crape myrtles in pots

mk87February 26, 2010

Has anyone here had success with growing crape myrtles in containers? Not the dwarf varieties, but actually tree-shaped? I would like to do three on my patio to shade the a/c unit, and would ideally like a purple or lavender variety. But, it looks like all of them are either HUGE trees (like Muskogee) or "bushy" shaped (like Catawba). I realize I'll have to take them out every couple of years or so and root-prune to keep them healthy in containers, but I'm willing to do that.

Any thoughts?

Oh, and I thought of chaste tree instead, but I'm concerned it wouldn't work so well tree-shaped in a container.

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

'Catawba' is not usually bushy. It's an upright cultivar. It can be kept more upright by limiting the number of trunks, or, encouraged to be more bushy by cutting out dominant trunks and allowing multiple trunks to arise.

There are many other crape cultivars that are lavender/purple and small. Examples would include 'Dwarf Royalty' (royal-purple, dwarf, 4'-8'), 'Petite Orchid' (orchid, dwarf-upright, 4'-6'), and 'Petite Plum' (plum-purple, dwarf-upright, 4'-6').

The biggest obstacle I can see with growing a crape in a pot (assuming you replant it, as you said you were willing to do) is possible hardiness issues. In your area (7b/8a) most crapes will do fine in-ground, but you might loose some in a cold winter. As I'm sure you know, trees' and shrubs' roots are not nearly as hardy as their above ground parts. You may be OK (especially considering the heat your patio might give off), but I wouldn't bet either way.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 10:14PM
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love_savannah

I had a Crepe Myrtle in a big, ceramic pot with no drainage holes for about 3 years. While in Savannah, it stayed outside through two winters. I took it to my mother's house in middle Georgia (Zone 8) and it went through one winter there on the back porch. It was only about 2 feet high. Last summer I planted it in the ground there and the tree was very happy about that.

I'm not sure of the species, but it was a baby from an old Crepe Myrtle that had been planted 40+ years earlier. The mother tree grew straight up and had pale pink blossoms.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 8:21AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Love_savannah,

Although it is possible that you could have an unusual species, it's not very likely. Your crape myrtle is very very likely to be a Lagerstroemia indica.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 4:53PM
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love_savannah

Brandon, you're right, it's a Lagerstroemia indica. Also, last summer I purchased my mother a white, Nachez Crepe Myrtle. The leaves look different on that one.

Since hanging around the Gardenweb, I've become more interested in finding out the names of the plants, shrubs and trees around me.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 7:21AM
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mk87

Brandon -- About the Catawba...do you think one that already has quite a few trunks (probably 8-10, most no larger than 1/2-inch) could be pruned to have fewer trunks and still do well? And, if I were to do that, should I prune those outer trunks all the way to the ground? Won't that just encourage new shoots out of that stump? Or should I prune them "under" the soil when I pot it?

Not sure why I'm worried about the Muskogee though. I had a Natchez in a pot for 2 years...just couldn't find a place for it, and it lived in a pot with zero care out in my back yard (where the patio is now) and was perfectly happy. It didn't bloom quite as profusely as it would have in the ground, but was otherwise healthy.

The patio area is already a hot spot on our property and I'm sure the concrete pavers (they are dry set in sand, for drainage, but still...) will keep it pretty warm for my containers in the winter.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 10:30AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Yes, you could definitely remove some of the existing trunks. Just choose carefully, and select for better form. You could reduce an 8-trunk crape down to 5, or a 10-trunk crape down to 7. I wouldn't do more than that at one time though.

When trunks are removed, you will see some resprout. This increased growth will need to be addressed for a couple of years, but will eventually slow to current levels or cease altogether.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 11:14PM
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mk87

Just an update...got a re-e-e-ediculous deal on three Muskogees at a local Ace. I know they will get too big for the pots in less time than other varieties, but they would be a variety I wouldn't mind replanting in the landscape later. And, they are the PERFECT size and I didn't have to remove any trunks and they are budding now and I couldn't STAND it...I had to have them. Too good a deal to pass up.

Thanks all for the advice! For future reference, has anyone ever seen the Petite Orchid or Dwarf Royalty crape myrtles sold in the ATL or mid-GA area? They actually sound like what I might like permanently in that space, but I have never seen them.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 9:18PM
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