Crepe myrtles, perfect for Portland

OK, I missed Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-up this month. But because it’s never too late to appreciate a crepe myrtle, I’m making up for it now.  If you have a garden in Portland, Oregon without a crepe myrtle, why?

Since most are still in bloom right around now, let’s start with flowers:  pink, coral, lavender, purple, or red.

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If you don’t fancy any of those colors, white is a great option.  This one below is ‘Natchez.’

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If you’re like me and you need more than frilly blooms to be won over, there’s more. Foliage is glossy and offers such an attractive range of colors that change from new growth  through the summer, and then on to a stunning show of fall color in red, orange, or yellow. (I better collect photos of changing leaves to post in a month or two!)

Here’s what my ‘Tuscarora’ looked like in late April (left) and now (right).

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Here’s a variety with darker green.

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If blooms and foliage aren’t enough to impress you, here’s the attractive feature you’ll enjoy all winter long: the exfoliating bark in a variety of colors, from subtle pale tones to rich orange.

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Again, here’s my backyard ‘Tuscarora,’ just starting to show off in its third season:

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In Japan, crepe myrtles are called “sarusuberi” which translates as “monkey slide” referring to the smooth bark.

The branches sometimes bend under the weight of the blooms, and will definitely occur in specimens that are severely pruned or topped as these below were.

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Most crepe myrtles are small, under 20 feet.  If that’s too big for your garden, there are a few that reach a maximum of only 6 to 8 feet tall.  They are fast growing and they don’t need rich soil.  Full sun is great for crepe myrtles, and I’ve never seen one in Portland with crispy brown leaves in the summer.

We’re fortunate in Portland to have a great variety of crepe myrtles best suited for our climate selected and offered by Xera Plants along with really useful cultivar details on their website.  I also recommend this informative Pacific Horticulture article.

So there you have it – the perfect tree to fit into any urban garden landscape.  It looks great in all 4 seasons — what more could you want?

Crepe myrtle (sometimes spelled ‘crape myrtle’) –  Lagerstroemia indica, L. fauriei, and hybrids.

  • Deciduous multi-stemmed tree to ranging approximately 6 to 20 feet tall
  • Hardy to USDA zone 6 or 7
  • Full sun and well-drained, unamended soil
  • Showy blooms and bark
  • Mildew can be a problem, but many varieties are resistant
  • Drought tolerant

They make a great street tree with a single trunk.

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This crepe myrtle below shows its typical multi-stemmed, upright and spreading form.

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Unrelated to the crepe myrtles, but while we’re at this location let’s turn around so I can show you this chitalpa, the street tree from my August Bloom Day post.

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It is still blooming!

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3 Responses to Crepe myrtles, perfect for Portland

  1. Julie Fukuda says:

    I love the way these flowers just keep coming and coming. They can be severely pruned with no damage to the tree. I am amazed in Japan as to how much is cut off each winter, yet it all comes back undaunted in the spring. It is said that trees that shed their bark are strong against pollution and make good street trees for that reason.

  2. Ricki Grady says:

    I have one from the Arbor Day Society that has never bloomed in ten years. I don’t mind, because the flowers would probably be that horrible pepto-bismol pink, and the foliage is sublime. I use it in bouquets a lot.

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