For gardening lovers in the South, the key summer ingredient is a brilliant pop of color on a blooming crape myrtle tree thriving in the bright, hot sunshine.

Crape myrtles are popular for summer color because they are so versatile, coming in a wide range of heights that fall into large, mid-size, and dwarf categories. They range from mature heights of thirty feet tall to one-foot-tall varieties. When planting a crape myrtle, the most important thing is to choose the right size cultivar for the right location in the landscape. By selecting the tree that best fits your desired size at full maturity, your crape myrtle will need no regular pruning to maintain its beautiful shape, making it a worry-free and colorful part of your landscape plan.

Unlike many other trees, crape myrtles can be moved from one location to another during the warmer months. If in the past you have chosen a specimen that has outgrown its space, you can move it to a location where its height is more appropriate. Many varieties of crape myrtles are reliable in our North Carolina climate, including the large thirty-foot-tall Natchez, with white summer flowers, yellow and orange-red autumn leaves, and cinnamon-colored bark that sheds to add interest all year; the mid-sized watermelon-hued Tuscarora, which matures at twenty feet; the mid-sized purple Catawba, which reaches ten to fifteen feet in height; and the dazzling red flowers of Red Rocket and Dynamite, which are slower growing but still top out at twelve- to fourteen-feet tall.

Dwarf sizes have heated up in recent years, showcasing a dazzling array of colors. Some noteworthy ones include pink Pocomoke, ruby red Baton Rouge, light pink Chickasaw, lavender Cordon Bleu, and bright pink World’s Fair. Count on crape myrtles to provide consistent color even during the hottest days of summer. There is one potential caveat to that reliability, however. Recently, a disease called crape myrtle scale began infecting new stock brought in by commercial nurseries. You’ll know immediately if a tree you’re considering purchasing has this disease because it will have a noticeable black color on its trunk. It may take some time for this disease to appear on existing mature trees, so it is important to carefully select any new introductions to the landscape to avoid contaminating what is already thriving in your yard. Better yet, lean on your local landscape professional to vet the quality of new plant stock being added to your yard.

DAVID PAYNE is the owner of HOME & GARDEN LANDSCAPES and can be reached at 919-801-0211 or HOMEANDGARDENLANDSCAPES.COM.