Virtues: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is honoring Natchez crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’) as a Gold Medal Plant this year. Its resistance to powdery mildew, its clean white, heavy flowers and its exfoliating bark set it apart from other crapemyrtles.
Common name: ‘Natchez’ crapemyrtle
Botanical name: Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’
Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
Season: Summer for flowers; winter for shape and exfoliating, colorful bark.
Flowers: Pure white flowers appear in midsummer to early fall.
Foliage: Deciduous, with slender dark green leaves that turn yellow or sometimes reddish in the fall. Natchez crapemyrtle foliage is noted for its resistance to powdery mildew.
Habit: This crapemyrtle can reach 30 feet tall with a crown 35 feet wide in the warmer parts of its growing range. In the colder areas, it stays smaller as it is typically killed to the ground or otherwise damaged in winter. It grows as a multi-stemmed or single-trunk large shrub or small tree. The bark is a reddish brown and it peels to create a nice texture and winter interest.
Origins: Natchez crapemyrtle was first selected in 1969 at the US National Arboretum; it was one seedling that resulted from a cross of Lagerstroemia fauriei and L. indica ‘Pink Lace’. It was propagated, evaluated and finally introduced to the market in 1978.
How to grow Natchez crapemyrtle: Site in full sun or partial shade. Full sun will result in the best flowering. Tolerates clay soil but requires good drainage. Flowers best with little to no fertilizing. Prefers regular deep watering but can withstand drought once established. Natchez crapemyrtle is reliably hardy in USDA Zones 6 through 9. In Zone 6, the top growth is not hardy but the roots are; the plant can be cut to the ground in winter with the expectation that it will report in spring. This may be possible in Zone 5, too. Provide a winter mulch in the colder areas of its range.
Image courtesy of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society