Black Diamond Crapemyrtles: Stunning new selection for southern gardens! by Leslie Finical Halleck
As a horticulturist, I’m easily excited by all sorts of plants. But with all the new varieties I’m exposed to on a daily basis, even I can get a little glazed over by all the “newness”. It seems like there is a new pansy or petunia variety released every day and it some point they all just blend together. It ends up being hard to tell why one is better or different from the other. Every once in a while though, something really special comes along; like the new Black Diamond™ Crapemyrtles.
I’ll admit; it’s been a long time since I got really excited about a crapemyrtle, or have been motivated to plant them in my own landscape. While they are obviously one of our best landscape plants here in Texas, and provide us with months and months of beautiful blooms, they are…everywhere. So when I spotted these new crapemyrtles last fall, I knew they were going to be a game changer because I had to have them for my garden.
Plant varieties with black foliage are hot right now, but they are far and few between. The Black Diamond™ series of crapemyrtles offer up spectacular black foliage and five brilliant flower colors to choose from. The stunning black foliage emerges in early spring and lasts until leaves drop at the first hard frost. Planted in full sun, plants hold their dark foliage color over the entire growing season and bloom late-spring through late-fall. The foliage on these plants is gorgeous and will be perfect for helping to break up that “too much green” effect often seen in foundation plantings.
The Black Diamond™ crapemyrtles were bred by a USDA research scientist in Mississippi and are now primarily grown by J. Berry Nursery right here in Texas. The series features five vivid color selections including ‘Best Red’, ‘Crimson Red’, ‘Red Hot’, ‘Blush’, and ‘Pure White’. We know how different “reds” can be and finding just the right one can be a challenge. ‘Blush’ offers up soft pale pink blooms against the dark foliage. ‘Pure White’ gives you a stunning contrast perfect for a sophisticated garden. I’ll be planting ‘Pure White’ in my garden, but I have hopes of a purple or lavender coming out of the series in the future.
Because of its intermediate or semi-dwarf growth habit, these crapemyrtles will be a versatile shrub for landscapers and homeowners. Reaching only 10- to 12-feet tall and 8-feet wide, these semi-dwarfs are perfect for urban landscapes, small spaces and containers. When choosing plants for your landscape, it’s all about “right plant, right place”. The practice of “crape murder” is so common because varieties too large for their intended space are often planted. People then feel compelled to then butcher crapemyrtles to keep them in bounds. Unfortunately, this practice totally ruins the look and form of the plants. By choosing crapemyrtles in this intermediate size range, you can allow the plants to naturally reach their mature size and form. The results are truly beautiful.
Now, this is a brand new plant release. As with any new variety, availability may be limited in the first few years. Also, it will take some time to see exactly how plants perform here in Texas in terms of final mature size and disease tolerance. In field trials, under moisture stress and high humidity, Black Diamond™ crapemyrtles showed improved tolerance to fungal diseases like powdery mildew and leaf spot, which is a bonus. But in order for any crapemyrtle to thrive, hold their foliage color, resist disease and bloom properly, they need to be planted in a full sun location. Crapemyrtles are not shade plants and even part shade conditions will reduce blooms and leave plants susceptible to disease.
Fall is the ideal time here in Texas to plant new shrubs and trees. You can plant crapemyrtles now, and all through winter, even when they are dormant. Planting during the cool season allows plants a good many months to put down new roots before the onset of summer heat and water restrictions. Check in with your local garden center for these beautiful new crapemyrtles.