How To Grow Crape Myrtle Seeds

How To Grow Crape Myrtle Seeds

The crape myrtle is a popular summer bloomer known to decorate gardens and landscapes of the southern U.S. Its bright pink, red, and lavender blossoms have gained this hot weather shrub the nickname “Lilac of the South.”

The crape myrtle gets its name from the stunning crepey flowers that cluster its branches and its small, myrtle-like leaves. Despite the similar leaf shape, the crape myrtle is not an actual myrtle tree.

According to Piedmont Master Gardeners, crepe myrtle is a typical southern spelling of the tree’s name, and crape myrtle is often used for other cultivars of the species. Regardless, both spellings refer to the same deciduous shrub, scientifically titled Lagerstroemia indica.

If you’re a crape myrtle fanatic or a new gardener seeking an easy-to-grow ornamental, this is the guide for you. We’ll go over crape myrtle growing tips, maintenance musts, and more. 

How To Collect Crape Myrtle Seeds

Crape myrtles bloom in the late summer, producing bold flowers and round, green berries.

The tree is well known for its long flowering season, which can exceed 120 days from the early summer into mid-fall. 

As the season progresses, the berries will turn into pods that hold the tree’s seeds. You can harvest the seeds to produce new growths or leave them on the tree as a food source for native birds.

Smithsonian ornithologist Gary Graves says the following about crape myrtle seeds

“A large crape myrtle tree (20-feet tall) can produce a few pounds of seed each year. They produce brown, ovoid capsules with six cavities, each containing four-winged seeds. There are approximately 570,000 individual seeds in 2.3 pounds of crape myrtle seed. That’s a lot of seeds when you consider there are tens of millions of crape myrtle trees growing in the southeastern U.S. from Virginia to Texas.”

You know crape myrtle seeds are plentiful, but how can you properly collect them from your own tree? The first step to successful seed collection is knowing which parts of the crape myrtle are seed capsules and which are flower bulbs that have yet to open.

This video from the LSU AgCenter demonstrates how to differentiate crape myrtle seed pods from flower buds.

 

Once you’ve located your crape myrtle’s seed pods, you can begin collecting them for planting. 

Harvest your tree’s seeds in the fall or winter, depending on when the pods have dried up and turned browned. Simply shake the dried capsules to release seeds, catching them in a bowl or net. 

After collecting the seeds, store them in a jar or paper bag until you’re ready to plant them. 

How To Germinate Crape Myrtle Seeds

You’ll germinate your crepe myrtle seeds before planting them in your garden. Britannica defines germination as “the sprouting of a seed, spore, or other reproductive body, usually after a period of dormancy.”

You should typically start the germination process in early spring so that your new growths will be ready for planting by summer. 

You can try a couple of methods to encourage the germination of crape myrtle seeds:

  • Spread your seeds between two paper towels. Place the paper towels in a plastic bag, then saturate the towels with water using a spray bottle. Push excess air from the bag so that it lays flat. Then, zip it closed.
  • Fill a container with one to two inches of potting soil and drop in the crepe myrtle seeds. Cover the seeds with a generous amount of water using a spray bottle, and then sprinkle a thin layer of potting mix over them. Spray the contents of the container with water one more time, and then place the container in a resealable plastic bag. Keeping the container in a bag will produce the humid environment needed for germination.

Crape myrtle seeds typically take two to three weeks to germinate. A successfully germinated seed will produce a white root or tiny green sprout.

You should plant seeds from the paper towel method in a container of potting mix at the first sign of root development. The earlier you transfer the seedling to the soil, the less chance you’ll have to damage the delicate root. 

Once the seeds from either germination method have sprouted out of the dirt and developed one or two sets of leaves, it’s time to plant them in their permanent location.

Other Ways To Grow Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtles grown from seeds may differ in color from their parent plant. 

You can propagate new plants through root division or cuttings if you have an existing crape myrtle in your garden you’d like to duplicate. New trees created from an existing plant’s roots or cutting will be of the same variety as the parent plant.

