Who would not like to have low-maintenance and brightly colored foliage trees? Black Diamond Crape Myrtle is a pioneer dark-leaved breed in its genus of Crape Myrtles. These plants can be either upright trees or shrubs growing up to a height of 6 to 15 feet. They have black to burgundy leaves and beautiful flowers in different shades including reds, purple and white.
You can grow them in containers, patios, side-walks or even borders to beautify your growing areas. Apart from the beautiful appearance, these trees show a remarkable tolerance for different temperatures, diseases and pests. All the colors are attractive enough to make you go ga-ga over their beauty. Interesting? Let us learn more about the care and plantation of the Diamond Crepe Myrtle.
Black Diamond Crape Myrtle Classification
Family: Lythraceae (Loosestrife family)
Botanical Name: Lagerstroemia indica
This collection was first bred by an agriculture research scientist in the U.S.A. Later, the J. Berry Nursery in Texas started growing them on large scale.
Lagerstroemia is a genus comprising of about 50 species, commonly known as the Crape or Crepe Myrtles. By nature, these plants are deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. These are the natives of warm climates worldwide particularly Indo-Pak subcontinent, Southeast Asia, northern Australia and a few parts of Oceania.
The name Lagerstroemia is named to honor Magnus Von Lagerstrom. He was a merchant and used to supply plants to the British East India Company.
The dark foliage and brightly colored flowers of the trees are the two most prominent features of this genus. They are widely used for decorative plantation throughout the world. The mesmerizing foliage makes them attractive enough to decorate any spot in the garden or backyard.
Features of the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle Tree
Height and Spread
These trees have different body structures and depend upon the type and individual genetic makeup. They can either form upright canopies or grow dangling branches. Majority of them form shrubby looking trees.
The height of a mature tree gets between 8 to 15 feet. Moreover, they can spread from 6 to 10 feet.
The black, bright burgundy or dark purple shade of the foliage is the main differentiation feature. These leaves are simple and grow oppositely on the woody trees. The size of leaves ranges between 2 to 8 inches on maturity.
The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle flowers start blooming after the middle of spring and continue throughout the fall. They grow in panicles and have a crepe-like crinkled texture. In addition, these blooms come in different colors and shades of purple, red and white.
Nature has gifted different shades to the Black Crape Myrtle Trees. Let us have a look at the popular ones;
Red Hot Black Diamond Crape Myrtle is the darkest red in the whole of the Black Diamond collection. They generally have an upright tree-like growth habit. This is surely a beautiful addition to add the necessary ‘oomph’ in your surroundings.
The flowers of this type are vibrant red with yellow centres. Initially, these flowers appear to be pale yellow or white in color. However, the real dark shade will be visible after the opening of buds. This is the brightest red in the collection. Moreover, it has a shrubby growth habit.
Well, the shade is somewhere between the darkest and the brightest red of the collection. Similarly, the growth habit is also between upright and shrubby. These are proud to be the earliest bloomers in the whole collection.
The flowers are so light and soft pink that it looks like there is some light behind them.
The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle White blooms with pure white flowers. The milky white flowers with deep burgundy leaves make the tree look absolutely heavenly.
This is one of the latest additions. The flowers are medium purple in shade and give a sensuous look to the place.
For your surprise, these trees produce unique inedible fruit. The green, capsule-shaped succulent fruit dry out on maturity with black or brown shade. This dry fruit splits along and releases seeds in small size and winged structure. The spread of these seeds results in natural expansion of the tree range, provided the conditions are favourable.
They grow at a medium to fast growth rate. In favourable conditions, you can see an annual growth of about 24 inches.
The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle Care
The 1st year after the plantation is quite crucial and needs proper care. The plant needs weekly watering. Soak the rooting system with thorough watering which may take half an hour or even more. An estimate for ideal growth is about an inch of water required by the plant every week.
The area of 4 feet around the plant should be clear from grass and weeds. This is necessary to suppress the competition.
The established shrubs develop a natural drought-tolerance. The rooting system is developed enough to extract the water from the earth. Consequently, the tree can go without watering for months.
6 to 10 hours of full sun is necessary to keep the foliage happy. Plants in under-lit areas get discolored foliage and poor growth.
These trees are hardy enough to stand in low temperatures. Even the freezing temperature of 0 °C can’t ‘kill’ the shrub. However, these brightly colored peeps go dormant in winters.
The Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle is resistant towards a range of humidity levels. So, they can easily go well long the normal humidity range of the growing zone.
The trees need to grow in well-draining soil. You can use clay, loam or sandy soils with PH range 5.5 to 7.5.
Use a high nitrogen fertilizer in the spring season, just after the new leaves start growing. Wait for two months to give the next dose.
The newly planted peeps need general-purpose garden fertilizers like the 8-8-8, 10-10-10 and 12-4-8. Give a monthly dose starting from March up till the month of August. A little quantity like 1 teaspoon is enough to be used along the perimeter of the planting hole.
