Crepe/Crape Myrtle Tree (Lagerstroemia): A Great Ornamental Tree For Your Land

The Crepe/Crape Myrtle, with the scientific name Lagerstroemia, is a stunning ornamental tree or shrub that adorns gardens with its vibrant flowers and distinctive bark.

Native to Southeast Asia, Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees are found naturally in countries like China, Japan, and Korea, thriving in warm and humid climates. 

But nowadays, they have already made their mark in various regions across the world, including the Southeastern United States.

Different Varieties of Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree

VarietyScientific Name
Lagerstroemia indica (Common Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia indica
Lagerstroemia fauriei (Japanese Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia fauriei
Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’ (Natchez Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’
Lagerstroemia x ‘Tuscarora’ (Tuscarora Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Tuscarora’
Lagerstroemia x ‘Dynamite’ (Dynamite Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Dynamite’
Lagerstroemia x ‘Muskogee’ (Muskogee Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Muskogee’
Lagerstroemia x ‘Sioux’ (Sioux Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Sioux’
Lagerstroemia x ‘Acoma’ (Acoma Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Acoma’
Lagerstroemia x ‘Hopi’ (Hopi Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Hopi’
Lagerstroemia x ‘Tuskegee’ (Tuskegee Crepe Myrtle)Lagerstroemia x ‘Tuskegee’

How Can You Identify A Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree?

One of the simplest ways to recognize a Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree is by closely observing its unique bark, leaves, and resplendent blossoms as they evolve throughout the seasons.

From its distinctive bark to the ever-changing foliage and the vibrant blooms it adorns itself with.

What are the unique features of a Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree?

The Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree is a deciduous plant that undergoes dramatic changes throughout the seasons.

In spring, it showcases brilliant new foliage, followed by an explosion of colorful flowers in summer. 

As autumn arrives, its leaves turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow before shedding them in the fall. 

The most striking feature, however, is its bark, which peels away in thin, papery layers, revealing a smooth, mottled surface underneath.

Size & Growth Habit

Crepe/Crape Myrtle vary in size, ranging from compact shrubs to small trees. They typically reach heights of 3 to 20 feet, with a spread of 3 to 15 feet, depending on the variety.

They have a multi-stemmed growth form, with branches that gracefully arch and twist.

Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree Leaves

The leaves of the Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree are simple, opposite, and lance-shaped, measuring 2 to 5 inches in length. They are typically dark green in color.

It’s Flowers & Fruits

In mid to late summer, the Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree burst into bloom with panicles of crinkled, crepe-paper-like flowers. 

These flowers can range in color from white and shades of pink to deep purples. While they do produce small, inconspicuous fruits, they are primarily grown for their spectacular flowers.

What are the Ecological Impacts of A Crepe Myrtle Tree?

From attracting a chorus of birds to serving as a vital habitat for pollinators, these trees easily harmonize with nature, transforming your garden into a thriving ecosystem.

Wildlife Interactions

Integrating Crepe/Crape Myrtle into your garden can significantly boost biodiversity. These trees excel at attracting a variety of wildlife, such as birds and pollinators.

For example, their vibrant blossoms and inviting branches create a haven for numerous kinds of birds and insects, transforming your garden into a bustling hub of natural activity.

Bird Species That Are Attracted to Crepe Myrtles

Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees can draw various bird species, including:

Songbirds

Birds like sparrows, finches, and warblers are attracted to the seeds produced by Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees.

Hummingbirds

These small, colorful birds are often drawn to the nectar-rich flowers of Crepe Myrtle, especially in varieties with red or pink blooms.

Mockingbirds 

Northern Mockingbirds, in particular, are known to perch on Crepe/Crape Myrtle branches and sing their melodious songs.

Woodpeckers

Certain woodpecker species may use the branches or trunks of Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees for foraging for insects and larvae.

Nesting Birds

The dense foliage of Crepe/Crape Myrtle can provide nesting sites and shelter for various bird species.

Seed-Eating Birds

Birds like cardinals and jays may be attracted to Crepe/Crape Myrtle seeds.

Soil And Environmental Indicator of a Crepe Myrtle Tree

Crepe/Crape Myrtle exhibits remarkable adaptability, thriving in a diverse range of soil types.

However, they truly flourish in well-draining soil that allows excess water to escape, preventing waterlogged conditions that can hinder their growth.

Does A Crepe/Crape Myrtle Signify Something About the soil’s health?

Although Crepe/Crape Myrtle don’t serve as strict indicators of soil health, their presence often suggests a garden environment with well-drained soil.

This indicates an environment conducive to supporting various plant life and garden endeavors.

Moisture Levels

Once Crepe/Crape Myrtle have established their roots, they showcase their resilience by tolerating both wet and dry conditions.

However, they truly thrive in environments with consistent, moderate moisture levels, where they can exhibit their full splendor.

pH Levels

Crepe/Crape Myrtle demonstrates remarkable adaptability when it comes to soil pH. While they can flourish in a broad range of pH levels, they often favor soils that are slightly acidic to neutral.

This preference reflects their ability to thrive in conditions that are generally conducive to many other garden plants.

Cultural Significance of Crepe Myrtle tree

Within their native range, Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees have deep-rooted cultural significance, frequently gracing traditional gardens as cherished ornamental plants.

While they may not be tied to specific myths, the tree’s captivating elegance has acted as a wellspring of inspiration, weaving countless stories and legends throughout the world.

How to Use A Crepe Myrtle Tree in the Homestead?

Beyond their aesthetic charm, Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees offer a wealth of practical and creative possibilities for homesteaders. 

Whether you want to use it as a garnish for a salad, use the bark or leaves as a natural remedy for skin problems or diarrhea, or even use the wood to produce crafts such as paper, and collage, this practical tree can easily have an impact on your homestead.

