Growing Crape Myrtle?

tibanksAugust 19, 2010

Hello all, I am in need of info on growing crape myrtle in my area. I've waited a year to add CM to my yard and I'm going tomorrow to pick up my tree/shrub. What should I know about planting and caring for my new CM? I don't want to spend $60. and end up killing it. I've picked out a very sunny location, but what should I use for additional soil when planting it up? would miracle grow work well? Also can I use compost like straw with chicken manure?(I have chickens)Or would this be to much? Do I even need compost? I am very new to gardening, let alone adding expensive shrubs to my yard so any info would be very useful.

Thanks in advance.

Tina in OR.

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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

- Plant in existing soil in a site with good drainage.
- Don't "fix" what you put back into the hole.
- After digging the hole, fill with water & let soak in; repeat.
- Before setting the tree in the hole, soak (max 20 minutes) the entire rootball by setting in a bucket or tub.
- Refill around rootball with existing soil
- Settle the soil by watering well
- No fertilizer, not even compost or chicken.
- Mulch is good; straw is fine
- Apply water to the original rootball every day or so during the early months.

A tree requires at least two years of supplemental irrigation to establish a sturdy root system.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 11:17PM
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grrrnthumb(z8 WA)

I would second what Jean says about not adding to your dirt. I don't know specifically about crape myrtle, but generally heat-loving trees with small leaves come from more nutrient-poor areas, and adding compost & manure could really harm the tree.
I'm really jealous of you, wish we could grow them up here in the Seattle area, but we just don't get enough sun.
- Tom

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 12:14AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Watering every day could easily be excessive, depending on individual circumstances.

Not aware of any relationship between hot summers, small leaves and soil fertility. Crape myrtle is from eastern Asia. Other plants native to that region and used for ornament in other lands often come from deep, moist fertile soils.

Likewise many of those from eastern North America. It's really more a function of the kind of tree it is, with different areas having different plants characteristic of different nutrient and moisture levels. A familiar local example of an attractive tree much used in landscaping, that serves as an indicator of moist, fertile soils in nature is the vine maple.

Here is a link that might be useful: Horticultural techniques for successful plant establishment

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:40AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

To get good bloom from crape myrtle in the PNW you need to plant in the hottest most sunny spot AND choose a variety known to perform here. Not sure every one of all the different ones being ordered by local outlets these days are good choices for us. In Seattle I see occasional long-established ones of some size that flower very little. Particularly up here, ideal spot a south-facing wall with paving in front.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:46AM
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lucretia1

Tina,

I tried a crepe myrtle from one of the box stores last year, and it didn't make it through the winter. After getting a little more educated, I just picked up "Zuni" at a local hardware store for $9, and plan to put it in the hottest spot in my yard, with a lot of reflected heat from the street, driveway, and sidewalk.

The National Arboretum has introduced several cultivars (they will have Native American names) that are supposed to have improved disease resistance and better cold tolerance. You might want to do a search and check them out. Crepe myrtles also vary a lot in mature size, so make sure the one you get is appropriate for your location.

I don't know if my "Zuni" will make it or not, but as long as it survives I'll be happy with it. Even if it doesn't bloom, they can make lovely small trees, with good fall color, interesting forms, and peeling bark (again, check the cultivar to see how it will behave--the fall colors and peeling bark vary.) If it doesn't make it, I'm only out $9, which seems like a good way to go with a plant that sounds like it's an iffy performer in this area.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 9:58AM
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tibanks

Thank you all for the follow up. Right now I have small one gallon container of Hopi & Tonto crape myrtle that I paid $13. for both are well established in their pots. Both also say that they are hardy to 0 degrees, and the nursery Al's garden center say they do well here in Portland. Today however I am going back to buy a much larger shrub which is Pink Velour. Everyone of these will be planted in Full sun locations. I don't know a lot about my soil here since I'm not much of a gardener, but I will say it seems to be quite rocky, we live next to an area called rocky butte which once upon a time was a volcanic cinder cone.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:00PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Kinds at outlets I visit often have Indian names, implying USNA involvement. But trials and selection will have been undertaken back there, so suitability for us will not have been established by that. Best bet might be to visit plantings at Center for Urban Horticulture, Seattle, at late summer peak flowering time to see what looks good there. Don't know where to look in Portland, might have to just ask at favorite vendors if particular ones on offer have been locally proven.

