Dumbarton House Featured Flora: Crape Myrtle

Written by: Kathy Clare, Garden Volunteer

Lagerstroemia indica

The Crape Myrtle is a small deciduous tree that is native to China and southeast Asia. It was first introduced to England and the United States in the eighteenth century and has been naturalized throughout the United States as far north as Massachusetts. It is commonly called the “Lilac of the South.” Crape Myrtles have a long blooming season of showy flowers in summer with a range of colors from many shades of pink, purple, lavender, and red to white. The flowers are borne in large panicles ranging from 6 to 8 inches in length and 2 to 3 inches in width. The fruits that follow are brown or black and when mature, split to release lots of disk-shaped seeds. The distinctive exfoliating bark provides architectural interest in winter. It can grow 30 feet with a spread of 15-20 feet. It needs full sun and prefers moist but well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

The common name refers to the crinkly flowers that resemble crepe paper. Crape Myrtle is not related to the true Myrtle.