The Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle forms a rounded small tree or large shrub, densely covered in glossy leaves that emerge in spring a rich deep-red, and that hold their color all through summer and fall. This is significantly different from many other ‘red leaf’ crape myrtles, which only have red leaves in spring and early summer. On these older, inferior plants the leaves fade to deep green as the summer heat arrives, and the dramatic effect of the colored foliage is lost. With the Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle, you are assured of rich red-black foliage all season long.
In early summer the first flower clusters open. The Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle is the earliest in the year of all the red-leaf crape myrtles to begin flowering, so you won’t be waiting long. The flowers are carried in clusters at the ends of every new branch, and they are 5 to 6 inches long, and almost as wide. There are about 15 flowers in each cluster, and the buds are deep burgundy in color. As the flowers open they show rich red petals with a yellow flower-center, and the flowers are a full 1 ½ inches across. Each cluster is in flower for about 2 weeks.
As fast as the flowers fade, new flowering clusters develop, so that this tree will be in continuous bloom from early summer until the first frost of fall brings the display to an end. If you remove the clusters once the last flower falls, you will keep that display coming even more strongly. Cut the finished clusters off at the first pair of full-sized leaves. New shoots will already be showing, or they will quickly develop after you trim. For an extra feature, start leaving the spent clusters once early fall arrives, and these will develop into attractive seed heads that persist well into winter, adding interest to your garden.
Growing Crimson Red™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtles
The Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle is fast-growing, so you will not be waiting years for results. Within 3 or 4 years your plant will already be 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, and after a few more years it will reach as much as 12 feet tall and be 8 feet wide. This is an ideal size for a smaller specimen in a small space, so if you have a modern, smaller urban garden, this is the tree you want to grow. It can be pruned to show a taller trunk or to keep it shorter and bushier. With annual pruning it can be kept to around 6 feet tall.
Grow the Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle as a lawn specimen, as the perfect colorful screen along your property line, or as a background shrub behind other, smaller shrubs. It is hardy from zone 6 to zone 9, so it can be grown in many different parts of the country. In zone 6 plant in a sheltered spot. Some of the branches may die in winter in zone 6, depending on the location and weather, but new shoots will develop from the base of the plant. Since crape myrtles flower on new stems, you will still have just as much flowering as in warmer places. Wait until the buds begin to sprout and then cut back all the parts which have not sprouted. Plants in zone 6 will grow to between 3 and 5 feet tall.
Plant the Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle in full sun. Even a little shade will reduce flowering, and lighten the leaf color, so save your sunniest and hottest spot for this plant. It thrives in hot conditions and grow well in any well-drained soil, from sand to clay. It also grows well in poor soils, such as sands and gravels, and it tolerates harsh urban conditions well, making it ideal for a town garden. Once established it is extremely drought resistant, and it grows well in spots where other plants will not survive. It also tolerates salt spray, so plant it at the seaside, or in areas exposed to highway salt.
Care and Maintenance
The Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle can be left to grow naturally, with little or no trimming, or it can be pruned each year to maintain a shorter, bushier plant. Prune in late winter, before the new growth emerges (or at the same time it emerges, in zone 6). Cut back the branches that grew in the previous year as much or as little as you choose. They can be cut back just an inch or so from the older wood, or you can trim just a few inches off the end – the choice is ours depending on the size you want to maintain. Pruning at this time does not interfere with flowering. Do not cut the new shoots, other than to remove finished flower clusters, as trimming these shoots in summer will reduce or even eliminate flowering, which is clearly something you don’t want to do.
History and Origins of the Crimson Red™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle
The Crimson Red™ Black Diamond Crape Myrtle was developed by Dr. Cecil Pounder, a Research Geneticist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. He used a red-leaf crape myrtle variety called ‘Chocolate Mocha’, and other types of crape myrtle, to make hybrid plants with persistent red-leaves and vibrant colors. There were several plants created, forming the Ebony series. The full name of the Crimson Red™ Crape Myrtle is ‘Ebony Flame’.
Dr. Pounder’s work was brought to gardeners by the J. Berry Nursery who created the Black Diamond® series, gathering together all the very best red-leafed crape myrtles. Our plants are genetically identical to the original plant developed by Dr. Pounder, and they are reproduced by stem pieces, not from seed, since growing from seed is a guarantee of inferior plants. These new plants have been taken to the hearts of gardeners with enthusiasm, so our stocks will not last long. Order now while we can still satisfy your order.