Lagerstroemia 'Apalachee'
Common Name: crape myrtle
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Lythraceae
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Light lavender
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Leaf: Good Fall
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil, Air Pollution

Culture

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), some gardeners prefer 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 may still suffer significant injury or die to the ground in harsh winters.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lagerstroemia is a genus of about 40 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees from warm-temperate to tropical areas of Asia to Australia. They are grown for their very showy, lovely summer to fall bloom. In warmer areas many can be grown as trees but in colder climates they may be killed to the ground but resprout from below ground to be grown more as shrubs.

Genus name honors Magnus von Lagerstroem (1691-1759), Swedish botanist, Director of the Swedish East Indies Company and friend of Linnaeus.

Common name is in reference to the crepe-papery inflorescences and the myrtle-like (Myrtus communis) features of the bark and foliage.

'Apalachee' is a cross between L. indica and L. fauriei. It is one of several mildew resistant hybrids developed by the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., all of which have been given Native American tribe names. It is a deciduous, upright, spreading, multi-stemmed shrub. Features dark green foliage (bronze tinged when young) turning dull orange to dark red in fall, cinnamon to gray bark which exfoliates with age and terminal, crepe-papery, 5-9" long inflorescences (panicles) of light lavender flowers 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 or small tree with a maximum size of 13' tall and 9' wide. In the St. Louis area where winter injury is a problem, plants will grow much smaller.

Problems

The two main disease problems of crape myrtles are fungal leaf spot and powdery mildew. Foliage may yellow (chlorosis) in alkaline soils. Some susceptibility to aphids and scale. Winter injury, particularly to top growth, may occur in USDA Zones 5 and 6.

'Apalachee' reportedly has excellent mildew resistance.

Garden Uses

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 tall screen or informal hedge or may be trained as a small tree.