Plant Taxonomy of "Natchez" Crepe Myrtles:
of this plant is Lagerstroemia x
'Natchez.' As with many of the widely-grown crepe myrtle trees used in landscaping, it is a hybrid
derived from crossing Lagerstroemia indica
with Lagerstroemia fauriei
. Although originally from Asia, Lagerstroemia
in the Southeastern U.S.
Natchez crepe myrtles are deciduous
shrubs or small trees.
Origin of Common Name for Lagerstroemia:
The leaves resemble those of true myrtles, Myrtus communis, thus the origin of the second half of the name. As for the first half, the crinkly texture of the flower petals suggests c-r-e-p-e paper; indeed, the latter spelling is almost as widely used as c-r-a-p-e. I use both here to reflect that fact.
Planting Zones for Lagerstroemia:
Natchez crepe myrtles are hardy to planting zone
6. However, in the Northern reaches of their range, they are often treated as herbaceous perennials
. They're much more prevalent in the Southern U.S.
Characteristics for Lagerstroemia:
Natchez crepe myrtles grow 20'-30' high in the South. The foliage becomes a reddish-orange in fall. The bark peels off attractively, rather like that of birches, adding winter interest. Natchez crepe myrtles bear white blooms. As with most crepe myrtle, the flowers are the main selling point. They not only grow in striking clusters, but put on a display that lasts longer than that for most plants (mid-summer to fall). The blooms yield to fruits that are brownish and persist through winter.
Plant Care for Lagerstroemia:
Don't over-fertilize Natchez crepe myrtles. Excessive fertilizing can reduce blooming, as the plant uses the energy to increase foliar growth. In addition to reducing your viewing pleasure, the result is often winter injury, as well. For pruning, see below, under "Disease and Pruning."
Sun and Soil Requirements for Lagerstroemia:
The Natchez cultivar (and other types, as well) prefers full sun and a well-drained soil. Exposure to full sun can help prevent some of the less mildew-resistant varieties of crepe myrtle trees from succumbing to the disease. Soil pH
should be 5.0 - 6.5.
Use in Landscape Design:
Crepe myrtle trees, including Natchez crepe myrtles, make fine specimen
plants. Used in groups, they can form decorative border plantings or privacy hedges
. Since these specimens don't balk at being confined to tight areas, municipalities in the South often use them for street plantings.
Disease, Pruning Crepe Myrtle Trees:
Very importantly, Natchez crepe myrtles are highly resistant to mildew. With some other varieties, mildew can be a problem. However, pruning out branches that cross over other branches (thinning) promotes air flow and reduces susceptibility to mildew. Another problem with this specimen is its proclivity to draw aphids. Honeydew drops from aphids are not only unsightly on the plants themselves but also get all over your car, deck and patio.
These trees usually produce multiple main stems. Many people, seeking to restrict the growth of the plants, prune crepe myrtle trees back severely in winter, in order to limit the plants to one main stem. But such pruning diminishes their appearance and should be avoided in favor of selecting dwarf varieties. For non-dwarf varieties, limit your pruning to the "thinning" that I have described above. The best time to prune is early spring.
Remove spent flower heads throughout summer (a process known as "deadheading
") to "trick" crepe myrtle trees into continuing to bloom even more profusely. Also remove any suckers that appear. You may also find volunteer seedlings popping up all over your lawn, which mean extra weeding for you (unless you wish to transplant them).