Know a crepe myrtle's mature height before you plant it. If you don't want it to be too big, look for a low-growing selection. Crepe myrtles range in height from 2 feet to 30 feet. Trees such as 'Natchez' or 'Tuscarora' reach 25 to 30 feet in height. 'Sioux' and 'Regal Red' are medium-size selections that will grow only 12 to 15 feet tall. These medium trees are perfect for a small courtyard or patio. Breeders also market dwarf selections. Some of those, such as 'Chickasaw' and 'Pokomoke,' have been around for a while, and many new dwarf selections have been introduced in recent years. A number of trees grow less than 3 feet tall.
Crepe myrtles have many landscape uses. They can be planted together to make a large hedge or screen, or a single tree can act as a specimen to create a distinctive focal point. Some of the smaller growing selections even look great in large containers.
These trees do need a sunny site to grow full and bloom heavily. Left in the shade, they become leggy and produce few flowers. Crepe myrtles also may suffer from cold damage in cooler climates, so if you live in the Upper South, be sure to plant cold-hardy selections such as 'Acoma,' 'Centennial Spirit,' or 'Hopi.'
If you've already planted a crepe myrtle that's overgrowing its boundary, you might want to move it. These trees may be transplanted easily, and only a small root ball is needed for success. It's best to move them in late fall or winter, when they're leafless and dormant.
When you need a small tree and have a sunny spot, make a point to try a crepe myrtle. This classic plant will beat the heat and make your summer garden more colorful and memorable.
"Colorful Crepe Myrtles" is from the June 2002 issue of Southern Living.