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Are you ignoring the coolest feature of a crape myrtle?

If I asked you to tell me about crape myrtles, what would you say? My guess is the first thing you’d mention is the fact that the flowers are pretty spectacular (because they are). You might even say that it blooms in the summer, unlike most other trees and shrubs (right again – you’re good).  

crape myrtles behind the fountain at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond VA

BUT – did you think about the trunks? Hear me out.

Unexpected reasons to love crape myrtles

Crape myrtle blooms are gorgeous, but they don’t bloom all year. Heck, crape myrtles are deciduous, so they’re going to drop their leaves in the fall. They’re buck nekkid until spring! Since we tend to place crape myrtles in prominent spots, it’s a good thing they have some 24/7/365 assets.

Some crape myrtle varieties, like ‘Natchez’, have cool, exfoliating bark. There’s even a sweet color contrast, with the cinnamon-colored bark and the more silvery smooth bark.

exfoliating bark on Natchez crape myrtle

The trunks offer two more reasons to love crape myrtles. First, most tree-form crape myrtles – I don’t personally like the shrub form, so we’ll ignore them – are multi-trunked and vase shaped. It’s a useful shape in the landscape. We can use crape myrtles in layered plant beds, along driveways, and in all sorts of ways.

One other reason to love crape myrtle trunks is that the older the tree, the thicker and gnarlier the trunk becomes. If you live in a relatively new, suburban neighborhood, it’s entirely likely that you’ve only seen crape myrtles with trunks like fairly straight pipes. Go visit an older neighborhood with mature trees and you’ll see exactly what they have to offer.

My first time visiting Colonial Williamsburg was shortly after MJ and I moved to Virginia. Crape myrtles don’t grow in my home state of Rhode Island, and they sure as heck don’t grow in San Diego or Phoenix. At first, I was baffled by the old crape myrtles twisting and heaving along the brick sidewalks. What WERE these cool things??? Then I looked more closely, and examined the leaves, and I was hooked.

crape myrtles w twisty trunks

Here’s a great example of a situation where the trunks are what make the crape myrtles worth having. I was at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden this week, and came across these beauties. Look at the size of those trunks! And the twisty shapes? AMAZING. 

I hope that’s helped you see the value and the beauty in crape myrtles in more than just their blooms. If you need help with your landscape and want someone who can love both the conventional and the unusual parts of a plant – contact me today! I’d love to talk with you about your project.


    December 16, 2021 REPLY

    Hi. Great post!

    I just planted two 10ft Natchez Crape myrtles and the trunks are beautiful as you state. Can’t wait to see these trees in the spring/summer. I’m in Warrenton, not too far from Culpeper. I saw your services in caring for landscaping and will consider it in the future. I love gardening but I am definitely entry level. Happy Holidays!

      December 17, 2021 REPLY

      Happy Holidays to you as well! I have a Natchez right outside my back door, so I get to enjoy it every time I take the dog out 🙂

    April 22, 2024 REPLY

    I love the bark of the natchez. but would like to know what other crape myrtles have nice bark.

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