Q: I have a beautiful Queen’s Crepe Myrtle tree a couple of blocks from my house. It’s on a main street as part of the city landscape. I’d love to have something like that in my house even if I have to grow it little by little. Will I be able to grow it if I take a small cutting from that tree and plant it in a small pot? In other words, can you tell me how to propagate Queen’s Crape Myrtle?
Beautiful Queen’s Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia speciosa) is a large tree. They are from India, China, and the areas of New Guinea and Australia. They grow from 30 to 60 feet tall by at least 20 to 40 feet wide in their native habitat though it tends to be smaller in Florida. The leaves are thick, leathery, oblong, 12 inches long by 4 inches wide, and dark green. An unusual feature, the Queen’s leaves often turn red in the fall before departing from the tree. The tree’s lovely peeling bark can be a garden highlight when the leaves have fallen.
This upright, spreading, semi-evergreen or deciduous tree is grown for its beautiful flowers. Stunning lilac, purple or rose-colored flowers are produced in large, branched groups, panicles, at the ends of the branches during June and July. Individual flowers are up to 3 inches across. The petals are ruffled or crinkled with many filaments or stamens. The fruit is a capsule that splits to reveal winged seeds. The capsules persist, adding winter interest to the tree.
This regal tree is undemanding once established if planted in full sun and well-draining soil. It is tolerant of drought but looks best if watered during dry times. It is frost sensitive and not salt tolerant.
Propagate Queen’s Crape Myrtle by either seed or cutting. Harvest fully mature seed capsules, remove the seed, and plant in a propagation mix. The seeds germinate in 15 to 56 days. Some research has indicated that seed scarification may increase the percentage of germination. Cuttings also work well. Use either softwood, semi-hardwood, or hardwood cuttings. Dip cuttings in a rooting hormone and place the cuttings in a good propagation mix. Roots usually appear in 4 to 6 weeks.
As far as finding a plant and taking cuttings, seeds or other propagation starts, as an adult green professional, I recommend always seeking the owner’s permission before doing so. This is particularly true of native plants in natural areas. However, as a child, it was not unusual to ride with Granny Cloud and for her to stop the car and send me to put an air layer on a plant in someone’s yard. When I protested by saying I will go ask the folks in the house, she would pshaw me and tell me no, that if you asked, the plant wouldn’t grow.
Yisel, enjoy growing a Queen’s Crape Myrtle. Seedlings flower young, and propagation is an excellent hobby. If the seedling or cuttings grow too large for your space, donate the trees to a horticultural school or municipal parks program and start the propagation process again for the simple joy of growing.
This column first appeared in the Treasure Coast Newspapers.