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A little ‘Razzle Dazzle’ in crape myrtle selection

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By Al Hight, Brunswick County Extension

Crape myrtles are important flowering trees for our landscapes and a personal favorite of mine.

Hot weather makes me and these tough plants happy. Thanks to some of the good folks at the University of Georgia, there is a whole new reason to get excited about crape myrtles; the Razzle Dazzle series of dwarf selections. 

Before we were “dazzled” there wasn’t much to choose from in small crape myrtles. The Chopin series, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Mardi Gras, succumbed to powdery mildew and grew larger than the reported three feet. Two dwarf selections from the National Arboretum, Pocomoke and Chickasaw, grow pretty well but don’t put on much of a flower show. 

With the release of the Razzle Dazzle series in 2006, we now have true dwarf crape myrtles that are worthy of greater landscape use.

While there are at least five selections in the series, the best of the lot is Cherry Dazzle. Bronze new growth matures to a dark green color and shiny red buds open to cherry red flowers this time of year. Fall color is a bit variable like many other crape myrtles ranging from shades of orange, purple and red. Pruning needs are minimal since the plant matures to a mounded height of five feet high and wide. With excellent resistance to powdery mildew and cercospora leafspot, the only problem you’ll have is our old foe, crape myrtle aphids. 

Other selections in the series may fit certain landscape situations. Raspberry Dazzle sports a unique branching pattern that reminds some folks of cotoneaster, a plant that doesn’t do particularly well in our neck of the woods. Snow Dazzle has white flowers and green leaves with wavy margins. Ruby Dazzle is the most compact and slowest growing of the series with purple foliage that looks like Crimson Pygmy barberry. 

The compact size of the Razzle Dazzle series of crape myrtles opens up all kinds of landscape possibilities. Use them in a container along a walk or on the patio. Anchor a prominent spot in the mixed shrub/perennial border for a great summer show. On larger properties, plant masses of these small crape myrtles for great effect from longer distances. Maybe we should encourage the division of highways to plant some of these in the highway medians, since we can even enjoy them even at 70 miles per hour. 

Grow these dwarf crape myrtles as you would larger selections. You’ll need well-drained soil and lots of sun. During the first year, supplemental irrigation will help them get established. 

Crape myrtle aphid, the lime-green critter that feeds on the underside of the leaves, may show up. Look for the sticky and shiny honeydew followed by the dark sooty mold if the aphid population is left unchecked. Why did my crape myrtles turn black? Typical insecticides like Merit (imidacloprid), Orthene (acephate) and malathion will control the aphids. Insecticidal soap works if you contact them directly with the spray.

 

Al Hight is the county extension director and horticulturist with the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension Service. Call 253-2610 or e-mail al_hight@ncsu.edu.