crepe myrtle red leaves

Crepe Myrtle Red Leaves: Find out the reasons

Crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) are beloved ornamental trees and shrubs renowned for their stunning summer blooms, attractive bark, and vibrant fall foliage. However, they can occasionally display worrying symptoms, such as leaves turning red or yellow. Understanding the causes and solutions for these issues is crucial for maintaining the health and beauty of your Crepe Myrtle. This blog will explore why crepe myrtle red leaves, offering insights into the possible causes and practical solutions.

What Are Crepe Myrtles?

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Crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are popular ornamental trees and shrubs known for their stunning flowers, ranging in color from white to various shades of pink, red, and purple. Native to Asia, these plants have adapted well to many climates, particularly in the southern United States, where they are often seen in gardens and along streets.

How Tall do Crepe Myrtles Get?

Crepe myrtles, also known as crape myrtles or crapemyrtles, offer a diverse range of sizes to fit any gardening need—from compact dwarf varieties under 3 feet tall to majestic large types that soar over 30 feet. Before purchasing, it’s essential to consider the mature height of the plant to ensure it suits your space, preventing future difficulties in managing its growth.

Most crepe myrtles in cultivation today are derived from Lythraceae indica, a species introduced to the U.S. from China in the early 1800s by the renowned botanist Andre Michaux in Charleston, South Carolina, or from hybrids between L. indica and Lythraceae faurei. The latter is an upright tree known for its heights of 25-50 feet and gracefully arching branches.

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To simplify selection, crepe myrtles are categorized based on mature height into groups: dwarf (2-5 feet), semi-dwarf or short (6-10 feet), medium (11-20 feet), and tall (21-50 feet). Dwarf varieties are perfect for containers, mixed borders, or as mass plantings. Short types fit well in containers or shrub borders and can be placed near buildings.

Medium varieties work beautifully as small shade trees, for lining streets, or as privacy screens. Tall types require ample space and are best planted away from structures. For instance, a single ‘Natchez’ crepe myrtle, known for its considerable size, is sufficient for a 900-square-foot lawn.

Dwarf Crepe Myrtles

NameForm/HeightFlower ColorFall FoliageMildew ResistanceComments
‘Chicksaw’Dense mound 3-4 feet tall and wideLavender-pinkBronze-redVery goodSlow grower; great in container 
‘Enduring Summer’Rounded 4-5 feet tall and wideWhite or red Burgundy-redVery goodLong blooming early summer through fall. Hardy from zone 6-9. 
‘Pocomoke’Mounding, 2-3 feet high, 3-4 feet wideRosy pinkBronze-redHighGreat in containers; no pruning needed; heavy bloomer; cold hardy
Razzle Dazzle seriesMounding, 3-4 feet high and wideSee commentsBurgundyGoodBegins blooming a little later than most crepe myrtles, usually in July; selections include ‘Cherry Dazzle’ (our favorite), cherry-red blooms; ‘Diamond Dazzle,’ white blooms; and ‘Sweetheart Dazzle,’ bubble-gum-pink 
‘Summerlasting’3 feet tall and wideRaspberry, White, Bright pink, PlumBronzeGoodLong bloom season; does great in containers; zone 7-10
‘Tightwad Red’Tight mound 3-4 feet tall and wideDeep redBurgundyHighSmall leaves emerge wine-red in spring, changing to deep green in summer; sterile—no seed pods; cold hardy 
‘Victor’Compact, 3-5 feet tall and wideDeep redOrange-yellowGoodCold hardy

