Royalty in the landscape – the Queen’s Crape-Myrtle

By Ralph E. Mitchell

Anything with “queen” or “king’” attached to the name of a plant generally means some degree of magnificence.  One such plant is the Queen’s Crape-Myrtle.  Growing upwards of forty feet tall, the pink to lavender blooms are a glory to behold in season.  While they can grow in the warmer parts of  Charlotte County, they are sensitive to the cold which can limit their range. The Queen’s Crape-Myrtle originally came from tropical Asia, so proper warmth is an issue.

I received a small Queen’s Crape-Myrtle over ten years ago to try in my backyard in Port Charlotte.  I had high hopes but was not really overly aware of its tender nature.  It grew to about three feet tall and even began to set a few flowers.  Then, three cold winters later, I was left with a pathetic stump – a shadowed of its former self.  I should have known better, but I had to try and got away with it for a few years.  I have even seen a few on King’s Highway which have taken some blows over the years, but occasionally sneak in some flowers before a cold test winter knocks them back.  Ordinary Crape-Myrtles are very hardy in our area and northward.  However, the Queen’s Crape-Myrtle is more tropical in nature and as such better suited to warmer coastal areas, Punta Gorda, and south in Charlotte County – hardiness zone 10B at a minimum.  Microclimates where temperatures are milder due to some type of natural protection are also worth a try.

The Queen’s Crape-Myrtle is a deciduous tree with leaves that turn red before falling in the winter – a little added winter color interest.  In addition to the large leathery leaves, the bark is attractively mottled and peeling.  The tree has very strong wood, which, when properly pruned, makes a fairly wind-tolerant tree.  Plant your Queen in a full-sun area with a future accommodation for a good thirty to forty-foot spread.  This tree is very drought tolerant once established and is well adapted to our rather alkaline soils.  The Queen is not very salt-tolerant, so please keep this in mind.

My poor little tree did flower within several years of planting, and Queen’s Crape-Myrtle plants are reported to flower from seed in as early as the second year.  In the right place, the Queen’s Crape-Myrtle makes a great specimen tree for a lawn area and is very tolerant of urban conditions.  The flowers put on quite a show from June to July with twelve-inch long panicles of super-sized three-inch wide pink/lavender-colored crape-myrtle flowers.

Now is the time to view the Queen’s Crape-Myrtle.  Plan before you plant – it’s the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ way – and then give your landscape the royal treatment!  For more information on all types of flowering trees suitable for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/03/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf.

Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
Gilman, E. F. & Watson, D. G. ( 2014) Lagerstroemia speciosa: Queen’s Crape-Myrtle.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagerstroemia_speciosa – Lagerstroemia speciosa.

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