If you love bright color in your garden, you will adore the Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle. This dramatic new variety combines bright red flowers and red-black foliage to bring rich, vibrant colors to your garden, not just for a week or two, but all season long. The foliage emerges purple-brown, and remains a rich burgundy all season long, even in the hottest summer. This is a big improvement over earlier red-leaf crape myrtles, which fade to dark green after their spring show. The flowers are also with us for months, starting in June and continuing until the first frost. Together they create a colorful and easy-to-grow small tree that will bring massive color to your garden for months and months.
Growing Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle
In smaller gardens particularly, getting the most from every plant is so important. For this it is very hard to beat the Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle. The year begins when the new shoots emerge in spring. They begin a dusky purple color, and quickly become a rich burgundy red. This color lasts all summer, even in the hottest areas. In June the flowering begins. The flowers are carried at the ends of new branches, in cluster a full 4 inches long and 4 inches across.
Since every branch ends in a flower cluster, the whole plant is covered in these beautiful blooms. Each individual flower is over an inch across, and there are many flowers in the clusters, which continue to bloom for about two weeks. The flowers open a bright, powerful true red, and darken to a rich red by the second day. Set against the deep burgundy of the foliage, the effect is wonderful.
You can encourage the maximum blooming by removing the flower heads when they finish producing blooms. Cut them off at the first pair of full-sized leaves, and usually you will already see new shoots emerging, bringing more and more flowers in a continuous succession until the first frost. Since flowering begins in June, this means months and months of blooming, just when your garden is used most for the summer – what could be better?
Uses in Your Garden
Grow the Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle as a small specimen tree in a lawn or paved area. Plant it as a row, spacing plants 5 feet apart, to create a flowering screen or informal hedge. Use it behind other shrubs and flowering plants, to create a colorful and vibrant backdrop. Its smaller size makes it ideal in small gardens, or plant in groups in larger spaces to enjoy its colors at their richest. This tree grows and blooms best in full sun, so use it in those hot spots where other plants have failed. It loves heat and drier soil, thriving in any well-drained soil, from sand to clay, and including gravels and stony soils. Urban conditions are easily tolerated, and it thrives at the seaside too.
Size and Appearance
The Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle is fast-growing. Within four years it will be 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet across. It will rapidly grow into a vase-shaped small tree or large shrub, soon reaching 12 feet or more in height. It can be trained to have a trunk or one or a few branches, or kept as a shrub with branches to the ground. Hard pruning in late winter, before the leaves emerge, will keep it smaller, and flowering will not be reduced by trimming at this time, since the flowers form on new shoots. Do not trim new growth in spring or summer, as this will limit the production of flowers.
Planting and Initial Care
Most crape myrtles are only hardy to zone 7, but the Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle is hardy in zone 6, making it possible for gardeners in cooler areas to grow this wonderful plant. Choose a sheltered spot in full sun, such as against the south side of your house, if you live in colder regions. Wait until the new shoots begin to emerge before pruning, and simply remove all dead stems at that time. Plants in zone 6 will only grow 3 to 6 feet tall, but they will bloom just as profusely as in warmer areas, since the flowers form on new stems.
Pests and Diseases
This tree is resistant to the powdery mildew that often disfigures the foliage of older types, covering them in dusty gray powder all summer long. It is also resistant to most other crape myrtle diseases, and vigorous and tough enough to be free of serious pests. So this plant is very easy to care for, and looks great all year round.
History and Origins of the Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle
A fabulous plant like the Red Hot™ Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle takes years of skilled breeding to create. Dr. Cecil Pounder, a Research Geneticist with the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture gave us this terrific plant. He used an older variety with red leaves, called ‘Chocolate Mocha’, and mixed it with other crape myrtles. After years of work he had created several red-leaves plants with different flower colors, and he called them the Ebony series. The precise name of the Red Hot™ Crape Myrtle is ‘Ebony Embers’.
All these plants were taken up by J. Berry Nursery, who have released them as the Black Diamond® series, which brings together these plants, and other top-quality red-leafed varieties. Our plants are produced by skilled nursery workers, from stem pieces selected from plants identical to the original plant. Cheaper seedling plants will be completely unlike this highly-bred variety, and vastly inferior. Our regular customers come to us for our cutting-edge crape myrtles, and we know that our top-quality stock of this great variety will soon be gone. Order now while our limited stock lasts.