Crape Myrtle Tree vs Bush – What’s The Difference?

crape myrtle tree vs bush
crape myrtle tree vs bush

Crape Myrtle is extremely popular in the South as they bloom in the summer season when there are very few shrubs and trees producing flowers. There are larger varieties of this plant with a faster growth rate, which not only provides colored flowers but shade as well.

It grows in the form of trees and bush but there are significant differences between the two varieties which are important to understand if you want to plant them.

Crape Myrtle Tree vs Crape Myrtle Bush

Crape Myrtle Bush Crape Myrtle Tree
Stem Multi-stemmed Single-stemmed and multi-stemmed
Bark Mottled and grayish-pink Patterned
Height 2ft to 15ft Over 35ft
USDA Zone 6 to 10 9 or 10
Top Width 5ft to 12ft 6ft to 15ft
Seed pods No Yes

Crape Myrtle Bush

Crape Myrtle Bush

These are extremely attractive varieties of multi-stemmed shrubs with flowering properties. These bushes can grow flowers in purple, red, pink, and white colors.

These bushes flower during the summer season and turn into vibrant floral displays. The attractive colors of this bush attract pollinators and birds and it’s easy to grow this ornamental bush in warm areas.

The bush is perfect for specimen plants, shrub borders, and container plants in landscapes. There are various species of these bushes, depending on the size.

For instance, they can be compact and small but also grow in the towering bush. It’s recommended that you plant this bush in warm and sunny climates to make sure they flower annually.

The bush can flower from the early summer months to fall in the form of clusters. The bushes have spike-shaped flowers and petals are wrinkled. They are extremely fast growing and have a small to medium size with various stems.

They have the habit of compact growth and spread with a flat top. The bushes have crepe-like petals with red or orange foliage.

In addition, the bark of these bushes is grayish-pink and mottled. They grow the best in full sunlight and the purple flowers usually bloom in late spring. In addition, some flower species keep blooming until the first frost of the season.

They are extremely tolerant of poor soil, light frost, and drought, which means they thrive well.

The bushes have multiple stems and the height ranges from 2ft to 15ft, depending on the bush variety. Also, the bush has a broad crown and the spread ranges from 5ft to 12ft.

As far as flowering is concerned, it starts in the middle of May or the beginning of June and keeps blooming for three to four months until the fall season.

The leaves on these bushes are dark green during the summer season but they turn red, yellow, or orange during the fall. Also, they are small and oval – the length ranges from two inches to three inches while the ends are rounded.

The leaves grow in the opposite direction on the stems and have a pinnate growth arrangement. Lastly, they thrive in zone 6 to zone 10.

Crape Myrtle Tree

Crape Myrtle Tree

The crape myrtle trees are usually taller as compared to bushes as they are at least 20ft taller when compared to bushes. For this reason, they can grow over 35ft tall.

The trees grow large and drooping clusters of lilac-like flowers. The flower blooms are also followed by seed pods, which result in the weeping of the branches.

The tree branches are usually bare during January and April. It has a colored and patterned bark that looks great on the winter landscape as well (the tree won’t flower during the winter season).

The trees are available in multi-trunk and single-trunk varieties. The tree needs well-drained and sunny areas to grow and thrive.

These are cold hardy trees and thrive in zone nine and zone ten pretty easily. They are extremely deciduous and some varieties also shed leaves during winter.

When the flowers start dying, the heavy seed pods will form on the tree, which leads to the drooping of the branch and these pods remain on the tree even when it sheds the leaves.

The trees have a spread of 6ft to 15ft when they fully mature. The trees can increase in height by 24 inches a year. It must get unfiltered and direct sunlight to grow.

In addition, it needs well-drained and moist sites and the soil can be acidic or slightly alkaline. However, the trees should be planted away from the sidewalks, swimming pools, and decks because the pods can stain the tiles and concrete.

