6 Terrible Places to Plant Crepe Myrtle

Ignore these warnings and you'll be sorry.

Crepe Myrtle Tree in Front of Window
Photo: Rebecca-Arnott/Getty Images

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 how 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?

When fall planting season approaches—the best time for planting most trees and shrubs—it's a good bet many of 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, here are six of the worst places 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.

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.

Next to the House

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 completely blocking the window, rubbing up against the gutters, and leaning over on the roof. The most common response is cutting back the offending tree to ugly, three-foot stumps. Also, the roots likely won't damage your home's foundation, but the close proximity could invite moisture and pests.

Beside Your Driveway

A row of blooming crepe myrtles alongside a driveway looks picture-perfect in spring. But crepe myrtles are messy trees. What is up must come down, and those blooms will end up all over your driveway and whatever is parked on it for many weeks. Forget keeping it clean. If you don't sweep or blow the flowers constantly, they may dry onto the concrete, or worse, your car, leaving the brown outlines of dead flowers behind. Don't forget crepe myrtles also drop seeds, pods, and bark too.

Too Close to a Fence

Crepe myrtles make a colorful hedge in the garden, but they need plenty of room to grow. Depending on the variety, they can grow up to 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Keeping the mature size in mind, plant them at least three feet from your fencing to prevent crowding and provide enough space for the canopy.

In the Shade

Crepe myrtles like full sun. While they will tolerate a few hours of shade per day, they need at least six hours of sunlight and are very heat-tolerant, perfect for our hot Southern climate. Without the sun they need, they may not have many or any blooms. To help your tree put on its vibrant show, check the variety to see how much sunlight it needs.

Where to Plant a Crepe Myrtle

These low-maintenance trees love full sun. They need some pruning, but they don't need to be chopped down each year, despite what you may have heard. To give them full growing space, enjoy their beauty, and allow them to make a mess come fall, plant crepe myrtles where they won't be a nuisance in your yard, such as in a flower bed as a colorful focal point in your front yard.

Take five minutes when you're planting this fall to envision the consequences five or ten years from now. You will thank yourself profusely.

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