Rich, strong colors are just what is needed in hot-state gardens, especially in full sun. The softer colors popular in the north simply don’t work, and they become pale and insignificant. It is far better to look for bright and vibrant colors, and that is just what the Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtle delivers. Growing no more than 10 feet tall, or less with regular pruning, this package of near-black foliage and brilliant pink blooms delivers just what you need, especially for those hot, dry and sunny places in your garden.
The Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtle is a new variety that really delivers color and beauty. The flowers, in large heads, are produced continuously from mid-June to mid-October, bringing endless color to your garden. Flower heads grow continuously from the end of every branch. Each one is 3 to 4 inches tall and across, making a bright ball of color, and each head has about 10 large flowers in it, one ½-inch across, with ruffled petals textured like crepe paper, which of course gives these plants their common name. The petals are a vibrant magenta-pink – a strong color that stands out right across the garden, and in the brightest summer sun. They really pack a color-punch! Individual flower heads last about two weeks, and as fast as each one fades more appear, keeping your bush in continuous vibrant bloom.
But continuous brilliant flowering is only the beginning for this great plant. Because right from early spring, when the leaves first appear, you deliver strong color. The leaves are a very deep grey-green, with a silvery sheen and veins that are deep red-purple. The overall effect is deep plum color, a vibrant near-black. Not only does this remarkable coloring make the perfect background for the brilliant pink flowers, it has power and beauty even before the blooms appear, making this plant colorful from March to November.
Growing Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtles
The intermediate size of the Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtle makes it incredibly versatile. It is small enough to use in pots and planters, to brighten a terrace or patio. Yet it is large enough to make a moderate-sized screen along a boundary, or to line a driveway or walkway. Plant them 6 feet apart for a dense, continuous hedge or screen, or space them out 12 to 15 feet apart for a graceful avenue – the choice is yours. You can also make a wonderful lower flowering hedge, 3 to 4 feet tall when in bloom, by planting them 2 or 3 feet apart and, once established, cutting them down to just a few inches tall in spring. Because crape myrtles bloom on new growth, doing this doesn’t stop your hedge from flowering – in fact it produces even more blooms. As well, you can use this great bush among other flowering shrubs, and around your home, between evergreens, where it will really brighten up the summer show.
Planting and Initial Care
Plant the Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtle in full sun. Even a little shade each day will reduce flowering. It will grow in any soil, just so long as it is not wet. Even sandy and rocky soils don’t bother it. For the first month water 2 or 3 times a week, then reduce watering to once a week during the first season. After that it will only need water during extended dryness – if the leaves begin to droop, give your bush a deep soaking, and it will recover overnight and be great again for weeks. Feed once a year with shrub fertilizer, in early spring. This plant is tough and disease resistant. If you have grown old-style crape myrtles you may have been bothered by white powder disfiguring the leaves – don’t worry, this variety has been bred and selected to be resistant to powdery mildew (Erysiphe lagerstoemia) and leaf spot (Cercospora lythracearum), so the leaves will always look clean, fresh and colorful.
The only care needed for the Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtle is a quick pruning in spring. It doesn’t even produce seed heads that might need trimming for neatness. In late winter or early spring, before the leaves appear, prune your bush. Remove any older, crowded or broken branches, and any weak, thin ones. Trim back the remaining branches by ¼ if you want a larger bush, by ½ for a medium sized plant, or back to within a couple of inches of the older stems for a compact plant. By leaving a taller framework of older branches, or by cutting closer to the ground, you can have a bush anywhere between 4 and 10 feet in height.
History and Origins of the Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtle
The story of the Mystic Magenta Crape Myrtle begins with Dr. Cecil Pounder, a Research Geneticist with the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. After years of breeding he developed a hybrid crape myrtle with bright red flowers and dark purple leaves, a real breakthrough. He called it ‘Ebony Embers’, but today it is usually sold as Red Hot™. In September of 2012, James B. Berry, a plant breeder based in Grand Saline, Texas, sowed a batch of seeds he had collected from a plant of ‘Ebony Embers’. The following summer he picked out a promising seedling, with wonderful rich magenta flowers, and very dark leaves. He called it ‘11LI’ and patented it in 2017. It was released by his J. Berry Nurseries as part of their crape myrtle collection called Black Diamond®, with the registered trade name of Mystic Magenta™.
All our plants are produced under license, and they are identical to that original discovery. These new crape myrtles, with their vibrant flowers set against dark leaves, have really caught the imagination of gardeners across the warmer parts of the country, so we just cannot satisfy the high demand. Order right away, or they will all be gone.