange-red fall color. Zone 7.

  • Lagerstroemia ‘ Tonto’ : Fuschsia flowers. Grows 8’ tall. Orange-red fall color.

  • Lagerstroemia ‘Tuscaroa’ : Coral Pink flowers. Grows 15’ tall. Orange-red fall color.

  • Lagerstroemia ‘Muskogee : Light lavender flowers. Grows 15’ tall. Red fall color.

  • Lagerstroemia ‘Zuni’ : Medium lavender. Grows 9’ tall. Orange-Maroon fall color.

  • Lagerstroemia ‘Dynamite’® :Fire Red. Grows 15’ tall. Orange-Red fall color. (A personal favorite)

  • Lagerstroemia ‘ Red Rocket’ ®: Ruby Red. Grows 15’. Dark green summer foliate. Bronze-red fall color.

  • Lagerstroemia ‘ Raspberry Sundae’ : Raspberry red with a touch of white. Grows 20’ tall. Sterile with very few seed pods.

  • Lagerstroemia 'Red Filli' : A dwarf variety that only grows 2’ tall. Red blooms. Purplish fall color. Zone 5.

Down South the bark of the Crape Myrtle is considered one of its major ornamental features. They develop very dramatic bark that peels back as they get older. We don’t see that feature as often in our location because sometimes winter will throw us a curve with lower than normal temperatures. If the temperature drops below 0⁰ F, the top portion of the Crape Myrtle could be killed off. However, this is not the end of your Crape Myrtle! The roots can withstand these sub-zero temperatures. Once the tree leafs out in the spring, be sure to prune off any dead wood. We have one tree next to my parent’s house that was about 10 feet tall, and the winter die back killed it off to a one foot stub. We cut it back, and it was back to six feet tall and blooming the very same year.

Because of the cool Spring the Crepe Myrtles are just starting to set their flower buds. You will have many months of blooming enjoyment on these plants.