Q. Can I grow crape myrtle in the New York area?
This beautiful small tree (originating in Asia and naturalized in the South) is usually regarded as a southern tree. In the New York area we are on the edge of its growing zone. Lagerstroemia indica and its hybrids within this species are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 9. In Zone 7 they may be killed to the ground in hard winters (as many were in the winter of 2014). However, specimens killed in a cold winter will usually regenerate and even produce flowers in the same year.
Varieties that have only L. indica in their parentage are particularly susceptible to cold weather. These include ‘Catawba’, ‘Conestoga’, ‘Potomac’, ‘Cherokee’ and ‘Seminole’. L. fauriei (from Japan) is hardy to Zone 6, and hybrids that are crosses between L. indica and L. fauriei are very reliable in Zone 7. Examples of such crosses are: ‘Lipan’, 'Sioux’, ‘Tonto’, ‘Yuma’ and ‘Zumi’.
Crape myrtles should be grown in full sun; they flower best in warm conditions. However, they should not be planted against a south-facing wall, as breaking dormancy in the winter during a warm spell is harmful. Avoid overwatering in the fall to prevent formation of new growth at that time.
Dwarf varieties are available, e. g ‘Pocomoke’ and ‘Chickasaw’. These can be protected from frosts with burlap or some other type of covering. Myrtles rarely need pruning. They are relatively deer-resistant.
Crape myrtles are available in a wide range of colors ranging from white to yellow to orange through dark red and maroon, and in sizes ranging from 5 feet to 12-15 feet. Many of the varieties listed above were developed at the U.S. National Arboretum. For descriptions of the cultivars produced there, see the arboretum's quick guide chart.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service