Let’s Talk Varieties of Crepe Myrtles William H. McCaleb Program Assistant, ANR Hopefully you have already read another article on “Interesting Facts About Crepe Myrtles” by Janice Aulisio. There is so much to say about this ‘imported’ species. You already know there are all sizes from the dwarf shrubs, all the way up to single trunk 40’ trees. Selective breeding has given us over 200 different varieties that will grow in USDA zones 7-9 and a couple for zone 10 in south Florida. Did you know there are Miniature/Weeping crepes out there that grow less than 3 feet tall? Yes, there is and will you find it in a local nursery? Most likely not. But there are several nurseries in the south that do have them. In fact, when VCE and the Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association were doing research, we tried the Chickasaw red at what is now the Southern VA Botanical Gardens. Three out of three survived the heavy clay we tested them in for four years. When the research was over, unfortunately someone didn’t like those ever so slow growing miniature crepes and they removed them. How about dwarf crepes like the ‘Cherry Dazzle’ that only grows as a shrub to 3 – 5 feet tall. Yep, we tried those too. The ‘Tightwad’ is another one that works well in a large pot on a porch or patio. As long as they get plenty of sunlight they will do well. The downside is that most shrub type crepe myrtles tend to have more suckers coming up than the larger intermediate and tree sizes.
This beautiful Natchez crepe myrtle is a large tree, around 20’ tall and you will find it lining many streets in the south including Natchez, Louisiana. One of the prettiest intermediates (5-10’ tall) is the ‘America’ which has a beautiful shade of red bloom. Two others in this size range that are striking are the red blooming ‘Cherokee’ and the ‘Cheyenne’. Getting into the medium height trees are the 10 – 20 feet tall ‘Black Diamond Best Red’ (vivid red). These have very dark leaves which make them stand out quite well. Then there is the ‘Apalachee’ with the lavender blooms and the ‘Comanche’ with pink blooms. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ‘Powhatan’ with its large pink flowers. I leave my favorite tree type until last. These are the ones that you find lining streets in small southern towns from Southern Virginia into the Carolinas all the way around the Gulf Coast into Texas. These all grow 20+ feet tall and there isn’t a color that you can’t find. Favorites that are mostly disease resistant are the red blooming ‘Arapaho’, the most widely found ‘Biloxi’ (pink), ‘Carolina Beauty’ (red), ‘Choctaw’ (pink), the white ‘Kiowa’ as well as the white ‘Natchez’. When you get into Louisiana and Texas you will see many ‘Dallas’ (red), ‘Tuscarora’ (pink) and for a large umbrella shaped canopy, you just can’t beat the above varieties as well as one more...the lavender blooming ‘Wichita’. This will give you something to think about as you look at your landscape and start planning for an improved landscape that includes an introduced species from overseas. I have found over the years that most crepes or crapes, are drought hardy, once established. If you want to find out more about Crepe Myrtles you can visit the internet and remember that the best information comes from sites that have .edu or .gov in their address. There are some great videos out there as well from Clemson University, NCSU, Texas A&M, and many more. Enjoy looking and learning before you shop. The best time to plant is late fall or early spring.