Add color with summer-flowering trees

Tonto crape myrtle is an introduction from the National Arboretum that grows well in Louisiana. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter horticulture

Ask a horticulturist to name the best summer-flowering tree for the South and there’s not likely to be much discussion.

It’s the crape myrtle.

They reliably show off their rose, pink, red, purple, lilac or white blooms in the hottest part of the summer. Even last year, during the worst of the heat and drought, area crape myrtles contributed their candy colors to the otherwise brown landscape.

And when the flower show ends, crape myrtles are still attractive, with colorful foliage in fall and pretty  bark in winter.

They even come in a size for just any landscape, from miniatures that fit a perennial border  to 10-feet-tall patio-size varieties to 25-foot trees perfect for transforming a long driveway into a tunnel of flowers.

Retired LSU AgCenter horticulturist Denyse Cummins recommends the varieties introduced by the National Arboretum, all of which bear the names of native American Indian tribes. “They have disease resistance and beautiful bark that can’t be ignored,”  she said.

Among those LSU AgCenter recommends are:

  • Acoma: white, 12-15 feet.
  • Hopi: pink, 6-8 feet.
  • Muskogee: lavender, 20 feet.
  • Natchez: white, 25-30 feet.
  • Sioux: bright pink, 15 feet.
  • Tonto: red, 12-15 feet.
  • Tuscarora: coral pink, 16-18 feet.

Other flowering tree choices

Already have a crape myrtle? For more summer color, try vitex tree or althea.

Vitex, also called chaste tree, bears spikes of blue, pink  or white flowers in early summer and then usually repeat in late summer.  Shoal Creek, a variety with vivid blue 12-inch flower spikes, was named a Louisiana Super Plant in 2011. It grows 10- to 15-feet tall and wide and attracts butterflies.

Althea, also called rose of sharon, is an old-fashioned plant  your grandmother probably grew.  It’s a variety of hardy hibiscus that grows 8- to 12-feet tall and bears flowers from May to frost in shades of pink, lavender, white and red, some with vivid “eyes.”




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