Can you grow lilacs in North Carolina?

Lagerstroemia, crepe myrtle


from 300.00cm to 700.00cm
Leaf shape
  • elliptical
  • elongated
  • obovate
  • Single position
  • Planters
  • Winter garden


Contrary to what the botanical name suggests, the Lagerstroemia (Lagerstroemia indica) does not come from India, but from China and Korea. It was named after the Swede Carl Magnus von Lagerström (1691-1759), director of the Swedish East India Company and acquaintance of Carl von Linné, who brought it to the botanist from a trip to China. From a botanical point of view, the ornamental wood, which is also known as the lilac of the south or Chinese crepe myrtle, belongs to the loosestrife family (Lythraceae).

Lagerstroemia indica is the only hardy species in its genus in Central Europe. However, only to a limited extent: Since it is actually still too sensitive to frost for our latitudes, it can only be planted in the garden in mild areas and wine-growing areas. With us you can usually find the crepe myrtle in tubs on the balcony or terrace. In southern Europe, however, the ornamental wood is a popular street tree and is very common.


The deciduous Lagerstroemia is a 300 to 700 centimeter high multi-shoot shrub or tree. As a container plant, the crepe myrtle only reaches heights between 300 and 500 centimeters on average. Their trunk is surrounded by a smooth, reddish-brown bark. The later bark can be peeled off in plates. The branches are square.


The leaves are close to the branches and are three to seven centimeters long. They are elliptical to obovate or elongated, sometimes rounded at the front, sometimes pointed. The upper side of the leaf is dark green, the underside is hairy along the midrib. In autumn the foliage of the Lagerstroemia takes on a splendid, yellow to orange-red color.


During the flowering period from the end of July to September and October, the crepe myrtle is somewhat similar to our lilac (Syringa): Its flowers are also in long, terminal panicles. The flower color ranges from soft pink to strong red. In the meantime, however, varieties with white or purple flowers are also available. What they all have in common is that they fade over the course of the flowering period. The edge of the petals is curled.


In autumn, small, four- to six-sided fruit capsules that contain the seeds of the crepe myrtle develop.


Since the Lagerstroemia only blooms with long-lasting heat, it needs a full sun. At the same time, it should be well ventilated so that the plant dries off quickly after a downpour.


The lilacs of the south are preferably planted in high-quality potted plant soil with a high nutrient and humus content. The addition of expanded clay, sand or gravel prevents the substrate from compacting. Permeability is not only very important in potted cultivation: If you plant your lagerstroemia in the garden, the soil must also have good drainage and be loose.

to water

The crepe myrtle needs an evenly moist soil. If the soil is too dry, it quickly sheds its flower buds.


From March to September, the lilacs of the south should be supplied with a high-quality liquid container plant fertilizer every 7 to 14 days. Long-term fertilization with sticks is also an option.


A little time-consuming, but unavoidable: With Lagerstroemia, repotting is due about once a year ... preferably in early spring at the beginning of the new gardening season. A two to three year cycle is sufficient for older plants.

To cut

Since the flowers are always formed on the new shoots, as with the butterfly lilac, you should cut back the lagerstroemia after the leaves have been shed. The stronger the new shoots, the richer the flower will be.

The crepe myrtle is a great shrub for the pot garden. In this video we will show you step by step how to cut the lilac of the south.
Credits: CreativeUnit / David Hugle

Overwintering or winter protection

Crepe myrtle in the pot should definitely be cleared from the terrace or balcony in good time and overwintered in the house or in the unheated winter garden at a cold five degrees Celsius. Since they shed their leaves, their need for light in winter is not particularly high. A partially shaded to shady location is then ideal. Keep the substrate slightly moist. A planted out Lagerstroemia has to be provided with winter protection even in mild regions - however, watering outside is superfluous.


Due to the different heights of growth, you should choose your lilacs of the south depending on the type of cultivation - outdoors or in pots. Otherwise, it is purely personal color preferences that decide. Tried and tested varieties are Lagerstroemia indica ‘Rubra’ (intensely bright, pink-red flowers), Lagerstroemia indica ’Alba’ (pink buds that open into white flowers) or Lagerstroemia indica ‘Superviolacea’ (purple flowers, red autumn leaves).


In spring or summer you can propagate the Lagerstroemia by cuttings, which you put in a pot with a mixture of sand and potting soil. A high level of humidity promotes root formation. Sowing is also possible, but the seeds must be used fresh in autumn because they quickly lose their ability to germinate.

Diseases and pests

Lagerstroemia unfortunately has to struggle more often with powdery mildew, a fungal disease. Especially when it's too cold. Spider mites can occasionally appear in winter quarters.