Crape myrtle is a deciduous flowering shrub native to India, Asia and parts of Australia. The plants are most well-known for their large, vibrant flowers in colors of white, pink, red or purple that bloom in summer and fall. The crape myrtle plant is hardy in zones 7 through 9, and is a popular landscape addition in warm, southern climates. Crape myrtle is easy to grow in these areas and requires only minimal care once established.
Plant balled-and-burlapped crape myrtles during spring or fall, or plant container-grown specimens during spring, summer or fall. Choose a planting site that receives full sun and has moist, fertile, well-drained soil.
Dig a hole three times as wide and twice as deep as the root ball and spread the roots out gently. Place the crape myrtle plant into the hole so the crown sits about 1 inch above the soil line and gently back-fill with soil.
Water crape myrtle plants thoroughly just after planting to compact the soil. Continue to provide water during the first year of growth in spring, summer and fall. Pour two 5-gallon buckets of water over the soil surrounding the plant every 10 to 14 days.
Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around crape myrtle plants just after planting to conserve moisture and combat weeds. Begin the mulch about 3 inches from the crown to allow room for growth and proper air circulation. Refresh the mulch layer as necessary to maintain a depth of 3 inches.
Apply a slow-release, acid-based fertilizer in early spring before new growth begins. Provide a second application in late fall for the best results. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage. As a general rule, 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of soil is usually sufficient for crape myrtle plants.
Use pruning shears to cut back crape myrtle plants in late winter to encourage vigorous spring growth. Remove only the dead and damaged branches as necessary, but be careful to maintain the plant's shape. Avoid heavy pruning, as this may destroy the crape myrtle's natural character.