Ignore these warnings and you’ll be sorry.
The iconic crepe myrtle is the most widely planted tree in the South, and much of the credit goes to Southern Living. For 50 years, we’ve told you beautiful it is in every season and how easy it is to grow. As a result, any house in a neighborhood without at least one crepe myrtle looks highly suspect. What are its occupants up to?
The fall planting season quickly approaches – the best time for planting most trees and shrubs. It’s a good bet many for you will be shopping for crepe myrtles. Before you do, I’m going to say something so shocking it verges on heresy. There are some places you shouldn’t plant a crepe myrtle.
WATCH: Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Crepe Myrtle
I’ll pause for a moment while you remove the screw top to that jug of Sweet Moscato and regain your composure. Better now? OK, let’s begin with the worst place to plant a crepe myrtle.
Next to Your Pool
I know. The arching canopy of a crepe myrtle looks perfect for shading a white concrete pool deck. However, some selections such as ‘Natchez’ can bloom for 100 days a year. Every day that new flowers open, old flowers drop into the pool. It will also drop leaves for at least 30 days in late summer and fall. This means that unless you’re a complete slob, you’ll be tethered to a pool skimmer for almost a third of a year.
Here’s the second worst place.
Next to A Porch, Deck, or Walk
I know all about this one. Twenty-five years ago, I planted a small ‘Sioux’ crepe myrtle at the corner of my front porch. And I have to say I love its muscular, sculptural trunk (produced, of course, by my perfect pruning). But it drops flowers all over the porch for two months. They’re nothing compared to dropping leaves, however. Beginning in August, a fungus called Cercospora leaf spot causes leaves to turn red and drop prematurely. When it rains, you walk out unto a moldy, slick mess. Keep your leaf blower handy if you make the same mistake.
And now we come to the primary cause of crepe murder.
In Front of a Window
Even though small crepe myrtles that don’t grow taller than 6 to 12 feet are widely available (such as ‘Acoma,’ Black Magic series, Early Bird series, Magic series, ‘Siren Red,’ ‘Velma’s Royal Delight, ‘Zuni’), many people don’t check the mature height on the plant tag. Plus, plant tags frequently underestimate mature heights by five feet or more. Pretty soon, the nice, well-behaved, little crepe myrtle you planted is blocking the window, rubbing up against the gutters, and leaning over on the roof. The most common response is to cut back the offending tree to ugly, three-foot stumps.
Take five minutes when you’re planting this fall to envision the consequences five or ten years from now. You will thank yourself profusely.