Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia species) are popular mainstays of the Southern garden. Their long bloom period during late summer provides beauty and landscape value when many other plants have succumbed to hot weather. Some people spell the common name with an “e” because the blooms look like crepe paper or the fabric crepe de Chine.
Both Lagerstroemia indica and L. fauriei, and hybrids between these species, produce plants that are used as large shrubs or small trees, growing from 15 to 30 feet tall. With the introduction of L. subcostata, breeding programs began developing dwarf cultivars.
The National Arboretum introduced a series of crape myrtle cultivars that were named for Indian tribes. While most of these grow to tree size, two smaller selections, ‘Chicksaw’ and ‘Pokomoke,’ grow 2 to 3 feet in height. There are currently several other active breeding programs across the country developing compact crape myrtles. New introductions include cultivars that are considered groundcover. The prostrate growth of ‘Rosey Carpet’ is 4 to 8 inches in height.
A variety of colors including white, red, pink and purple are available in compact forms. ‘Tightwad Red’ is generally considered to be the best red dwarf but there are several others, such as Cherry Dazzle™. Others in the Dazzle series include Ruby Dazzle™ and Snow Dazzle™.
Most dwarf crepe myrtles will flower for many weeks during summer. They can be grown as individual specimen plants in the front of the perennial or shrub border, or massed to achieve a groundcover effect. Since they are deciduous with limited winter interest, some gardeners place them in front of evergreens. Like standard crape myrtles, the dwarf forms are reliably cold hardy to zone 7a, and to 6b with some protection. ‘Rosey Carpet’ is rated as winter hardy to 10 degrees. It could be grown as a hanging basket in the western piedmont or mountains but would have to be brought inside over the winter.
Most dwarf crapes are resistant to powdery mildew.