Semi-Dwarf or Short Crepe Myrtles

NameForm/HeightFlower ColorFall FoliageMildew ResistanceComments
‘Acoma’Arching, spreading, 6-10 feet tall and wideWhiteReddish purpleHighHandsome, light gray bark; repeat bloomer; cold hardy; our favorite white
‘Delta Jazz’ (part of the Southern Living Plant Collection)Upright, 6-10 feet tall, 4-5 feet widePinkBurgundyGoodDark burgundy leaves are main attraction; not a heavy bloomer
Early Bird series(part of the Southern Living Plant Collection)Upright, 5-8 feet high, 3-4 feet wideWhite, lavender or purpleBurgundy-redGoodBlooms earlier than most crepe myrtles, as early as Mother’s Day; reblooms over summer, offering over 100 days of blooms; great in containers
‘Hopi’Spreading, bushy, 7-10 feet tall and wideMedium pinkOrange-redHighHandsome, gray-brown bark; repeat bloomer; cold hardy
Magic seriesRounded, bushy, 7-10 feet tall and wideSee commentsLight yellowGoodSelections include ‘Coral Magic’ (coral-pink blooms), ‘Plum Magic’ (fuchsia-pink), and ‘Purple Magic’ (purple); new growth emerges red-dish and then changes to deep green
‘Red Rooster’Upright, 8-10 feet tall, 5 feet wideBright redRedGoodNew foliage emerges maroon-red; cold hardy
‘Siren Red’Rounded, 8-10 feet tall and wideDark redYellowHighNew foliage emerges wine-red and then changes to dark green
‘Velma’s Royal DelightBushy, 4-6 feet tall and wideRich, magenta-purpleYellow-orangeGoodGorgeous fl owers; handsome bark; cold hardy
‘White Chocolate’8-10 feet tall and wideWhiteOrange and yellowGoodBeautiful in the landscape; leaves emerge maroon, then change to burgundy-green
‘Zuni’Vase-shaped, spreading, 6-10 feet tall and wideMedium lavenderOrange-redHighGraceful form, long bloomer, hand-some bark, cold hardy; our favorite lavender

Medium Crepe Myrtles

NameForm/HeightFlower ColorFall FoliageMildew ResistanceComments
Black Diamond seriesUpright, spreading, 10-12 feet tall, 8 feet wideSee commentsDeep purpleGoodThese new trademarked plants are the same as the Ebony series developed by the USDA; they’re noted for striking, blackish purple foliage and contrasting flowers of red, pink, and white; selections include ‘Best Red’ (‘Ebony Flame’), ‘Blush’ (‘Ebony Glow’), ‘Crimson Red’ (‘Ebony Fire’), and ‘Pure White’ (‘Ebony & Ivory’)
‘Burgundy Cotton’Upright to 12 feet tall, 6-7 feet wideWhiteBurgundyGoodBurgundy flower buds; leaves emerge wine-red and then change to burgundy-green; fast grower
‘Catawba’Upright, 12-15 feet tall, 8-10 feet wideDeep purpleOrange-redGoodCold hardy; our favorite purple
‘Comanche’Upright spreading, 12-15 feet tall and wideCoral-pinkOrange-redHighHandsome tan to sandalwood bark; cold hardy
‘Dynamite’Upright, 15-20 feet tall, 10 feet wideCherry-redOrange-redGoodFlowers may develop white flecking if they open on cool, overcast days; nearly seedless; new growth is crim-son, changing to green; cold hardy
‘Lipan’Upright, spreading, 15-20 feet tall and wideMedium lavenderOrangeHighBeautiful white to beige bark; cold hardy
‘Near East’Open, vase-shaped, 10-15 feet tall and wideSoft pinkYellowFair to goodBeautiful blooms; not very cold hardy; not for Middle or Upper South
‘Osage’Open, arching to pendulous, 15-20 ft. tall and wideClear, light pinkRedHighOutstanding, chestnut-brown bark; heavy and long bloomer
‘Pink Velour’Upright to vase-shaped, 10-12 feet tall and wideNeon pinkYellowGoodVery showy blooms; leaves emerge wine-red and then change to burgundy-green; nearly seedless
‘Red Rocket’Upright to 15-10 feet tall, 15 feet wideCherry-redOrange-redGoodHuge flower clusters; flowers open-ing on cool, overcast days may show white flecking; new growth is red and then changes to deep green; cold hardy; our favorite red
‘Regal Red’Upright to rounded, 15-20 feet tall and wideVivid, deep redRed-orangeGoodHeavy bloomer; handsome bark; cold hardy
‘Rhapsody in Pink’Upright to rounded, 12-15 feet tall and wideSoft pinkYellow-orangeGoodSeedless; leaves emerge purple and hold color through summer; flower clusters rebloom
‘Sioux’Upright to 15-20 feet tall, 15 feet wideBright pinkRedHighHeavy and long bloomer; smooth, light-brown bark; susceptible to leaf spot in high rainfall areas
‘Tonto’Rounded, 10-12 feet tall and wideRedMaroonHighHandsome, cream-colored to gray bark
‘Tuscarora’Vase-shaped, 15-20 feet tall and wideDeep coral-pinkOrange-redHighHandsome, mottled, light brown bark
‘Yuma’Upright, vase-shaped, 12-15 feet tall and wideMedium lavenderYellow-orangeGoodBeautiful blooms; handsome, light gray bark; cold hardy

