Common Name: crape myrtle
Type: Deciduous shrub
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 4.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Red
Sun: Full sun
Suggested Use: Hedge
Leaf: Good Fall
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil, Air Pollution
Best grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Does well in loamy, clay soils with good drainage. Benefits from a slow release fertilizer. Overly fertile soils tend to produce lush foliage growth at the expense of flowering with somewhat increased susceptibility to winter injury. Water roots deeply, particularly in dry spells, but avoid wetting the foliage. Plant in a protected location and apply a winter mulch. Growing crape myrtles in the St. Louis area can be tricky because the above ground branches often die to the ground in winter, particularly when temperatures dip below -5 degrees F. Above ground branches are considered to be winter hardy to USDA Zone 7, whereas roots are usually but not always hardy to USDA Zone 5. In the St. Louis area (Zone 5b to 6a), it is perhaps best to grow these plants in somewhat the same manner as buddleias (butterfly bushes) by cutting all stems back to 8” in early spring each year. Roots will sprout new stems which typically grow 2-4’ tall (sometimes more) by the end of the growing season. Flowers appear on the new wood. It is also an option in St. Louis to grow these plants as woody shrubs by pruning them back to live wood in spring at the time new foliage begins to appear (in somewhat the same manner as with some shrub roses). With protection, top growth will survive some winters, but will still suffer significant injury or die to the ground in harsh winters.
‘Country Red’ is a crape myrtle cultivar that was introduced into commerce in the 1950s. It is a deciduous, upright, spreading, multi-stemmed shrub that features dark green foliage turning dull yellow-orange in fall, grayish-brown bark which exfoliates with age and terminal, crepe-papery inflorescences of bright red flowers with yellow centers from mid-summer to early fall. Flowers give way to round seed capsules which often persist well into winter. In the South, this cultivar can easily be grown as a woody shrub to 8-10’ tall and 4-5’ wide. In the St. Louis area where winter injury can be a problem, plants will grow much smaller.
The two main disease problems of crape myrtles are fungal leaf spot and powdery mildew. This cultivar reportedly has excellent mildew resistance. Foliage may yellow (chlorosis) in alkaline soils. Some susceptibility to aphids and scale. Winter injury, particularly to top growth, often occurs in USDA Zones 5 and 6.
Good as a specimen shrub or in groups. Shrub borders or perennial borders. In the South where above-ground winter hardiness is not a problem, this cultivar is also quite effective as a screen or informal hedge.