Grow Heat Loving Crape Myrtles
AUGUST IS BREAK TIME FOR GARDENERS. Hot weather slows the pace of life — and gardening. Take advantage of cool mornings to be certain plants’ water needs are being met, to harvest ripe fruits and vegetables and to snip flowers for bouquets and herbs for iced teas. Then relax in the shade, perhaps contemplating garden changes to make when fall arrives and the pace quickens again.
SIZZLING SUMMER TEMPERATURES don’t faze crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica), deciduous, drought-tolerant small trees and shrubs that bloom July through September when so much in the landscape fizzles. Adding to their appeal, crinkly flowers are followed by fall color ranging from bronze to burgundy. New breeding has expanded flower-color options and added mildew resistance. “Now there’s one for every landscape,” says Briggs Tree Company sales manager Alissa Adams-Simmons, who suggested these favorites from among the Vista grower’s large stock.
‘Petite’ series: New from Monrovia Nursery, these mini-myrtles top out at 4 to 5 feet tall, making them ideal for small gardens or containers. Flower colors span orchid and plum to pink and snow white. Leaves turn gold in fall.
Mid-sized myrtles: The U.S. National Arboretum developed many of these 6- to 12-feet tall shrubs. Choose among ‘Zuni’ with lavender flowers and brilliant orange-red fall foliage, ‘Cherokee’ with fiery red flowers and ‘Seminole’ with bright pink blooms and red fall color. Novel ‘Peppermint Lace’ bears rosy pink flowers edged in white.
Tree crape myrtles: Attractive single- or multi-trunked trees top 20 feet tall. Pure red-flowered hybrids like ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Red Rocket’ are designer favorites, as is white-flowered ‘Natchez’. ‘Tuscarora’ flowers are pinkish red while ‘Muskogee’ are lavender.
Adams-Simmons recommends purchasing crape myrtles now while in bloom. Plant them anytime except the hottest days of the year, mid-August to mid-September.
Garden Planner: By Mary James