Using flowering shrubs to add depth to borders or break up green spaces with a splash of color is a long-used technique that brings layered texture to our gardens and yards. The crape myrtle has always been popular for this purpose thanks to the great variety of shapes and sizes, rich spectrum of colors and easy to grow nature; this is even more true now thanks to a plethora of new varieties that refine many of the characteristics that gardeners treasure, allowing smaller and more compact varieties like Purple Magic to grace gardens where the larger examples simply would not fit. This is a relatively new offering from the experts at Plant Introductions Inc. and has been very well accepted in the gardening world, hailed as the very best purple crape myrtle in existence. Quite an accolade!
The crape myrtle is native to the Indian subcontinent, south-east Asia, northern Australia and Oceania, so you can see that this is a plant that prefers warmer climes. When found in their natural habitat they are leggy trees with a loose form that, although still highly desirable, has meant they were not suitable for all domestic landscapes much to the dismay of those with smaller gardens. As a result of this, much time and effort and many resources have been put into cultivating smaller varieties of which purple magic is a fantastic example, so much so that Michael A. Dirr, Ph.D. of Plant Introductions Inc says of it ‘The ‘Purple Magic’ is the truest, saturated, rich purple this author has witnessed.’
Purple magic received its patent in 2013, so this is a very new variety indeed – and one that brings something special to the wide range of crape myrtles already in existence. It sits on the cusp between dwarf and intermediate (the former considered as anything reaching five feet in height and the latter those exceeding five feet) with an ultimate height of between four and six feet. New foliage appears a shade of rich red before turning a deep and glossy green, a wonderful and complimentary background to the profusion of sumptuous purple flowers with their clusters of yellow stamens at the center. It is richness of color in these blooms that really sets Purple Magic apart from other violet colored crap myrtles, with the real showstopper element being the ability to re-bloom in a second burst of color around four weeks after the dead flower heads of the first round are removed. As the flowers develop and die off, the removal of these dead heads during the second bloom can prolong the flowering period; the manageable size of the plant makes this a relatively easy task, and certainly one that’s well worth doing.
Like all crape myrtles this prefers a warmer climate, so it is not well suited to the much colder areas of the US. It is considered fully hardy to USDA plant hardiness zone 7 and requires a position that allows it full sun throughout the day, ideally in well drained and slightly acidic soil. If you have naturally neutral soil you can help it along by adding a little rock sulfur or peat moss when planting, and then periodically as it grows and adapts to its new environment. If you have alkaline soil but crave one of these wonderful plants then a good alternative is planting in a large pot; this way you are able to control the soil type and appreciate the splendor of the flowers. It is not advised that fertilizer be added when planting out, as this may discourage the roots from exploring out of their enriched surroundings. Good drainage is essential so soil with a high clay content should be avoided, as when wet it will allow water to sit around the roots. This puts your crape myrtle at high risk of root rot and other ailments that are easily avoided with good drainage. This said, whether planting out directly into the soil or in a pot, it is important that the first year sees a good amount of watering. Once established, however, these are very drought tolerant although as with many plants some additional watering throughout the flowering period assists with a richer showing of blooms.
These are easy plants to care for and are not considered demanding, with a naturally compact growth and good resistance to disease. Purple Magic was developed to be low maintenance and high impact, and careful breeding has achieved a spectacular example of crape myrtle that will look at home in virtually any setting provided it has full sun and well drained soil. A very new addition to the family, we expect to see this appearing in gardens all over as more and more appreciators of these unique crinkly flowers realize how easy they are to grow.