Photo: Rob Cardillo
Soil: Well drained
Fertilize: Once in spring with a tree-and-shrub fertilizer
Prune: Late winter
Plant Zones: Upper, Middle, Lower, and Coastal South
Time to Plant: Spring and fall are best. If you plant potted crepe myrtles in the summer, water almost daily until leaves drop in fall.
Light: Full sun
Nothing says summer in the South like crepe myrtles. They grow so easily and bloom so long that we love them like family members—except in late winter and spring, when they are routinely chopped down to thick, ugly stumps (a crime known as "crepe murder").
A big reason people do this is because they'll buy a crepe myrtle only for its color without checking how big their plant will get. So when it inevitably blocks the upstairs windows just a few years after planting, out comes Angry Homeowner wielding the pruning saw.
Let's put a stop to this terrible practice now by choosing crepe myrtles by color and size. Check out the box below for some of our top picks.
Because the average August temperature in the South falls just short of that on the surface of Mercury, you may wonder if it's a good idea to buy a crepe myrtle now. It is for two reasons: First, this is the month a lot of garden centers put plants on sale, so you'll probably land a bargain; second, if you buy it in a container, you can either plant it in the yard now or leave it in the original pot and plant it in fall when the weather is cooler.
Whether you plant it or leave it in the pot, regular watering will be the key to survival. When it's 95 degrees out, all it takes is one day of the roots drying out and it's sayonara to your crepe myrtle. Make sure the roots stay moist as long as it's warm. Next year, your plant will need much less water.