Ebony Flame Crape Myrtle: Care Guide

Gardening enthusiasts can agree on one thing; crape myrtles are beautiful. But if you have a flair for something that will call attention to itself, the ‘ebony flame’ crape myrtle takes that crown. With its apt naming, ebony flame crape myrtle looks like it belongs on the cover of a Stephen King thriller. 

Ebony flame crape myrtle is a unique tree with black foliage and crimson red flowers. This new variety is revered for its fast growth, size potential, and pest and disease resistance. Furthermore, it’s a multifunctional tree great for bordering since deer can’t browse it. Also, it’s a low-maintenance tree that’ll grow in any well-drained soil. 

Lagerstroemia ‘Ebony Flame’ Crape Myrtle Profile

NamesEbony flame crape myrtleLagerstroemia ‘Ebony Flame’
Size10-12 feet tall when mature8-foot maximum spread when mature
Soil typePrefers well-draining soil such as silt and loam; but will tolerate sandy and clay soil
Soil pH5.0-6.6
WaterPrefers regular watering before roots are established; but has minimal water needs once established
Sun exposurePrefers uninterrupted sunlight, but will withstand mild shade conditions
USDA Zones7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, and 10b.
Bloom timeEarly-late summer (first bloom period)Late summer-mid fall (second bloom period)
Flower colorRuby red
When to pruneLate winter or early spring
Root system (type)Fibrous and shallow roots

Origin and names

Ebony flame crape myrtle is also referred to as Lagerstroemia ‘Ebony Flame’. It’s part of the ebony series of crape myrtles, which also includes ebony fire, ebony embers, ebony glow, and ebony ivory crape myrtle cultivars. 

This series was originally introduced under the name ‘Black Diamond crape Myrtle Series’ by the National Arboretum/US Department of Agriculture.

Size

Lagerstroemia Ebony Flame is classified as a mid-sized tree. It typically grows to 10-12 feet tall at full maturity, with a spread of 8 feet.

Blooms and foliage

From summer to fall, showy ruby-red blooms appear on the tips of the branches of Lagerstroemia Ebony Flame. The blooms occur as individual blooms in rounded clusters.

The foliage is a dark burgundy-black tone that creates a perfect background contrast against the red flowers. The branches grow upright to form a rounded canopy that gives Ebony Flame crape myrtle its distinctive, bushy shape and structure.

Growth rate

Ebony Flame crape myrtle has a moderate-fast growth rate compared to other crape myrtle cultivars.

How to grow and care for Ebony Flame crape myrtle

Like any other ornamental plant, this crape myrtle variety requires you to follow the proper planting and maintenance techniques to thrive. 

To ensure proper care and maintenance for Lagerstroemia Ebony Flame, you need to factor in the following aspects:

  • The spacing when planting
  • Amount of light exposure
  • Soil conditions, soil type, and soil Ph
  • Moisture requirements
  • USDA plant hardiness zones
  • Pruning requirements

Spacing when planting

To form a perfect hedge or screen using Ebony Flame crape myrtle, space each plant 5-6 feet apart. However, if you prefer gaps between the trees, a wider spacing of 10 feet or more between each plant is preferable.

Light

Ebony Flame crape myrtle prefers full, uninterrupted sunlight exposure. However, it can tolerate partial shade if it gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Soil type and pH

Lagerstroemia Ebony Flame can survive in various soil types, including chalk soil, loam soil, and sandy soil. It can only tolerate a narrower pH range than most other types of crape myrtle. Ebony Flame crape myrtle will survive in mildly acidic and neutral soil with a pH of 5.0-6.6, but will struggle in alkaline soil with a pH of 7.5 or higher.

Water

Lagerstroemia Ebony flame can withstand moderate drought conditions and only needs to be watered once weekly in such conditions. You don’t have to irrigate this crape myrtle variety during rainy seasons. It can regulate its intake if it grows in well-draining soil.

However, you need to regularly water young ebony flame crape myrtles to facilitate deeper root establishment.

Note:  consider applying organic mulch about 2-3 inches deep to boost moisture retention in Lagerstroemia Ebony Flame.

USDA hardiness zones

Ebony Flame crape myrtle is well adapted to the following USDA plant hardiness zones: 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, and 10b. You’ll find the tree thriving in coastal areas such as Jersey to high humidity areas such as Miami and Florida.

Pruning

The best time to prune Ebony Flame crape myrtle is in late winter or at the start of spring when the plant is ending the winter dormancy period. Pruning at this time triggers the growth of new wood in the spring, from which blooms develop in the summer. Avoid pruning in early or mid-winter, as the new shoots that sprout from the cut branches can’t withstand the cold weather.

Note: It’s also advisable to lightly prune Lagerstroemia Ebony Flame sporadically during the year to get rid of dead and diseased twigs.

References

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