Tall Crepe Myrtles

NameForm/HeightFlower ColorFall FoliageMildew ResistanceComments
‘Arapaho’Upright, vase-shaped, 18-25 feet tall and wideIntense redMaroonHighHandsome, tan bark; fast grower; cold hardy
‘Basham’s Party Pink’Upright, spreading, to 50 feet tall and wideLavender-pinkOrange-redGoodVery popular in south Texas; not very cold hardy; not recommended for Upper and Middle South
‘Biloxi’Upright, vase-shaped, to 35 feet tall, 15 feet wideLight pinkYellow-orange to redHighFast grower; beautiful, chestnut-brown bark; cold hardy
‘Miami’Upright, spreading, 18-25 feet tall and wideDeep pinkOrange-redHighOutstanding, chestnut-brown bark; cold hardy; our favorite pink
‘Muskogee’Broad, spreading, to 30 feet tall and wideLight lavenderOrange-redHighHandsome, light gray-brown bark; long bloomer; cold hardy
‘Natchez’Upright, arching, to 35 feet tall and wideWhiteOrange-redHighSpectacular, cinnamon-brown bark; fast grower; long bloomer; most widely planted crepe myrtle in the South
‘Tuskegee’Broad, spreading, 18-25 feet tall and wideDark rose-pinkOrange-redHighMottled, light tan bark; long bloomer
‘William Toovey’Upright, spreading, 18-25 feet tall and wideWatermelon-redOrange-redGoodOften sold as ‘Watermelon Red’; fi rst named crepe myrtle selection
‘Twilight’20 – 25 feet tall and 10 -15 feet wide. Deep purple Orange, yellow, BurgundyGoodBronze leaf in early spring then green for summer. Blooms June through frost. Beautiful mottled bark. Zones 7-9 

Crepe Myrtle Overview

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Crepe Myrtles are popular in landscapes for several reasons:

  • Aesthetic Appeal: They produce an abundance of flowers in various colors, including pink, white, red, and purple.
  • Versatility: They can be grown as trees or shrubs, fitting well into different garden styles.
  • Resilience: Crepe Myrtles are hardy and can thrive in various soil conditions.
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However, like all plants, they require proper care to avoid issues like discolored leaves. Let’s delve into the reasons behind the red and yellow leaves on Crepe Myrtles.

Causes of Red Leaves on Crepe Myrtles

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1. Seasonal Changes

One of the most common reasons for red leaves on Crepe Myrtles is the natural transition to fall. As temperatures drop and daylight decreases, Crepe Myrtles, like many deciduous plants, prepare for winter by entering a state of dormancy. This process involves the breakdown of chlorophyll, the green pigment in leaves, revealing the red, orange, and yellow pigments that were previously masked.

  • Observation: If the red leaves appear in late summer or fall, it is likely part of the natural aging process.
  • Action: No action is needed. Enjoy the beautiful fall colors!

2. Nutrient Deficiency

Another possible cause of red leaves is a deficiency in certain nutrients, particularly phosphorus. Phosphorus is vital for energy transfer and photosynthesis in plants, and its deficiency can cause leaves to turn reddish-purple.

