Crepe myrtles have been quite a feature around town this month and right through summer with their flower displays, which can be pinks, whites or luscious raspberries in colour. They are very rewarding landscape trees that look great through the year and cope with the torrid summer conditions. They are very effective if you have a small garden or courtyard where an ornamental tree is desired but not one that gets too big. A well placed crepe myrtle can be the making of a garden design or courtyard design.
Crepe myrtles are small deciduous trees that manage to also look good in winter when they have lost their leaves. The trunk and limbs have a very ornamental sinuous habit which is very architectural with the streaky brown – grey bark. As a landscape plant it is very useful in a number of roles in the garden. It makes an attractive feature tree but it is also very effective as a tall screen in group plantings.
Crepe myrtles also come in a number of shapes and sizes as they are available in a variety of cultivars and hybrids. It gives you the flexibility to choose the size and colour that suits the situation in your garden. A small variety will be 2 to 3m tall or a larger one will be up to 8m. You can prune it to encourage a single trunk with a canopy or you can clip it so it is bushier and multi trunked.
Pruning is preferred during winter when the plant is dormant, which is not only better for the tree but you can see the branching more clearly and sculpt it accordingly. Regular pruning will also encourage more flowers.
Lagerstroemia indica originally comes from temperate China and is drought tolerant, though is happy to get a bit of extra moisture, particularly when it is getting established. It is commonly becoming a favoured small tree for street plantings around Melbourne, which is a good indicator of a plant that will survive well and keep looking good with minimal attention.