In warmer areas – zones 7, 8 and 9 – crape myrtles have a long history as the backbone of summer flowering trees and shrubs. With their long flowering period, heat and humidity resistance, and ability to grow in poor soil, they are an easy and very effective way to bring color into your summer garden. There are just two limitations – first, in spring they are just green foliage, and secondly, they are prone to foliage diseases in summer that make them less attractive.
The Midnight Magic™ Crape Myrtle is a new variety which solves both these problems, as well as being the perfect size for smaller gardens and mass planting. In spring, when the new leaves emerge, they are a rich dark-red/purple color, and unlike most other red-leaf crape myrtle varieties, this saturated dark coloring lasts throughout the season. Because it is highly-resistant to the common leaf diseases of crape myrtles, these handsome leaves stay clean and glossy all summer long. Plus, from early July well into September, the bush is smothered in clusters of blooms of a vibrant dark pink color. This strong coloring contrasts beautifully with the foliage, making a striking feature out of this easy-to-grow plant.
Growing Midnight Magic™ Crape Myrtle
The Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle grows rapidly into a full, densely-branched shrub, 4 to 6 feet tall and the same across. In spring the new leaves emerge a rich purple-red that is almost black, with a clean, glossy surface. This desirable foliage color really adds a punch to your garden, so that even before it flowers this plant is bringing vibrant color to your garden.
By July the first clusters of blooms appear. These clusters are 4 ½ inches long and 3 ½ inches wide, containing many deep-purple flower buds. They open into broad flowers with crinkled petals, like crepe paper. These are a dark, rich purple-pink, in a very vibrant shade, which contrasts perfectly with the deeply colored foliage. Each cluster is in bloom for two weeks, and even before it fades, new clusters are being produced, so that this bush will stay in flower throughout the summer and through September. Often blooms will still be being produced when the first frost arrives.
Uses in Your Garden
Because of its compact size, the Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle is the perfect choice for a smaller garden, or for planting in a row to make an informal hedge or screen. It can be mass-planted to fill garden spaces with colorful, easy-care plants that bring color for month after month. Grow it in a sunny spot, as even a little shade will cause fading of the foliage, and reduced flowering. It is very undemanding for soil, growing vigorously in any well-drained soil, from sands and gravels to heavy clay. Few other plants are so easy to grow while offering so much color for so long. You can also grow the Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle in a large pot or planter, where it will stay a little smaller, but bring lots of color to your patio or terrace.
Pests and Diseases
The Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle has been bred to be resistant to common diseases of crape myrtles, especially powdery mildew, that always covers the leaves of older varieties with unsightly gray-white powder in summer. Your plant will still fresh, glossy and rich green all summer long. It is also resistant to the more serious Cercospora leaf spot fungus, which causes spotting of leaves in summer and early leaf drop, leaving plants bare and unsightly by early fall. You do not need to worry about either of these diseases, because the Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle has been bred to resist them.
Care and Maintenance
You can trim this plant in late winter, before the new shoots emerge. Trimming hard, by cutting the branches of the previous year back to just a few inches, will produce a shorter, densely-branched, compact plant. Light trimming, or just removing any damaged or weak branches, will result in a taller, more upright plant. Removing flower heads as soon as the last flower fades will encourage even more flowers to form, over a longer period.
History and Origins of the Midnight Magic™ Crape Myrtle
The Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle is the product of careful breeding by experts in creating new varieties of ornamental plants. This plant was created in 2010 by Joshua Kardos, a breeder with Plant Introductions Inc. He used an earlier dark-leaf crape myrtle, ‘Chocolate Mocha’, developed in a state-financed breeding program at Mississippi State University. Kardos collected seed from this plant, grew it, and found the plant he called ‘PIILAG-V’ among the seedlings. Seeing its unique and valuable properties, he patented it in 2015, and it was released by Bailey Nurseries under the trademarked name of Midnight Magic™, as part of their First Editions® plant line.
Our plants are produced in a way that preserves exactly the gene-line of the original, carefully-selected plant – by stem cuttings rooted and grown into sturdy young plants – not from seed, which produces unacceptable, inferior plants There is a lot of interest in these new, dark-leaf crape myrtles among gardeners, and our limited stock will soon be gone. Order now while we can still satisfy your order, so that you too can enjoy this fabulous addition to your garden.