Selecting The Right Crape Myrtles

There are different varieties of this plant available in the market and choosing the right one according to your landscaping and planting needs is important. To select the right variety of Crape Myrtles, you can consider the following points;

  1. Disease Resistance

Disease Resistance

The older varieties of this plant are prone to powdery mildew, which stunts the growth. With powdery mildew, the leaves are covered with white dust and it usually happens when you plant it in the humid season.

However, the new plant breeding is done to make sure the plant is resistant to these diseases, so make sure you ask the nursery for a disease-resistant plant.

  1. Color

This plant is available in an array of colors, including multiple shades of red, purple, white, pink, and lilac. For this reason, they go well with other plants in the garden.

These plants go well in garden if other plants have pink, lilac, and purple shades. However, it won’t look good with orange and yellow shades. In addition, they go well with greenish-yellow plants.

  1. Size


It’s important to consider the available space in the garden and how much you want the plant to grow. For instance, the bush is recommended if you have height constraints while trees are recommended if you don’t mind the trees growing over 35ft high.

The plant size can be controlled through pruning but it’s better to select the plant that grows naturally to your desired size.

The Ideal Growing Conditions For Crape Myrtles

  1. Sunshine


These are drought-resistant and sun-loving plants, which is why it’s recommended that you plant them in areas with full sun but they can tolerate some shade as well.

This is important because the growth and amount of flowering depend on how much sunshine the plant receives, which is why a sunny location is recommended.

  1. Soil

Soil is the next important consideration. These plants are excellent as a garden plant because they can grow in different types of soil, including acidic and alkaline soil. In fact, it can grow in clay, silt, loam, and sandy soil as well.

These plants thrive well in clay, loam, and silt soils because they aren’t always wet. Also, you shouldn’t add too much fertilizer or compost to the soil because it can lead to limited flower growth.

On the other hand, if the new leaves are pale yellow, it’s recommended that you treat the plant with chelated iron (it’s easily available at garden centers).

  1. Climate


These plants grow wells in warmer regions, so if you are in America, the zone seven to nine would be recommended. However, some varieties can be grown in zone five and six as well.

In case you want to plant it in the colder regions, it’s recommended that you choose a sheltered location to ensure it gets maximum sun as it helps create a microclimate for plant growth. Also, the bush and trees will flower during late summer when planted in colder parts.

  1. Planting Location

It doesn’t matter if you want to plant a bush or a tree, you need to remember that they have roots which can damage the foundations. For this reason, you must plant it 6ft away from the swimming pool and 12ft away from the septic beds.

In addition to this, if you have to plant multiple specimens, you must plant the bushes 4ft to 8ft apart while trees should be planted at a distance of at least 10ft to cater to vertical and horizontal growth.

The Bottom Line

Crape Myrtle has various varieties with significant differences in size, flower color, and crown. The bushes are usually smaller with a limited crown while trees can grow over 35ft vertically and has an extensive crown.

3 thoughts on “Crape Myrtle Tree vs Bush – What’s The Difference?”

  1. I have a small crape myrtle bush that I have had for at least six years. EVERY year the bush seems to dry up to ground level and restarts new growth at ground level. I have been careful in pruning; however, none of the remaining bush ever shows new growth. It always restarts from ground level and makes to about two to two and a half feet each year. It is a beautiful crimson red bush, but never gets any larger. I live on a small ten acre farmer in western Virginia, there is no obstruction of sun light, gets all the natural weather conditions. I have even put a burlap protective shield around it a couple of times in the winter incase the winter might be to harsh, but always the same result. This Old Man (87 years old) is open to any suggestions! Thank you for any advice or suggestions. Paul Rose

  2. I have had the same experience and have been told to trim to 3-5 main stems and mulch in the fall, but it still happens the same way as you are saying!

  3. We just bought house with crepe Myrtle tree, never had one before. The bark is “ shedding” and making a mess of my yard. Does this happen every year?


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