Lagerstroemia- Crapemyrtle: Advances in Crapemyrtle Breeding

Lagerstroemia 'Coral Magic'
Lagerstroemia Diamond Dazzle®
Lagerstroemia Midnight Magic™
Lagerstroemia Moonlight Magic™
Lagerstroemia Moonlight Magic™
Lagerstroemia 'Plum Magic'
Lagerstroemia 'Purple Magic'
Lagerstroemia Red Magic™
Lagerstroemia Red Rooster® and Strawberry Dazzle®

Michael A. Dirr, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2012

 

Essential flowering shrub and small tree in Zone 6 to 9, but now becoming common further North. I observed healthy flowering plants in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and on Long Island. Flowers on new growth, June into September, and if spent flowers are removed, a new flush develops in four weeks. In the Dirr garden, three floral flushes occurred on the earlier flowering crapemyrtles like ‘Cotton Candy’ now Pink Pig™ (‘GAMAD VII’). The flower buds are beautiful, rounded in outline, often glistening red to purple. Richly pigmented bark, cream, tan, to rusty cinnamon, sheathing and exfoliating, contributes year-long aesthetics. Full sun maximizes flowering. Once established, crapemyrtles are forever. I experience magnificent specimens in old gardens and derelict homesteads. Powdery mildew and Cercospora leaf spot are the major diseases with a few insects (aphids, flea beetles, ambrosia beetle) occasionally surfacing.


The great Dr. Donald Egolf’s (USNA) breeding resulted in 25 introductions, the Indian Tribe Series, with ‘Chickasaw’ and ‘Pocomoke’ true genetic dwarfs. Dr. Carl Whitcomb, Stillwater, OK, bred Dynamite® (true red) and Red Rocket® (true red), 10 to 20’ high, upright large shrubs, small trees. Rhapsody in Pink® is sterile (almost) and Carl’s latest Double Feature™ (‘Whit IX’), is sterile, continuous red-flowered, compact, 5 ½’ by 5 ½’ after eight years. Dr. Whitcomb developed at least seven additonal crapemyrtles. Visit www.lacebarkinc.com for  information.


The Filligree™ Series, from Fleming’s, Nebraska, coral, red, violet, were touted as cold hardy to -30°F. Absolutely not true. Tested in Athens and so-so. Flower colors not particularly rich. All susceptible to Cercospora leaf spot, particularly ‘Red Filli’. Low-growing based on Georgia trials. Described as 12 to 18” by 12 to 18”. All appear to be derived from L. indica.


Early Bird™ series is touted as May flowering (May 15, Hammond, Louisiana) and continuous for 3 to 4 months. Grow 5 to 8’ by 3 to 4’. Jury still out as they appear to be straight L. indica derivatives. Plant Introductions planted the white, lavender, and purple in-ground in 2011. See www.southernlivingplants.com.


Delta Jazz™ (‘Chocolate Mocha’) (PP 21,540) is a major advancement in foliage color, deep chocolate-purple-maroon and fading slightly by late summer, but still potent. Flowers bubblegum pink, but lightly produced. Foliage (cupped leaves appear herbicide affected) displays high disease resistance. Averaged 6 to 7’ by 3 to 3.5’ in 3 years. Distinctly upright in outline. PII and other breeders are utilizing the genes to develop deep foliage colors and a spectrum of flower colors.


My Georgia program, The Center for Applied Nursery Research, and Plant Introductions have developed many new cultivars. The compact Dazzle® series include Cherry (red), Dazzle®-me-Pink (bubblegum), Raspberry, Ruby (red-purple foliage), and Snow (white). The best are Cherry and Dazzle®-me-Pink. Cherry Dazzle® was the first red-flowered, true compact introduction and sustained breeding using it yielded Red Rooster® (true red, 6 to 10’) and Strawberry Dazzle® (neon strawberry rose, 3 to 4’).


Berry Dazzle® (brilliant lustrous, burgundy new growth, early to mid-June, fuchsia purple flowers, 3 to 4’ high in 8 years); Diamond Dazzle® (pure white, ~30” by 30” in 8 years replaced Snow Dazzle®); Sweetheart Dazzle® (true pure pink, 2 to 3’ by 4 to 5’ in 8 years, shiny rich green leaves, spectacular quantities of flowers cloak the foliage in July-August) followed the first five.


A new series, the Barnyard Collection, introduced through McCorkle Nurseries, includes Red Rooster®, Pink Pig™ (burgundy buds open cotton candy pink, early June, 5 to 6’, extremely precocious) and Purple Cow™ (purple flowers, dark green foliage, 5 to 6’ high).


Plant Introductions, Inc., has utilized many of the above in breeding and introduced the Magic series, Coral, Plum, Purple, and Red. Abundant flowers, richly saturated colors, compact to intermediate habits, colorful, disease-free foliage define the group. The ‘Purple Magic’ is the truest, saturated, rich purple this author has witnessed. Most were derived from Berry Dazzle® and have L. fauriei and L. indica genes. Visit www.plantintroductions.com.