How To Plant A Crepe Myrtle

A crepe myrtle—also called a crape myrtle or crapemyrtle—is a wonderful addition to just about any yard. We’ve got all the answers on how to select, plant, and care for these fabulous trees.

How To Plant a Crepe Myrtle

Van Chaplin

The South's love affair with crepe myrtles is undeniable. In some areas, you see them on practically every street—and for good reason. Few plants can match their combination of spectacular summer flowers, colorful autumn foliage, and handsome sculptural trunks. 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. If you're thinking of adding one or more crepe myrtles to your landscape this season, the following tips will help you make a good decision.

Choosing a Crepe Myrtle

Seeing a crepe myrtle in its full summer splendor sends some of us running to the garden shop to buy a plant the same color. But don't buy impulsively. Pay attention to the plant's tag. Make sure that it is not only the exact color that you want, but also the right size and look you hope to achieve.

Crepe myrtles range in size from dwarf selections that grow less than 3 feet tall to several that reach upwards of 30 feet. Knowing the mature height of a plant before you buy it and planting the proper size for the site will save you much heartache and backache in the future. If you're in the Upper South, you should also look for selections that are extra cold-hardy.

Where to Plant a Crepe Myrtle

Crepe myrtles have many landscape uses. Planted together, they make a large deciduous hedge or screen. A single tree can create a distinctive focal point, while a pair framing a front door greets visitors with a warm Southern welcome.

Be sure to choose the right size for your needs. The larger types need room to grow without encroaching on buildings, power lines, or walkways. Medium-size selections that will grow from 12 to 15 feet are perfect for a small courtyard or garden home. The dwarf selections look great in large containers, foundation plantings, and even incorporated into perennial beds. Also, remember that crepe myrtles love sun. The amount of flower production is greatly reduced in light shade, and full shade can prevent blooming altogether.

When to Plant a Crepe Myrtle

Late fall to early spring is the best time to plant. But a lot of folks buy and plant their crepe myrtle in summer because they select it while it is blooming. That works too, but watering well during the summer months is crucial to transitioning it into your garden. 

How to Plant a Crepe Myrtle

How to Plant a Crepe Myrtle with Success: Step 1
Van Chaplin
  1. Water your crepe myrtle well before putting it in the ground. This will help it take up water after planting.
  2. Once you’ve picked the optimal spot for your crepe myrtle based on the above advice, dig a hole about three times as wide as the root ball and no deeper than the plant container your tree came in. By digging a wide hole the back fill will be less compacted than deeper soil and have more healthy pore space for the plant's shallow roots to grow. Roots have a hard time pushing through compacted soil. These shallow roots will pick up the moisture and nutrients needed and in return encourage other roots to grow deeply.
  3. Place the potted plant in the hole to make sure the hole is large enough. Check that the top of the root ball is even with surrounding soil, and remove the pot. Make sure that the root ball of the plant has been saturated before planting and completely fill the hole with water before putting the plant in the hole. If a plant goes into a dry hole, the dry soil placed around the root ball can quickly wick away the moisture from the roots.
  4. Fill in around the roots with excavated soil, using your foot to firm it. 
  5. Spread mulch 2 inches deep over the top to conserve moisture and keep down weeds.
  6. Water thoroughly using a hose, not a sprinkler.

How To Care For Your Newly-Planted Crepe Myrtle

How to Plant a Crepe Myrtle with Success: Step 3
Photo: Van Chaplin
  1. Continue to water with a hose if possible for 3-5 minutes daily for the first week, then 3-5 minutes every 3 days for the next 3 weeks. In temperatures above 85 degrees, you will want to continue this pattern for another 4 weeks. If your area gets regular rainfall, these additional weeks will not be needed. Make sure the new plant gets at least 3-5 minutes of water each week if no rainfall occurs.
  2. Apply a fertilizer such as Schultz Starter Plus Transplanting Solution or Vigoro Starter Fertilizer as recommended on the label.

Troubleshooting Common Crepe Myrtle Problems

As soon as crepe myrtle leaves unfurl, look for aphids. Their sugary excretions causes sooty mold. This covers the leaves, making them look black and unattractive; a bad infestation will eventually turn leaves yellow and may hinder blooming.

Control these pests by spraying with insecticides that target aphids (such as malathion, diazinon, or ultra-fine horticultural oil) in the summer as soon as they appear. Spray both sides of the foliage thoroughly, and be sure to get the tips of new shoots and flowerbuds. Repeat this treatment as necessary.

A white powdery fungus called powdery mildew sometimes attacks the leaves of many older selections of crepe myrtles. Although the disease may keep the trees from blooming when it becomes severe, most trees aren't permanently damaged.

You can prevent this problem by planting a mildew-resistant selection. For susceptible types, spraying the foliage at first sign of disease with Funginex, Immunox, or summer horticultural oil will keep the powdery mildew from spreading; repeat sprays are necessary.

See our guide to common crepe myrtle problems to learn more about what to watch for with your new tree.

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