Crepe Myrtle Root System: Are Crepe Myrtle Roots Invasive

Crepe Myrtle Root System: Are Crepe Myrtle Roots Invasive

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By: Teo Spengler

Crepe myrtle trees are lovely, delicate trees offering bright, spectacular flowers in the summer and beautiful fall color when the weather begins to chill. But are crepe myrtle roots invasive enough to cause problems? You don’t have to worry about this issue because crepe myrtle tree roots are not invasive.

Are Crepe Myrtle Roots Invasive?

The crepe myrtle is a small tree, rarely growing taller than 30 feet (9 m.). Beloved by gardeners for its luxurious summer blossoms in shades of pink and white, the tree also offers exfoliating bark and an autumn foliage display. If you are thinking about planting one in the garden, don’t worry about the invasiveness of crepe myrtles and their roots. The crepe myrtle root system will not harm your foundation.

The crepe myrtle root system can extend a considerable distance but the roots are not aggressive. The roots are relatively weak and will not insert themselves into nearby foundations, sidewalks or endanger nearly plants. Crepe myrtle roots do not sink taproots deep into the ground or send lateral roots out to crack anything in their path. In fact, the entire crepe myrtle root system is shallow and fibrous, spreading out horizontally up to three times as far as the canopy is wide.

On the other hand, it is wise to keep all trees at least 5 to 10 feet (2-3 m.) away from walkways and foundations. The crepe myrtle is no exception. In addition, the root system grows so close to the surface of the soil that you shouldn’t plant flowers in the area below the tree. Even grass might compete with the shallow crepe myrtle roots for water.

Do Crepe Myrtles Have Invasive Seeds?

Some experts list crepe myrtles as potentially invasive plants, but the invasiveness of crepe myrtle has nothing to do with the crepe myrtle tree roots. Rather, the tree reproduces so readily from its seeds that, once the seeds escape cultivation, the resulting trees can crowd out native plants in the wild.

Since most of the popular crepe myrtle cultivars are hybrid and do not produce seeds, reproduction by seeds in the wild is not a problem. This means that you do not risk introducing an invasive species by planting a crepe myrtle in the backyard.

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Read more about Crepe Myrtle

Top 10 Questions About Crepe Myrtle Trees

Crepe myrtles are among the most ornamental trees available, emblematic of southern gardens. Their popularity stems from their generous crop of showy flowers. Although crepe myrtles are usually vigorous and hardy, it makes life easier if you have ready access to tips on caring for these gorgeous plants. We all have questions now and then, and Gardening Know How has answers. Here are the 10 questions readers ask most about crepe myrtle trees.

Sometimes you prune a tree to fortify or form it, sometimes you prune to please yourself. With crepe myrtles, the tree doesn’t require pruning for health, vigor or branch structure. If you prune, it is to create a specific look, natural or formal. You can prune to open up the inside of the tree for a natural look. For natural pruning, clip out potential problems like broken or overlapping branches, then remove smaller inner shoots. Alternatively, prune formal-style, removing outer branches to shape the tree to particular height or width. In either event, prune in late winter or early spring.

Most gardeners plant crepe myrtle for the gorgeous flowers, so it’s frustrating when your tree doesn’t bloom. With attention, you can probably figure out the problem. If you pruned after the tree started bud production, you might have removed all the flower buds. But sometimes a tree can’t bloom because tightly crowded branches prevent light and air from reaching the tree center. Too little sun can also result in a flowerless tree. If none of these describe your situation, check the soil. Too few nutrients or too much fertilizer can also explain why your crepe myrtle isn’t full of flowers.

Crepe myrtle roots travel far and wide, spreading three times the width of the canopy. This might make you wonder whether they will dig into plumbing lines or sidewalks like some tree roots do. While it is never a good idea to plant trees close to walkways, septic systems or foundations, crepe myrtle roots shouldn’t cause you worries. They are long, but shallow and weak. They won’t strangle nearby plants or cause issues with pipes or driveways. On the other hand, don’t plant flowers or grass under a crepe myrtle since the tree’s roots can’t compete well for nutrients.

It’s an awful moment when you look at your crepe myrtle leaves in early summer and notice that they are turning brown. If the spots are tiny black spore-bearing bodies, your tree may be suffering from tip blight. Blight can be caused by overly moist foliage, so immediately stop overhead watering and prune the plant to let the air pass through. You should apply a copper or lime sulfur fungicide as soon as you notice the browning leaves. Repeat the applications every 10 days throughout the wet season. It also helps to replace old mulch to prevent a new outbreak.

While crepe myrtle trees are known for frothy blossoms, the trees also need to have leaves for photosynthesis. If your crepe myrtle has few or no leaves, something isn’t right. Check the tree for lines of ants. They suggest that your trees have a significant aphid problem. But your tree’s problem could also be a late freeze that killed the young buds or stress from inadequate irrigation or pollution. If only a few branches aren’t developing leaves, your crepe myrtle may have a disease called verticillium wilt. Prune the branches back to healthy wood, then dispose of the diseased portions.

Once you’ve experienced the joys of a crepe myrtle in your backyard, it’s natural to want more. Propagating your own trees is inexpensive and fun. A popular method of propagating crepe myrtle is to sprout a cutting. Take tip cuttings in spring and plant them in sandy soil until they root. Covering them with a plastic bag helps keep them moist. Root cuttings also work to create new plants. Additionally, you can grow new crepe myrtles from the seeds of the plant. If you don’t deadhead, spent blossoms produce berries that are followed by seed pods. Collect them for planting in spring.