Several kinds being used as street trees in Seattle. Lots of nice hot pavement nearby.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:02PM
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xantippe(8 Portland OR)

I think I am inspired to try a crape myrtle. I've always admired them, but had no idea that my inferno yard conditions were suitable. So... my question for all you experts is, do you think one would be okay in a pot on my ridiculously hot patio? It's south-facing with a wall that reflects even more heat, and is typically in the 90s even on cool summer days. If it's a hot day, the patio hits 110 by about eleven. I have a fig in a pot that is very happy there, which is what made me think a crape myrtle might be happy, too. What do you think?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 2:54PM
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tibanks

xantippe I'd say go for it Crape myrtle comes in many varieties I bought a miniature variety which is excellent for containers only grows 2 to 3 feet, but you can also get others for containers that grow 3-6 feet, or even a weeping variety which is small growing. If your in Ptld try Al's garden center in woodburn they have 28 varieties of CM ranging in all sizes & color, prices range from $9.99 to 99.99 and every cm is 25% off. I planted my mini in a pot, as well as my Hopi which will range about 5-10 ft. Good Luck, I am totally in love with crape myrtles. These are heat loving plants so your patio might be just the right spot.

Tina

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 6:43PM
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xantippe(8 Portland OR)

Thank you, Tin. Yes, indeed, I am in PDX, and have never been to Al's, so what a great excuse for a road trip! Thank you.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 12:37PM
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tibanks

Your welcome, I also want to mention that they have a Al's garden center in Gresham too, not sure what type of cm variety they carry but if you didn't want to travel as far as Woodburn they Likely stock cm too. I went to Woodburn cause I heard they had the most stock, plus it's a large nursery with lots to look at. I also came across this on youtube on growing CM in the NW. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxX2DaPb3-U Good luck with your decision.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 5:38PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I have had a Zuni crape myrtle for at least a decade. It is a heavy bloomer for me. I do not fertilize it.

I tried two of the minatures, can't remember the names and they both died the first winter.

Al's in Sherwood is bigger than Woodburn, Gresham is much smaller has more "color" than trees or shrubs.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 1:41AM
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xantippe(8 Portland OR)

Ooh, thanks everyone! I've never been to any Al's. Now I'll have to hit Woodburn, Sherwood and Gresham (but maybe not all this year!).

And I can't believe you found that YouTube clip. Amazing!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 8:41PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Just hit Sherwood, it is their biggest and newest store. It is gorgeous.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 9:55PM
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lsjogren

I will be eager to see how my crape myrtles do, here in Vancouver WA. It is clear from all the discussions I have read that as far as suitability for the PNW, they may bloom OK in Portland area, while they won't bloom much in Seattle area. The lady at russellfarms.com nursery outside of Salem where I bought some Tuscaroras said she had inquiries from people in Seattle about Crape Myrtles and told them to be cautious because 2013 was a great year for Crape Myrtles in the PNW, so that they were even blooming in Seattle, but she indicated that was pretty rare. She said the 3 varieties that she has found bloom well in the PNW are Natchez, Hopi, and Tuscarora. I was going to buy some Arapahos from her but she didn't have any, but she did have Tuscaroras and she had several right around her house that looked great so I concluded, Tuscaroras it is. But I have also planted others and I really don't know what to expect as far as blooms. A lot of the dwarf varieties are brand new so it is quite possible no one even knows yet how well those will bloom in the PNW. I planted a Cherry Dazzle in the summer but a heat wave wilted off most of its leaves and it took the rest of the summer just to recover. The fact it produced no flowers I figure doesn't prove anything- it had too much else to deal with. I planted some Midnight Magic CMs that I got by mail order from soonerplantfarms in OK, and I planted a bunch of Purple Magic that I got at Al's. They had a ton of home grown ones of those at the Woodburn store and only $10 each. But how well they will bloom here I do not know. I believe the Magic family of Crape Myrtles were first released to the public in 2013 so probably I am a guinea pig when it comes to them. Hopefully by the end of summer 2014 I will know one way or another whether these are well suited to the local climate. They all seemed to survive the slight dip into zone 7 territory in December (low of 9 degrees F) without problem (and it seems to get a few degrees colder at my home than what the weather reports show for Portland/Vancouver, so my yard probably got hit with 5-6F on the coldest day of the cold snap), and they have a reputation of being more cold hardy as they get older, so certainly they can handle the winters here with no problem. If the flowers aren't great, at least some of them have a lot of aesthetic appeal of their bark rather than just their flowers, for example the Natchez. But I am hoping for a lot of flowers. Come October 2014, I will know one way or another.

This post was edited by lsjogren on Sat, Dec 28, 13 at 14:03

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Adapted cultivars bloom in Seattle every year, when planted in suitable hot spots.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 1:03AM
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lsjogren

Lucile at Whitman Farms outside of Salem OR told me that the varieties she has found are reliable bloomers in the area are:

Natchez
Hopi
Tuscarora

I was going to buy some Arapahos from her but it turned out she didn't have any after all. But she had three gorgeous Tuscaroras next to her house and I realized, that is the one I should get. A couple months later I noticed that Al's Garden Center has ones they grow that are dirt cheap, like $10. Lucile sells hers for $25 but it was well worth it to get ones I know have been expertly grown and I got some great gardening advice along with it.

The ones with the most interesting bark would not be bad trees to have in my opinion even if you live somewhere like Seattle where they won't bloom very often.