Now, we are coming towards the grown-up plants. Give a full dose annually in the month of March. Use 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 at a rate of 1 lb. per 100 sq. ft. Alternatively, you can use 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 with a suitable rate is 0.5 lb. per 100 sq.ft
The ideal time to fertilize is before an expected rain. On the other hand, you can simply water the plant to help the fertilizer seep inside the soil. Moreover, it is not necessary to mulch before fertilizing. Make sure you avoid over-fertilizing as it may lead to excess growth and lesser flowering. Moreover, it can even burn the roots, specially in young plants.
The Diamond Crepe Myrtle blooms on the fresh foliage growth in the spring. So, make sure you don’t cut the fresh leaves and prune before the spring. The ideal time to prune is between late winter and the beginning of the spring.
Be sure not to prune in the peak of the winters when the plant is dormant. To be safe from being ‘killed’, it is essential for the plant to ‘sleep’ in freezing temperatures.
On the other hand, pruning forces the plant to grow foliage by destroying the dormancy. Thus, pruning a dormant or about to be dormant plant will be simply a life-threatening activity for the peep.
It is a popular myth that pruning is essential for the Crape Myrtles to bloom. However, in reality, these trees flourish and bloom with little to no pruning at all. This misconception leads to excessive pruning and barbaric cutting of these trees on large scale throughout the world.
This practice is termed as the ‘Crape Murder’. It leads to issues like unwanted growth of shoots from the underground roots, called suckering. Moreover, it causes the spread of diseases like powdery mildews and aphids throughout the foliage.
Another possible cause of excessive pruning is the requirement to maintain the size of the tree. Instead of cutting and wasting a large tree, it is better to opt for dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties. However, we are sharing a basic outline about pruning technique as a last choice.
How to Prune a Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle?
Start by removing the suckers from the base. Some growers use a synthetic plant growth control hormone called NAA on the pruned suckers. NAA is Naphthalene Acetic Acid and suppresses the re-growth of suckers.
As the second step, prune to branches from the lower third part of the growing tree to expose the basal trunk. Third and the last step is to remove the crossing or overgrown branches from the canopy of the tree.
Some people favour the removal of seed heads during pruning. You can remove them by heading back to above the lateral bud or the connecting point of leaf and the stem. However, we suggest keeping these seed-heads intact, as they enhance the beauty of the tree. These will shed-off automatically during the growth of the fresh spring foliage.
These peeps are hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9. So, you can easily grow them without worrying about the severity of the temperature. However, in other zones, they need to be maintained at a moderate temperature zone.
Problems of the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle Tree
The most common issue faced by these trees is the attack of ‘Powdery Mildew’. This disease attacks the plant in late spring and fall. White tough coating of white powdery mould appears on the fresh foliage, leaves or flowers. This mould destroys the new growth, suppresses the bloom and even makes buds drop off quickly. The main culprits behind this issue are humidity, warm day and cool night temperatures.
Black Diamond Crape Myrtle Propagation
Common methods to propagate these plants are by seeds, root or stem cuttings. However, these methods are quite slow and it would take about 2 years t get the tree in ornamental form. You can simply get a plant from the nursery and plant it in your garden or any desired place. This is no doubt the quickest and easiest way to get a Crape Myrtle.
How to Plant a Black Crape Myrtle Tree
While planting a Crape Myrtle, the first step is to select a suitable spot.
Selecting Suitable Place
Choose a place with at least 6 hours of bright direct sun exposure. In addition, these plants love well-drained and moist soils. However, the established trees develop some tolerance for droughts.
- Use the tools and dig the hole at your selected place. This hole should be three times larger and deeper than the size of the root ball. Mix the dug out soil with compost and keep it for filling.
- Now, take the packed roots out of the packing or the container by loosening the soil.
- Don’t let the root ball dry out. It would be great if you plant it immediately after taking out. If you need some time, simply dip the plant’s roots in water.
- Now, plant gently and cover the hole with the mixture of soil and compost. Harden the soil around.
- Water generously to soak the newly planted roots. In case you find air packets or bubbles coming out, pack the soil with softly. Moreover, keep watering until you don’t see the bubbles any more.
- Keep watering every week for the whole of the initial year. Later, you can water weekly or even skip watering the drought-tolerant tree for a week or two.
Black Diamond Crape Myrtle is a collection of perennials with Bright foliage and flowers. The leaves range from black to burgundy with flowers of different shades like reds, purple and white. The growth habit includes both shrubs and trees growing up to a height range of 6 to 15 feet.
These trees need a place with well-drained soil and at least 6 hours of full sun exposure. The foliage needs weekly watering to deeply soak the roots. However, once the trees get established, they develop a little drought-tolerance. In addition to the beauty, the resilience towards diseases and temperatures are big plus points for these peeps. Growing in your garden or backyard in any color, these trees are stunning enough to create a pleasant outlook for your surrounding.