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New AgCenter studies focus on crape myrtles

News Release Distributed 06/06/14

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – New varieties of crape myrtles are currently available in abundance.

Developers have introduced new varieties over the past few years with an emphasis on smaller growth habits, dark foliage colors, earlier bloom and more.

In Louisiana, crape myrtles are one of the most widely planted trees and are the main tree for flowering in landscapes from late spring until early fall.

The LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station has begun a landscape trial that includes most of the recently introduced crape myrtle varieties. These collections include the Early Bird, Razzle Dazzle, Enduring Summer, Delta, Barnyard, Magic and Ebony, also known as the Black Diamond, series in addition to several other varieties

The Early Bird series has been on the market the longest and was bred by John Davy at Panhandle Growers in Florida. They were released by Plant Development Services Inc. as part of the Southern Living Plant Collection.

These are dwarf-growing plants maturing at 4 feet tall. Early Bird Lavender (soft lavender) is promoted as a very heavy earlier bloomer and is the earliest-flowering crape myrtle in LSU AgCenter trials. Other varieties include Early Bird Purple and Early Bird White.

For several years, the burgundy-foliaged Delta Jazz – semi-dwarf, brilliant pink – from Plant Development Services Inc. has been on the market. This variety is part of the Southern Living Plant Collection series of Delta crape myrtles.

Five-year-old plants of Delta Jazz are 8 feet tall in most locations. Plants are classified as semi-dwarf, which generally indicates heights ranging from 8 to 12 feet. New for 2014 are four color additions – Delta Breeze (light lavender), Delta Eclipse (brilliant purple), Delta Moonlight (white) and Delta Flame (dark red).

The new dark burgundy-foliaged Ebony series from Cecil Pounders at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service are also being sold under the Black Diamond name by J. Berry Nursery. These plants mature at 8 feet tall and retain leaf color spring through fall. These plants have slightly darker foliage than the Delta varieties. Flower colors include three shades of red, white and blush.

Red Rooster (brilliant red), Purple Cow (deep purple) and Pink Pig (soft pale pink) are being sold as mid-sized growers and are promoted collectively as the “Barnyard Favorites” in the Gardener’s Confidence Collection. Red Rooster is “something to crow about,” Pink Pig is “something to squeal with delight” and Purple Cow can be used to create an “udderly majestic garden.” These plants are very leaf spot susceptible in LSU AgCenter trials.

The Gardener’s Confidence Collection also includes the Razzle Dazzle crape myrtles. These have been around for eight years or so now with true dwarf habits at 4 feet tall. Varieties are Berry Dazzle (fuchsia), Cherry Dazzle (cherry red), Dazzle Me Pink (pink), Diamond Dazzle (pure white), Strawberry Dazzle (neon rose) and Sweetheart Dazzle (pink).

Cherry Dazzle has been a longtime exceptional performer in LSU AgCenter landscape trials. If you want a small grower, this is the one to select.

The Magic series from Plant Introductions, now part of the First Editions program by Bailey Nurseries, includes Coral Magic (salmon pink), Purple Magic (dark purple), Plum Magic (fuchsia pink), Moonlight Magic (white) and Midnight Magic (dark pink). Most of these have reddish, plum or burgundy spring leaves, and some of these varieties retain this color through summer and into fall. Mature height is 8-12 feet.

The Princess series is a new dwarf group developed by Dow Whiting at Garden Adventures Nursery in Missouri. It is being marketed as part of the Garden Debut program by Greenleaf Nursery. This series includes Holly Ann (cherry red), Kylie (magenta pink), Zoey (cherry red with cotton candy pink), Jaden (lavender) and Lyla (rose pink).

Ball Ornamentals has the new Enduring Summer collection of crape myrtles. Varieties are Enduring Summer Red, Enduring Summer Fuchsia, Enduring Summer Pink, Enduring Summer White and Enduring Summer Lavender. The Enduring Summer varieties have an upright habit, and mature height is 5-6 feet with a 4 1/2-foot spread.

The AgCenter also has plants of Bayou View, which is the Lagerstreomia fauriei national champion single-trunk crape myrtle tree located at Akin’s Nursery in Shreveport. We are also evaluating several lavender-flowered crape myrtles in cooperation with John Davy at Panhandle Growers in Florida.

As you can see, it is easy to be overwhelmed with new crape myrtles. The AgCenter evaluates these and other new landscape plants for their flowering potential and disease susceptibility in Louisiana. This helps landscape professionals, growers and retail garden centers make the best recommendations to home gardeners.

Now is a great time to add new crape myrtles to your landscape.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

Last Updated: 6/6/2014 9:49:37 AM

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