  • Observation: Check if other symptoms of phosphorus deficiency are present, such as stunted growth and dark green foliage with reddish undersides.
  • Action: Conduct a soil test to confirm the deficiency. If confirmed, amend the soil with a phosphorus-rich fertilizer.

3. Water Stress

Water stress, either from overwatering or underwatering, can also cause Crepe Myrtle leaves to turn red. Insufficient water limits the plant’s ability to take up nutrients while overwatering can lead to root rot, both of which stress the plant.

  • Observation: Check the soil moisture. Consistently wet or extremely dry soil could indicate water stress.
  • Action: Adjust watering practices to ensure the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged.
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4. Pests and Diseases

Certain pests and diseases can cause Crepe Myrtle leaves to turn red. For instance, aphids secrete honeydew, which can lead to sooty mold, a fungal growth that affects photosynthesis.

  • Observation: Look for signs of pests such as aphids, or fungal growth on leaves.
  • Action: Use appropriate pesticides or natural predators to control pests and remove affected leaves to prevent the spread of disease.

Diagnosing and Addressing Leaf Discoloration

image 1
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Step-by-Step Diagnosis

  1. Observe the Timing: Determine when the discoloration occurs. Seasonal changes usually affect leaf color in late summer or fall.
  2. Inspect Soil Moisture: Check if the soil is too wet or too dry, indicating potential water stress.
  3. Examine Nutrient Levels: Conduct a soil test to check for nutrient deficiencies.
  4. Look for Pests and Diseases: Identify any signs of pest infestation or disease.

Practical Solutions

  • Water Management: Adjust watering practices to ensure consistent soil moisture without waterlogging.
  • Soil Amendments: Add fertilizers based on soil test results to correct nutrient deficiencies.
  • Pest and Disease Control: Use appropriate treatments to manage pests and diseases effectively.

Preventive Measures for Healthy Crepe Myrtles

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Maintaining the health of your Crepe Myrtle involves proactive care. Here are some preventive measures:

1. Proper Watering

  • Regular Monitoring: Check soil moisture regularly to prevent both overwatering and underwatering.
  • Mulching: Apply mulch around the base of the plant to retain soil moisture and regulate temperature.

2. Nutrient Management

  • Balanced Fertilization: Use a balanced fertilizer to provide essential nutrients throughout the growing season.
  • Soil Testing: Conduct periodic soil tests to monitor nutrient levels and adjust fertilization accordingly.

3. Pest and Disease Prevention

  • Routine Inspection: Regularly inspect your Crepe Myrtle for signs of pests and diseases.
  • Prompt Treatment: Address any issues immediately to prevent them from spreading and causing significant damage.

4. Pruning and Maintenance

  • Proper Pruning: Prune your Crepe Myrtle to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration, reducing the risk of disease.
  • Cleaning Debris: Remove fallen myrtles leaves and debris around the plant to prevent pest and disease infestations.

Additional Tips for Crepe Myrtle Care

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  • Selecting the Right Location: Ensure your Crepe Myrtle is planted in a location with full sun exposure and well-draining soil.
  • Choosing the Right Variety: Select a Crepe Myrtle variety that is well-suited to your climate and soil conditions.
  • Winter Protection: In colder climates, protect your Crepe Myrtle from harsh winter conditions by mulching around the base and using protective coverings if necessary.

Conclusion

Crepe Myrtles are resilient and beautiful additions to any landscape, but they require proper care to maintain their health and vibrant appearance. Understanding the causes behind red leaves can help you diagnose and address issues promptly, ensuring your Crepe Myrtle thrives. By implementing preventive measures and providing consistent care, you can enjoy the stunning beauty of your Crepe Myrtle year after year.

Maintaining healthy Crepe Myrtles involves a combination of proper watering, nutrient management, pest and disease control, and regular maintenance. By paying attention to the specific needs of your plant and addressing any issues early, you can ensure that your Crepe Myrtle remains a vibrant and attractive feature in your garden.

By following these guidelines and staying vigilant about your plant’s needs, you can keep your Crepe Myrtle healthy and beautiful, enjoying its vibrant blooms and colorful foliage throughout the seasons.