Review of First Editions® Crape Myrtle
First Editions® has released several new varieties of Crape Myrtles (developed by Plant Introductions Inc) this season, four of which we wish to highlight. These new cultivars fit into two size categories: dwarf (under 5’) and mid-sized (5-10’), as opposed to the majority of Crape Myrtles ranging from 15-20’. Some noteworthy features of these shrubs are their heavily flowered, compact habit, disease resistance, and the potential for a rebloom in late summer / early fall. Many of these varieties have the ability to produce a second bloom if the old, faded blooms are “deadheaded” (cut off) at the appropriate time.
This Crape Myrtle can handle the heat of the south and look beautimous doing it (beautimous is the combination of ‘beautiful’ and ‘fabulous’ for those of you wondering). The new Midnight Magic from Plant Introductions Inc produces a pink bloom backed by purple-maroon foliage. It begins flowering in July and remains colorful through September. It grows to heights between 4-6’, has a 4-6’ spread, an upright shape, prefers full sun exposure, and is hardy in zones 6-9. Resistant to leaf spot and mildew, but not to being beautimous.
What struck me when I saw this variety for the first time was the esthetically pleasing contrast between its dark maroon foliage and white flowers. This “shrub” might be more accurately described as a small tree considering it grows in the 8-12’ range. Moonlight Magic would make a great container tree and is an alternative to the common purpleleaf plum. Rounded shape, hardy in zones 6-9, height of 8-12’, spread of 4-6’, prefers full sun exposure, and is resistant to leaf spot and mildew.
“Oh, oh, Plum Magic, you know-oh-oh”… is that how it goes? Doubt it. It might not be a radio hit, but Plum Magic is topping the charts in horticulture. This is a semi-dwarf variety that blooms in early summer with fuchsia-pink flowers. It has a very rounded shaped with height and width of 6-10’. This particular variety has the ability to produce a second bloom if deadheaded before the end of July. Its foliage has an interesting characteristic in that it changes from a plum-purple to a dark green as the summer progresses. Just like the rest of the varieties introduced, Plum magic is resistant to leaf spot and powdery mildew.
A real benefit to this crape myrtle is its size. These new “dwarf” crapes allow you to enjoy beautiful blooms in areas that larger varieties cannot fit. Purple Magic’s foliage emerges a reddish color and matures to a glossy green - a great backdrop to its saturated, purple flowers. This too can be deadheaded in late summer for a second, fall bloom. Round shape with height and spread between 6 and 10’. Prefers full sun exposure and is hardy in zones 6-9.
It’s unfortunate that crape myrtle don’t have a hardiness rating that takes them farther north as there are few plants that can rival it for summer color. They are so excellent I feel it is worth taking the risk of planting into zone 5 and treat it as a perennial. Mulch the root zone heavy going into winter and hope for the best. Undoubtedly there will be years where the plant may freeze to the ground. Simply cut back the dead wood and usually you will get a flush of new growth, and since crape myrtles bloom on new wood, you will typically have blooms that summer. Repeat the process as necessary.
There you have it...some great new Crape Myrtle options!