Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape MyrtleLagerstroemia hybrid 'DJ 01-14' (PP# 31,691)
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Lagerstroemia hybrid 'DJ 01-14' (PP# 31,691)
Outdoor Growing zone
The Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle is a tough, fast-growing deciduous shrub that soon becomes 8 or 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. It is bushy, with small, glossy leaves that are vibrant purple-red all the way from spring into fall, without greening or browning. Blooming begins in June, and with a full second crop it continues right into September – simply dead-head once. Packed with blooms, the pyramidal, 8-inch flower heads carry a profusion of frilly blooms of a very pale lavender-pink. The bright contrast with the dark foliage is wonderful, filling your garden with light and beauty.
Plant the Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle in full sun, as any shade reduces flowering. It thrives in hot, dry places, and will even grow on poor soils and in urban conditions. Established plants have excellent drought resistance, and this variety has been bred to have strong resistance to both powdery mildew and cercospora leaf spot, staying fresh and clean all summer. Deer and other pests are rarely an issue. Prune in early spring to encourage bushy growth, and avoid summer trimming.
If we set out to invent the perfect garden shrub, surely we would end up with the crape myrtle. Growing vigorously even in poor soil, tolerating heat and drought, and blooming week after week after week, they are amazing garden plants that have been admired since they arrived here in the 18th century. But they aren’t some historic curiosity – new varieties keep being created, and right now is the perfect time to indulge yourself in one of the latest – and certainly one of the best. The early purple-leaf forms often became brownish, with smaller than usual flower heads, but the Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle overcomes all that. The purple-red leaves are truly that, and hold their strong color from spring to fall. It flowers almost continuously from June through September, and the cooling near-white flowers might not actually be vanilla (call it creative license), but their cooling whiteness is sure to be a summer hit, especially in the early evening, when it will shine out across the garden.
The Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle soon develops into an upright shrub, reaching between 8 and 10 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide. It is bushy to the base, and since it grows around 18 inches a year, it won’t belong before it has real presence in your garden. The young stems are a near-black purple, accenting the strong purple-red of the leaves. Older stems become olive-brown and mature to darker reddish-brown on the trunks, with attractive flaking patches that add winter interest once the leaves have fallen. The small oval leaves are smooth and glossy, and no more than 1½ inches long. Right from the first spring growth they are rich purple-red, and they keep that color, without greening or browning, all the way through fall.
Clusters of flowers form at the end of each stem, in pyramidal heads that are 8 inches long and 6 inches wide, carrying well over 100 buds and flowers. The frilly, vibrant flowers are remarkable, and simply gorgeous. They are very pale pink with slight lilac overtones – a glowing color that looks great against the dark foliage and shines out across your garden. It takes about 4 weeks for all the buds to open and bloom on a single head, and if you remove it when the last blooms finish, in about 6 weeks it will be back in bloom again. This means more or less continuous flowering from June all the way through September. Interesting yellow-brown seed heads develop if you leave the second crop of flowers, adding interest in late fall and winter.
The lovely Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle will brighten your garden beds all summer, and there isn’t a spot where it won’t look gorgeous. Grow it among other summer shrubs, or in beds that will bloom in spring, to extend the season. Plant it among evergreens around your home, and enjoy the delicate scent of the flowers, and watch the butterflies and hummingbirds that visit. Plant it on a lawn or grow it in a large tub on a terrace – it’s lovely everywhere.
The Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle is hardy in zone 6, but it may have some winter damage that keeps it smaller. That won’t stop it flowering, though, as blooms form on new growth. From zone 7 into zone 10 it thrives, enjoying heat and dryness. Plants in tubs can be left outdoors all winter from zone 8 – in cooler areas transplant temporarily into the garden for the coldest months.
You can’t give the Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle too much sun – it loves it. Avoid shade, as this reduces blooming significantly, even if it is just a few hours a day. Plant in any well-drained garden soil, and that includes poor, dry urban soils and difficult locations. Once established it is very drought resistant. Avoid wet ground, especially in cooler zones.
You won’t have to worry about the look of your bush, because it has been carefully bred to have excellent resistant to disfiguring powdery mildew and also to cercospora leaf spot, keeping it clean and fresh all summer long. It is normally untroubled by pests, and even deer generally leave it alone.
It’s naturally compact and bushy, but the Indulgence Vanilla Gelato Crape Myrtle can be pruned in early spring, before the leaves appear. Simply trim back the stems of the previous year as much as you want, but always leave at least a few inches, so that it sprouts quickly. Cutting back hard will give the largest flower clusters, but less of them. Never trim new growth as this stops flowering.
The crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, grows naturally in China. It was brought to England in 1759, and from there, in 1786, the French botanist André Michaux brought it to Charleston, then part of New France. It really thrived, and became an enduring garden favorite. To prevent disfiguring leaf diseases, modern plants are hybrids, with Lagerstroemia fauriei from India being the other parent.
Michael Dirr is a professor at the University of Georgia, and a well-known expert on woody plants. With his associate Donglin Zhang he collected seeds from an older hybrid variety called ‘Chocolate Mocha’. The grew the seedlings and assessed them for a time, in 2014 choosing one that had excellent leaf and flower color. The named it `DJ 01-14`, and patented it in 2020, to benefit the University. It has been released by Star Roses and Plants to the delight of gardeners, using the trademark name of Indulgence for it, and calling it Vanilla Gelato.
This bush, and its companion the Indulgence Rasberry Gelato Crape Myrtle, are a big leap forward in combining the richest leaf colors with large flower spikes and bright colors. Keep those hot and dry parts of your garden exploding with color – plant these fabulous plants. But order now, because new plants of this quality are always in high demand, and never stay in stock long at all.