You may live with a healthy crepe myrtle in the garden for a few years, then wake up one day to find that the tree’s bark is falling off. Don’t panic. This is likely a perfectly normal phenomenon. One of the beautiful features of a mature crepe myrtle is peeling bark that reveals the coloration in the wood. But this peeling doesn’t happen until the crepe myrtle is fully mature. So just sit back and enjoy the bark’s display that adds winter interest to your tree. Of course, it’s always a good thing. In some instance, insects may be to blame, so check for aphids or other pests.

Crepe myrtle trees are not without their share of problems. If your crepe myrtle’s leaf edges look tattered or you notice similar damage, your tree may have pests. One of the common pests that plague these large shrubs is spider mites. Look carefully at the crepe myrtle foliage for tannish spots on the leaves, pinpoints of red or white moving about the leaves and/or tell-tale cottony webs on the underside of leaves. Get them off your plant with strong jets of hose water or by bringing in hungry ladybugs. Crepe myrtles also attract eastern tent caterpillars, but these are more of an eyesore than a threat to your plants.

Yellowing leaves indicate that all isn’t well with your crepe myrtles. You can bet that the culprit is aphids if you see a sappy substance on the leaves or falling on the objects beneath the tree canopy. Aphids produce a sweet syrupy substance called honeydew when they infest a plant’s foliage. Honeydew can attract other pests, like black sooty mold. Ants also love honeydew and often arrive in lines when the aphid population gets out of control. Aphids cause the leaves to become distorted and often yellowing occurs. Get rid of aphids naturally by bringing in insect predators like lacewings and ladybugs. Neem oil is also effective.

If you see shoots growing around the base of your crepe myrtles, these are root suckers. The tree grows these suckers from its roots if it is stressed. Grafted trees and street trees always suffer from a little stress, so you are likely to spot root suckers regularly. Reduce the amount of root suckers by reducing the crepe myrtle’s stress. Be sure it gets sufficient water and nutrients, limit pruning and check for pests. It’s not hard to remove the suckers. Use pruning shears and clip them off as close to the tree as you can, leaving the collar intact.

We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.

Black Diamond Crape Myrtle Classification

Family: Lythraceae (Loosestrife family)
Genus: Lagerstroemia
Species: indica
Botanical Name: Lagerstroemia indica


This collection was first bred by an agriculture research scientist in the U.S.A. Later, the J. Berry Nursery in Texas started growing them on large scale.

Genus Lagerstroemia

Lagerstroemia is a genus comprising of about 50 species, commonly known as the Crape or Crepe Myrtles. By nature, these plants are deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. These are the natives of warm climates worldwide particularly Indo-Pak subcontinent, Southeast Asia, northern Australia and a few parts of Oceania.

The name Lagerstroemia is named to honor Magnus Von Lagerstrom. He was a merchant and used to supply plants to the British East India Company.

The dark foliage and brightly colored flowers of the trees are the two most prominent features of this genus. They are widely used for decorative plantation throughout the world. The mesmerizing foliage makes them attractive enough to decorate any spot in the garden or backyard.

Are crape myrtles invasive?

Some experts list crepe myrtles as potentially invasive plants, but the invasiveness of crepe myrtle has nothing to do with the crepe myrtle tree roots. Rather, the tree reproduces so readily from its seeds that, once the seeds escape cultivation, the resulting trees can crowd out native plants in the wild.

is a crepe myrtle a tree or a bush? Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) Crape myrtles are popular landscape trees. Crape myrtles are popular landscape trees. They bloom in the summer, when there are few other trees and shrubs providing that service. The larger varieties grow rather quickly, providing a bit of shade in addition to the seasonal color.

Just so, can you plant a crepe myrtle near your house?

Crape Myrtle Choices As a general rule of thumb, plant crape myrtles of this mature size a minimum of 8 to 10 feet from a building wall, and farther if you can. This spacing gives the plant room to expand to its full size. It will naturally tend to grow away from the wall and toward the light.

What grows well with crepe myrtles?

Compliment Your Crepe Myrtles

  2. Perennial Hibiscus. Perennial Hibiscus plants provide dramatic, tropical blooms all summer long.
  3. Gallardia. Gaillardia Moxie.
  4. Agastache. These prized trees are one of the darlings of Hampton Roads - in assorted shades of pinks from pastel to fuchsia.
  5. Lantana.
  6. Coreopsis.
  7. Coneflowers.
  8. Daylilies.

In Front of a Window

Even though small crepe myrtles that don't grow taller than 6 to 12 feet are widely available (such as ‘Acoma,' Black Magic series, Early Bird series, Magic series, ‘Siren Red,' ‘Velma's Royal Delight, ‘Zuni'), many people don't check the mature height on the plant tag. Plus, plant tags frequently underestimate mature heights by five feet or more. Pretty soon, the nice, well-behaved, little crepe myrtle you planted is blocking the window, rubbing up against the gutters, and leaning over on the roof. The most common response is to cut back the offending tree to ugly, three-foot stumps.

Take five minutes when you're planting this fall to envision the consequences five or ten years from now. You will thank yourself profusely.

Watch the video: Propagate Crape Myrtle Trees by Cuttings