You can’t go anywhere in New Orleans without seeing one of the city’s favorite trees, the crepe myrtle. There is no secret as to why it is our favorite. The crepe myrtle yields beautiful long-lasting summer flowers, tolerates the Louisiana heat, and has a sculptural trunk with beautiful bark. Another reason why it is so special to New Orleans is that it is a fast grower, making it a huge player in our efforts to reforest New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. From buying to pruning and planting, here is our complete guide on how to care for your crepe myrtle tree in New Orleans.
About Crepe Myrtles
Crepe myrtles come in a variety of colors and sizes, which we will talk about later. The scientific name of the crepe myrtle tree is Lagerstroemia. For good tree care, Crepe myrtles like well draining soil, full sun, and moderate water.
Caring for your Crepe Myrtle
Newly planted crepe myrtles will need to be well and deeply watered until established. After crepe myrtles are established, they will only need moderate water which is mostly supplied by regular rain fall here in Louisiana.
Only in conditions of poor soil do newly planted crepe myrtles need to be fertilized with an all purpose liquid fertilizer. After a crepe myrtle is established, or has been planted for at least a year, they do not need fertilizing.
Crepe myrtles grow suckers. Remove these from the truck with loppers to ensure a clean sculptural trunk and to ensure that the plant is putting its energy into growing its canopy.
Although it is not absolutely necessary, it is highly recommended that you prune your crepe myrtles. This is because they bloom on new growth. Now sure when and how to prune your Crepe Myrtle tree? In Louisiana, Crepe myrtles should be pruned in the late winter or early spring (think February or early Mardi Gras time). Pruning requires that you remove suckers from the base, dead or diseased branches, crossing branches, and any branches growing toward the center of the plant. On medium and tall trees (if you can reach them), you can prune branches back about one quarter to one third of the length of the branch. Do NOT commit crepe murder! (Please see below for our description of crepe murder). To further understand pruning trees, see this video.
Before Buying a Crepe Myrtle Tree: Things to Consider
As with all trees, checking to make sure you are planting the right tree in the right spot is very important. Make sure you understand how tall the tree needs to be, taking into consideration the power lines, underground utilities, and distance from the house. Additionally, there are a few other components to consider when buying a crepe myrtle tree:
- Is the place of planting sunny enough?
- What color will the flowers be? Buying your crepe myrtle when it is blooming will ensure that you are getting the color that you want.
- Crepe myrtles are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the winter. If you are wanting your tree for shade or privacy, make sure that you know your tree is without leaves for part of the year.
Types of Crepe Myrtle: A Guide
How to know what type of Crepe Myrtle to plant? Here is a list of some popular selections that grow well in Louisiana. This list of trees is grouped by height: Dwarf (2-5ft), Short (6 – 10 ft), medium (11 – 20 ft), and tall (21 – 50ft).
- Razzle Dazzle: 3 – 4 ft, color depends on type.
- Acoma: 6 – 10 ft, white flowers.
- Hopi: 7 – 10 ft, pink flowers.
- Pink Velour: 10 – 12 ft, neon pink flowers.
- Red Rocket: 15 – 20 ft, cherry red flowers.
- Tuscarora: 15 – 20 ft, coral-pink or watermelon colored flowers.
- Yuma: 12 – 15 ft, lavender flowers
- Arapaho: 18 – 25 ft, red flowers.
- Natchez: 35 + ft, white flowers
- Tuskegee: 18 – 25 ft, dark rose pink flowers.
Thou Shalt Not Commit Crepe Murder!
Crepe murder is when crepe myrtles are “topped” or cut back to ugly stubs. This is just a bit lazy and frankly doesn’t look very good. Additionally, it’s bad for the tree’s health as crepe murder encourages the tree to grow spindly, weak branches that are too fragile to hold up to wind and the flowers. Instead, prune the trees properly as described above.
As always, thank you for reading! Check us out online or visit our garden center at 9401 Airline Hwy, New Orleans, LA 70118.