I am so enamored of the Crape Myrtles I have gotten a bunch of the new dwarf ones also- one Cherry Dazzle from Lowes, about ten Purple Magics from Al's, and four Midnight Magics I got mail order from soonerplantfarm. However, I haven't seen much commentary on whether these bloom OK in the PNW, so I think planting these is somewhat of a crapshoot on my part. Since I got the Cherry Dazzle, I have seen quite a bit of internet commentary from people having trouble getting the Dazzle varieties to bloom. Not sure about the Magic varieties, they may be too new for there to be much information on how well they bloom in "marginal crape myrtle country" such as the Portland area where I live.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:50AM
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lsjogren

Whoops, sorry for the redundancy, I see that I already basically posted the same stuff previously.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:53AM
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lsjogren

It's way too early for me to know how well the cm's flower in my yard in vancouver wa, but one thing I have learned: small branches will be killed in the cold weather. In fact, my midnight magics that I bought from soonerplantfarm died all the way to the ground. Darn, I spent quite a bit on those. But to my pleasant surprise, they sprouted new shoots in the spring. So if your cm looks like it died, the roots may still be alive. This fall I may actually dig them out and keep them in the garage over winter. I think once they have branches about 3/8 inch diameter or so they will be able to survive the winter. You can get some of the new varieties cheap from evergreenplantnursery.com. I have two moonlight magics due to come by fedex ground tomorrow. They will probably be quite small, and if so I will grow them in pots the firs year or two so I can take them inside during the winter. Hopefully, I will know more about how well my bigger ones flower by this fall. All the expert advice says they need lots and lots of sun and the hotter the better.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 8:33PM
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lsjogren

By the way, of the three tuscarora a I got and planted in the ground, one survived, one died to the ground but is growing new shoots, and one I discarded thinking it was dead, although it probably would have grown new shoots. I'm sure these wet good trees, but jots too small to handle the winter cold. The one that grew new shoots I will take inside for the winter. Bu next fall it will hopefully be big enough to handle being outside year round.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 8:40PM
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michelefritzler

I am going to go to Farmington Gardens, as they have 15 gallon ones. Our goal is to buy a larger, more established tree, in hopes it will adapt better. I am looking at the Red Rocket or Dynamite.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 2:47PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

My Zuni is still growing strong and has bloomed every summer since I planted it. :) Have not had any die back on it, any winter.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 1:03AM
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lsjogren

Well, I don't have much info to offer so far, but within a few years I should have lots of data.

Background: I live in Vancouver, WA, have south facing yard and a whole bunch of pavement around which I can plant things that will get pretty hot.

Results so far: Purple Magics I got at Al's Garden Center last year have flower buds developing. I started to see the first ones probably around late July. I thought wow I will get flowers soon but it appears they take a long time to develop. It is mid August now. I feel optimistic that at least some of these will bloom before the cold season sets in. These were so cheap I scattered 9 of them throughout the yard and I figure that the ones that developed flower buds sooner are probably the better locations. (I am convinced HOT is the key. However, you do have to be careful with the leaves of ones you planted this season wilting, even if you water them well.

My Cherry Dazzle appears to not be blooming, even though it is in the hottest spot in my yard. However, it lost most of its leaves last summer so it may be concentrating on building up its strength this summer rather than flowering. My Catawbas and Tuscaroras are not showing a lot of leaf growth and no flower buds. But I think they may be just strengthening themselves and may do much better next season.

I bought a TON of dwarf CMs from Evergreenplantnursery. They are only about $6-12 each , although a few dollars more when you factor shipping in. I got about 5 each of Midnight Magic, Moonlight Magic, Purple Magic, and Cherry Dazzle.

Also got a couple Tontos (one from Evergreen, one from Al's, and a couple of Pink Velours at Al's.) These are shorter varieties and I live in a place where the people above me have nice views so it is uncool to plant tall trees.

My strategy on these is: I planted these in large containers. I will put them in the garage in the dormant season where hopefully they won't see temperatures below 25F or so. Then I will take them outside during the growing season. After about 3 years hopefully they will have trunks and branches that are big enough to withstand the winter cold waves (down to around 10F in this area) without too much dieback. The Midnight Magics from Soonerplantfarm I planted died all the way to the ground, but they have generated lots of growth this summer. My dilemma now is whether to transplant them into pots to put in the garage in the winter, or see how they do if I keep them outside. They might just die back every winter and regrow each summer, which would make them perennials. But they have only grown leaves, not flower buds, so if I want them to flower I may need to grow them inside for a few winters to get them bigger before planting them outside for good.

Not much data yet but I have about 25 crape myrtles in pots and about 20 in the yard so I should get a lot of data within 2-3 years, which I will report. The good thing is even if they dont' flower much, they still have the attractive trunks and fall foliage.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:32PM
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