Ebony Fire Crape Myrtle: Care + Profile

The ebony fire is among the most recent flowering species of the crape myrtle. It’s specifically known for its showy crimson red flower clusters and black foliage. With its vibrant flowers staying around for a long time, the ebony fire is a favorite summer tree for most planters in the southern states.

Ebony fire is among the five Ebony cultivars grown and marketed under the Black Diamond trademark. It differs from its close relative, Ebony Flame by its globe shape and slight color tone. Ebony Fire is a low-maintenance tree, provided it’s grown in the correct zone and planted in a suitable location.

To thrive, water and feed this showy tree or shrub appropriately.

Lagerstroemia ‘Ebony Fire’ Crape Myrtle Profile

NamesEbony fire(Black DiamondTM Crimson Red)
Size10-12 feet tall, 8 feet wide
Soil typeWell draining and moderately moist
Soil pH5.5 to 7.5
WaterOccasional watering
Sun exposureFull sun
USDA Zones7,8,9
Bloom timeEarly summer to early fall
Flower colorCrimson red
When to pruneLate winter or early spring
Root system (type)Shallow fibrous roots

Origin and names

Ebony fire is among the most recent cultivars of the crape myrtle, which are all native to Southeast Asia. It was recorded in 2013 by the U.S. National Arboretum among the other five recent cultivars, discovered after successful cross-pollination among specific species.

The recent cultivars include Ebony Embers, Ebony Flame, Ebony Fire, Ebony Glow, and Ebony and Ivory.

The ebony fire is only commonly referred to as the Lagerstroemia ebony fire.

Size

A mature ebony fire crape myrtle grows to about 10 to 12 feet tall. It has numerous stems or trunks that spread up to 8 feet wide.

Blooms and foliage

The ebony fire crape myrtle has very showy flowers crimson red produced on new wood.

When grown in the right location under optimal environmental conditions, the ebony fire tree blooms from late spring through summer, and the flowers stay around up to early fall.

The tree produces clusters of crimson red flowers during blooming, while the foliages remain black. The vibrant flower’s petals and nectar attract pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds during the blooming period.

Growth rate

The ebony fire is a medium-sized crape myrtle variety with an average growth rate.

How to grow and care for Ebony Fire crape myrtle

The ebony fire requires low maintenance as a tree or shrub. Successfully growing it to a mature size requires planting it in a proper location with full sun exposure and well-draining soil. Fertilizing once in the growing season, timely pruning, and occasional watering are enough to make this tree thrive in your landscape.

Spacing when planting

The best time to plant ebony fire divisions is from March to May. When planting, create enough space to allow the branches to spread freely to form their globe shape. Dig planting holes 240 cm or 7 feet apart.

Light

Like the other crape myrtle tree varieties, the ebony fire plant requires at least six hours of full sun exposure to bloom sporadically and produce deep red flower clusters. Partial sun exposure is unfavorable for this tree or shrub. It significantly decreases flower production. 

Full shade is the worst for this tree, as the plant doesn’t bloom. Besides, the tree weakens, thins, and appears to bend in a bid to look for sunlight.

Ebony fire grows successfully and blooms in the best location with total sun exposure.

Soil type and pH

The ebony flame isn’t picky on the soil in which it grows best. Clay, loam, silt, and sand are suitable for this plant, provided they are well-draining and moderately moist.

The plant thrives in slightly acidic, neutral, and alkaline soils. It thrives in soil with a pH range between 5.0 and 7.0.

Water

The ebony fire is drought tolerant and has minimal watering needs. It requires occasional watering before it establishes. 

Irrigate it more often in summer when the temperature is high. However, avoid irrigating it during winter when cell activity is reduced.

USDA hardiness zones

Ebony Fire crape myrtle thrives in USDA hardiness zones 7-9,  where the lowest temperature range is 0oF to 30oF. 

It is more frost-hardy and survives temperatures below 30oF.

The table below summarizes ebony fire hardiness zones and the states they thrive throughout the year.

USDA Hardiness ZoneStates
7New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Idaho,  Massachusetts, West Virginia,  North Carolina,  Tennessee, Alaska, New York, Oklahoma, Nevada, Missouri, Utah, and Washington D.C 
8Georgia, Alaska, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oregon, Washington, Florida, and Alabama,
9Arizona, Florida, California, Texas, Oregon, and Nevada.

Pruning

Ebony fire crape myrtle needs pruning to encourage massive flower production from the new woods or buds and keep it in good shape and size.

Since they actively bloom from early summer, prune the plant in late winter or early spring when it’s dormant but about to grow new branches and leaves. Pruning can also be done in mid-summer when the flowers fade to encourage new, more colorful blooms.

You will need a sharp hand pruner, loppers, pole pruners, and a pruning saw. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to pruning your ebony fire tree.

  1. Cut the small suckers at the base of the tree. The numerous suckers or sprouts make the tree appear bushy. Cutting them makes the lower part look less clumped.
  2. Cut the side branches along the tree trunk. Also, remove the ones growing toward the center of the tree.
  3. Remove any dead branches and those crossing over each other.
  4. Cut branches thinner than  ½ inch and long branches.

References

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