How to Grow Crape Myrtles in Cold Climates

By: Julie Day

Crape myrtle bush blooming

Can I grow a crape myrtle indoors as a houseplant? I live in Ohio and bought one on a recent trip down South. -Lois

Crape myrtles aren’t suited for growing as houseplants, because they need a period of winter dormancy as part of their growth and blooming cycle. Bringing them indoors to a year-round warm environment won’t change that cycle, it’ll just make them suffer.

Most crape myrtle varieties are winter hardy to zone 7, which corresponds to a minimum winter temperature of 0° to 10° F. Depending on where you live in Ohio, you may be in zone 5 or 6, where crape myrtles will need some winter protection in order to survive.

Follow these tips with growing crape myrtles in colder climates:

  • Bringing Crape Myrtles Indoors: In zones 5-6, you can grow crape myrtles in large containers that you bring in for the winter. However, don’t treat them like houseplants. Instead, wait until the first freeze has killed back the leaves, then move the pot to a sheltered – but cold – location, such as an unheated garage, basement, or shed. Reduce watering to about once a month, stop fertilizing, and let the plant spend the winter dormant. The crape myrtle will look dead, but hang in there! In spring, gradually expose it to the outdoors to wake up slowly. Resume regular watering and fertilizing when you see growth sprouting.
  • Find the Right Microclimate: If you’re trying to grow crape myrtles outdoors in a colder zone, plant them in the warmest, most protected spot in your yard to provide a microclimate more suited to their cold tolerance.
  • Grow Crape Myrtles as Perennials: In zone 6 (and sometimes zone 5), many crape myrtles can be grown outdoors as perennials, which means they’ll likely die back to the ground over the winter then resprout in spring. Since they’ll never become large, you might want to try this with dwarf varieties that stay low and bushy.

Julie

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14 Comments on “How to Grow Crape Myrtles in Cold Climates”

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  • Donna Swan Says:
    August 23rd, 2016 at 7:11 am

    If crape myrtles dies back to the ground in the winter what would you do to protect it from freezing other than mulch ?



  • rudy vanderhorst Says:
    August 1st, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I live in Mississauga Ontario Canada. Ihave been growing
    crape myrtle for the last two years and they are blooming
    beautyful. In the fall I put it in the garage,which is not heated
    but frost free. I was told you can not grow it in Canada, but I
    proved them wrong. I got my plants from my brother in N.J.
    I fell in love with crape myrtle the first time I saw them.
    Take care, Yours, Rudy.



  • Marcia Morris Says:
    July 31st, 2016 at 7:32 am

    I live in Virginia, zone 6(ish – I live in the mountains) I’ve planted a dwarf variety “Pokomoke” in a planter near the west southwest corner of my home – full sun required. I water the soil daily during the hot (90s) July/August, and move the dormant plant in winter to the protection of under the porch. It awakens in June (along with the Mimosa) It is thriving! A beautiful flowery display late summer on a dwarf.



  • Linda Rahtes Says:
    July 18th, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Not sure of what kind of crepe myrtle you’re talking about that doesn’t get tall, I have crepe myrtle trees and even the bushes are about 6 to 7 feet tall ~ I live in Mooresville, NC and have them in all colors



  • Denalda Barracosa Says:
    February 20th, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Would like to know where we could buy a Crape Mrytle in Ontario. We live in the Niagara Region.
    Would love to try and grow one in our garden this summer. Any information would be helpful.
    Thank You,
    DD



  • TED RAMSEY Says:
    August 26th, 2015 at 8:07 am

    How to protect my cratemurtils in winter in zone 5? I have to cut them back every year.



  • Joan Says:
    August 13th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I too brought back some Crepe Myrtles from GA to Ohio a year ago. They looked dead in the fall and in the spring. I didn’t think there was hope. Then, after all the abuse they had, they are ALL sprouting. This occurred early in June and they continue to thrive. They are small and who knows if I’ll ever see blooms, but they appear to be survivors. The ferns too are coming around slowly. A grape vine that looked dead since day one is also OK. I don’t have a huge green thumb, but everything seems to like the vacant rocky lot I acquired next door (esp. the weeds!). Happy Gardening Y’all



  • Rick Riley Says:
    July 30th, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    I am planting Crepe Myrtles brought from Georgia by a friend. They are about 8′ tall. Thinking about tenting them for protection. I planted some 2-3′ Crepes that have made it thru two winters. The polar vortex didn’t kill them two winters ago and they seem healthy…although they did start back up from the root this year. I was told they would probably do that for the first couple years. A landscape professional in Virginia Beach told me they wrap palms to protect them over winter and suggested I try it. I’ll definitely mulch…but do I put burlap around the tree as we’ll? Wrap it or tent it? Use a insulation blanket or frost blanket around it? I’m in Ohio, zone 5-6.



  • Tim kissinger Says:
    July 11th, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Here in Louisville,ky.(zone 6b\7a)this past winter temps dropped to -6.Some crepe myrtles froze back to the ground,some stayed in tree form,and some had marginal damage.Its now early July and most are now blooming thanks to the 90 degree temps back in May.



  • David Berry Says:
    July 7th, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    I live in Pennsylvania. I purchased a Crepe Myrtle in SC and planted it last August in my back yard in plenty of sun. As winter approached I protected it from frost and eventually snow by surrounding it within a burlap house without constructing any branches. I believe we may be considered a zone 6 or 7 since wind chills dropped to -18 on several occasions. It is now July with no signs of growth. Our neighbors planted one about the same time as us and it was accidentally cut down by a landscaper, but it is growing beautifully. Do I consider mine dead, remove it and try again or do I let it go through another winter, exposed to the elements and see what happens next year? Is it possible it will sprout this year and am I just being impatient? Your advice is greatly appreciated?



  • Paul Dorman Says:
    May 15th, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I live in Toronto Ontario Canada and in the downtown area,it is warmer than the suburbs. I have a micro-climate in my backyard that makes it a zone 6b-7a. I plan on winter protection. Is there a place in the Toronto area where I can purchase a Crape Myrtle.

    thanks
    paul dorman



  • OSCAR LEE Says:
    November 22nd, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I grow crape myrtles in Beamesville ontario canada in pots out side they dieback but come back in spring. need some winter protection from the cold winter wind.



  • Bob Strauss Says:
    August 25th, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I’ve seen crepe myrtles as far north as Marysville, PA, just north of Harrisburg.



  • Judith Armstrong Says:
    March 19th, 2014 at 5:29 am

    I would like to know if there have been any attempts to develop Crape Myrtles for zone 4. I can grow azaleas and rhodo’s that have been designed for this climate zone. Having said that after this very cold never ending winter that started with an ice storm I don’t if they will have survived this well below average temperature winter. I would love to put a shrub row of the 3-5″ hybrids along my front dividing property line. I am currently involved in a Paw-Paw tree study trying to grow various types well outside their normal zone.
    Regards
    Judith Armstrong


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