Jul 09 2012

Loves Heat

Published by at 7:00 am under Trees

Last weekend we visited my family in southeastern Virginia.  Man, it was hot!!   80o at 7:00am, 102o in the afternoon.  The weather looked great as long as you weren't out in it.  The only comfortable time outdoors was before 9:00am.

During one of my early morning forays I examined crepe myrtle flowers for the first time.

Crepe myrtle (also spelled crape myrtle and crapemyrtle) is a small ornamental tree or shrub from Asia and the Indian subcontinent whose flowers are crinkled like crêpe fabric.  It blooms profusely in shades of pink or white throughout the summer. There are many Lagerstroemia species.  The ones I examined were probably indica cultivars.

The flowers looked great all day despite the heat.  What's crepe myrtle's secret?  It loves full sun and heat -- the more the better.  The only thing it doesn't like is prolonged frosty weather.

Crepe myrtle grows anywhere south of USDA zone 6 (in other words, zones 7 and higher).  On the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness map, small parts of the Pittsburgh area inched into zone 7. Maybe by mid-century we'll be growing crepe myrtle in Pittsburgh.

When that happens we'll have to love heat, too.

(photo by Kate St. John)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Loves Heat”

  1. Bill Parkeron 09 Jul 2012 at 7:42 am

    There are a few cultivars that are grown around Pittsburgh that suffer through the winter. There were a few “crepe myrtlettes” that we would see blooming in Edgeworth. Since they were short – only about 18″ – they got less chilling and were on the south side and against the house. They were the watermelon color that bloomed in watermelon season. I’m not enough of an extrapolator to predict they will become common in the ‘Burgh”.

  2. Stephenon 09 Jul 2012 at 8:21 am

    I have one in my front yard (Ross Township, Pittsburgh), which is West facing. It is about 5′ tall and does pretty well.

    This year it is not blooming since I didn’t cut it back in the spring, for fear of committing “crepe murder”. I’d cut it back the last two springs pretty hard (as I was told to do by the previous house owners). It does produce beautiful pink blooms.

    I just learned recently that these are not that common in the area, so I hope to keep it going well, and any advice anyone has on maintaining them is appreciated.

  3. Annon 01 Feb 2015 at 6:21 am

    Having lived in Virginia for 7 years, falling in love with the Crepe Myrtle was unavoidable. So when we moved to Pittsburgh, I began hoping to find one that could survive here. After a few years I finally found a hardy Northern Crepe Myrtle. It did great! It bloomed every year after the weather got hot. It was planted on the south facing side of our house between the house and a sidewalk which I think helped in keeping it hot. It was as tall as our second story window. I never had to cut it back and it did fine. Actually, I just let it alone and didn’t give it any special treatment. It only just died this past year. So I will be looking for another one to replace it, hoping it does as well.

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