Is Any Part Of The Crepe/Crape Myrtle Tree Edible?

Not really.

But even though the crepe/Crape Myrtle trees are not considered edible, others still found a unique way to incorporate the blossoms or flowers of the tree in their dishes.

In various culinary practices, the blossoms or flowers of the tree are used as garnishes for salads and desserts, adding a touch of natural elegance and a subtle floral note to the dish.

Natural Remedies From Crepe/Crape Myrtle Bark And leaves

Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree offers a history in traditional herbal medicine.

Specifically, some of its parts, such as the bark and leaves, have been valued for their astringent properties that help relieve diarrhea.

To utilize these properties for medicinal purposes, the first thing you would need to do is to carefully collect the bark and leaves.

Once collected, prepare an infusion by steeping the bark and leaves in hot water.

This infusion process allows the astringent compounds (i.e. tannins and ellagic acid) within the plant material to be extracted effectively.

Once the infusion is ready and cooled down, you can then apply the resulting paste or solution in the abdominal area.

This solution helps reduce the symptoms of diarrhea and promotes digestive comfort.

You can use the wood to create something

Craftsmen have turned the thin, peeling layers of the tree and used them to make crafts such as handmade paper, collages, or even textured surfaces for painting.

But that’s not all, the wood of the Crepe/Crape Myrtle, known for its fine grain and durability, can also be used in woodworking.

Some used the wood, specifically the well-aged wood from the tree, and used them in making things such as outdoor furniture like benches, tables, and chairs to intricate carvings for decorative panels and door frames.

How to Intentionally Plant A Crepe/Crape Myrtle Tree?

To maximize the ornamental value of Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees in your outdoor space, what you would want to do is carefully consider the diverse ways they can enhance your landscape.

One option is to use it as a standalone specimen, allowing you to create elegant focal points.

For example, you can position it as a welcoming presence near your garden entrance or as a captivating centerpiece in your yard.

Or for a touch of privacy and structure, you would want to explore the option of using Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees as hedges, providing both visual interest and seclusion.

Additionally, you can also consider placing the tree in the mixed border of your plants, shrubs, and perennials.

This will help you leverage the vibrant blossoms and attractive bark of the tree which then improve the overall aesthetic of your land.

What does A Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree need to grow?

To cultivate thriving Crepe/Crape Myrtle, it’s crucial to understand their specific requirements.

The first thing that you would need to ensure is that they receive ample sunlight.

These trees flourish when basking in the glow of full sun, so providing them with at least six hours of sunlight each day is essential.

In addition to sunlight, the quality of the soil plays a pivotal role in the successful growth of Crepe/Crape Myrtle.

To foster their healthy development, you would need to ensure that the soil is not only well-drained but also rich in nutrients.

To do this, what you would need to do is to incorporate organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure into the soil.

This will help the water pass through the soil easily, without pooling or forming puddles around the tree.

Planting

When it comes to planting your Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree, careful preparation of the planting hole is essential for its successful growth.

The first thing that you would need to do is to prepare a planting hole that’s approximately twice the width of the root ball and matches the depth from which the tree was originally planted, whether it was in a pot or a container.

This ample space will allow the roots to spread comfortably.

After digging the hole, the next thing that you would need to do is to carefully position the Crepe/Crape Myrtle in the center of the hole.

Once the tree is in place, the next thing that you would need to do is to gently back-fill the hole with soil, patting it down to eliminate any air pockets, and then water it thoroughly.

This initial watering after planting is crucial for helping the tree settle into its new home, encouraging healthy root development and growth.

How To Take Care of Your Crepe/Crape Myrtle?

One of the things that you would need to do to take good care of your Crepe/Crape Myrtle tree is to prune it.

Pruning is not only essential for maintaining its shape and size but also plays a crucial role in promoting healthy growth and robust flowering.

In addition to that, you would also need to prune your tree with strategic timing such as during late winter or early spring.

This strategic timing promotes healthy growth and encourages robust flowering during the upcoming season.

When it comes to pruning your Crepe Myrtle tree, the first thing you would need to do is remove any branches that show signs of fungal growth, molds, or those that have lost all their leaves.

This not only enhances the tree’s overall appearance but also plays a crucial role in improving air circulation.

Additionally, regular watering is crucial to establish the plant, especially in the initial years after planting.

To do this, you would need to monitor the soil moisture regularly and always ensure that the tree receives consistent hydration.

This helps the Crepe/Crape Myrtle develop a strong root system, ensuring its long-term health and resilience in your garden.

Potential Problems That Might Happen

While Crepe/Crape Myrtle are generally hardy, being proactive about potential issues is key to their long-term well-being.

One common concern is the presence of aphids, which can affect the plant’s health and appearance.

To address this, what you would need to do is inspect your Crepe/Crape Myrtle for any signs of aphid infestations such as sticky residue on the leaves and branches or distorted leaves.

If you see these signs, you can take appropriate measures by using a gentle stream of water or insecticidal soap.

Another concern to be vigilant about is powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can lead to leaf loss and, in severe cases, the progressive death of twigs, branches, shoots, or roots, that often start at the tips.

To check if your tree has this, what you would want to do is to check for signs of white, powdery spots on the foliage of your tree.

If you notice this issue, you would want to take appropriate measures by using a fungicidal spray or neem oil (just mix it with water and a few drops of soap) as treatment.

Enjoy Your Crepe/Crape Myrtle Tree!

Crepe/Crape Myrtle trees, known for their vibrant blossoms and distinctive bark, contribute significantly to gardens, cuisine, and crafting.

They serve as vital elements in supporting biodiversity and indicating environmental health while enriching the natural surroundings and our lives.

Got some insights about Crepe/Crape Myrtle? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

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