General: Crape myrtle is a medium to large shrub or a small multi-stemmed tree that can grow upto 40 feet. Flowering begins as early as May in some cultivars and continues into the fall. Each 6- to 18-inch cluster of flowers (or panicle) develops on the tips of new growth and is composed of hundreds of 1-to 2-inch flowers. Color ranges include shades of purple, lavender, white, pink and red, including "true" red, a relatively recent development. Some cultivars have bicolor flowers (two colors on each petal), some cultivars have flower colors that fade with age or certain environmental conditions, and other cultivars have panicles composed of a mix of flower colors. Strips of bark peel off in early summer to reveal mottled new bark ranging in color from pale cream to dark cinnamon to rich brown to bright orange. The bark color gradually fades over winter until it peels again the next summer.
Leaves on many of the Lagerstroemia indica cultivars are rounded, opposite or some leaves alternate or whorled, simple, elliptical, entire margin, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, dark green above and paler below. Most hybrid cultivars have lance-shaped leaves up to 5 inches long and 3 inches wide while other species have even larger leaves. Leaves are often tinged red in the spring and turn dark green by summer. Several cultivars are known for new growth that is bronze, red or burgundy and some cultivars are claimed to have burgundy-colored foliage all summer.
When the leaves fall in winter, crape myrtle becomes a living sculpture. The trunk and branches of tree-form plants have an attractively gnarled, sinuous character with smooth bark.
Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: Crape myrtle is adapted to climatic conditions throughout the south and southeast. Well-established plants are extremely drought tolerant and have low fertility requirements, although they respond to fertilizer and water with lush growth. Crape myrtle has low salt tolerance, so it should not be irrigated with saline water or used near the coast unless it is well-protected from saline conditions.
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