How To Grow Crape Myrtles From Roots

  1. In the late winter, dig around the base of your crepe myrtle tree and cut off several three-inch-long sections of root.
  2. Place the root cuttings about four inches deep in a composted bed.
  3. Mulch the soil regularly and mist the area with water to create a humid environment. 
  4. Once the root cuttings have produced stems and leaf nodes, move them to their permanent place in your garden. Try planting them by early spring to be ready by the growing season.

How To Grow Crape Myrtles From Cuttings

  1. Cut a new growth from your crape myrtle tree during the summer growing season. 
  2. Cut the growth into five-inch long sections, each with several leaf nodes sprouting from the sides.
  3. Remove the bottom leaves so that the cutting is a thin stick with two to four leaves at the top. 
  4. Help your hardwood cuttings take root faster by dipping the bottoms of the stems in a rooting hormone
  5. Stick the cuttings down in a container or bed of moist potting mix. 
  6. Mulch the area with peat moss or sphagnum moss to encourage the cuttings to take root.
  7. Place the containers in a shaded location, regularly misting them with a spray bottle.
  8. Cuttings should take root one to two months after planting. 
  9. Move the rooted cuttings to their permanent location during the fall or early winter.

Factors to Consider When Growing Crape Myrtles

When gardening any tree or shrub, you must know which conditions are conducive to proper plant growth. The crepe myrtle tree is a versatile, hardy plant that thrives well in various environments. 

However, you can learn about best practices to grow a truly remarkable crape myrtle. 

Climate The crape myrtle grows best in hot, sunny locations. Depending on the variety, crape myrtles can live in Plant Hardiness Zones 6-10.
Water This tree prefers moist soil with proper drainage. Avoid overwatering, which can drown roots and slow flower growth. Deeply water the tree after planting and occasionally throughout the growing season. Crape myrtles are drought-hardy and can survive periods of little to no rain.
Soil Quality The plant grows in most soil types, ranging from sandy loams to rich clays. It can thrive in alkaline and acidic areas as long as the soil is well-drained and moist.
Fertilizer Apply fertilizer to your crape myrtles in the early spring, right before they begin sprouting new growths. The University of Georgia Extension recommends choosing a fertilizer with even nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium distribution. 
Light Crape myrtles grow best in areas with six or more hours of full sun per day. They can live in partially shaded areas but are less prone to disease in sunny locations with proper airflow.
Diseases Common crape myrtle diseases include powdery mildew and fungal leaf spot. Mildew results in dust-like growths on sprouts and seeds, while leaf spot causes foliage damage and death. Adding a 4-inch layer of mulch around newly planted crape myrtles helps prevent insect and mold damage.

How Long Does It Take a Crape Myrtle To Grow?

Crape myrtles grow quickly. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “this shrub grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24 inches per year.”

Crape myrtles generally grow between 15-25 feet tall, so most trees take five to 10 years to mature. These trees live more than 50 years when properly maintained.

Where To Buy Crape Myrtle Seeds

You can buy crape myrtle seeds, but we recommend starting with an established tree first. Most home improvement stores and garden centers sell crape myrtles for $60-$100, depending on the plant’s size and variety. 

You can plant the tree in your garden in the exact spot you’d like it to grow. Crape myrtles are easy to maintain, so you’ll get practice caring for an established tree before you try to grow one from seed.

You can purchase them online or at a garden center if you’d like to buy crape myrtle seeds instead of harvesting them from an existing tree. You can also ask around in your neighborhood; many gardeners will be happy to sell or lend you a few seeds from their crape myrtles.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to grow crape myrtle seeds, you can start filling your garden with these stunning summer bloomers.

If you don’t want to wait for your seeds to germinate and grow, you can purchase a small tree from your local nursery or garden center. If you have existing trees you’d like to multiply, you can grow more crape myrtles from cuttings or root division.

No matter how you grow your crape myrtles, we have no doubt you’ll enjoy watching these bright, versatile blossoms color your garden year after year.

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