Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle
Lagerstroemia 'PIILAG-V' PP25,925
Pink Summer Flowering Crape Myrtle Midnight Magic
Crape Myrtle Midnight Magic™ produces superb purple-maroon colored foliage and offers loads of dark pink flowers all summer. It has a naturally rounded compact shape. It begins blooming in July when most other plant blooms are fading in the heat and remains colorful well into September. Additionally, the foliage color stays dark even in the southern heat. With its beautiful dark foliage and good leaf spot and mildew resistance, this shrub will become a focal point of the summer landscape.
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Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle has superb purple-maroon foliage and offers loads of dark pink flowers. It has a rounded compact shape. It begins blooming in July when summer color is in short supply and remains colorful into September. Additionally, the foliage color is not diminished, even in southern heat. With its beautiful dark foliage and good leaf spot and mildew resistance, Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle is an exciting problem-free replacement for purple leaf plums where plums are often defoliated by August. It will bloom again in late summer if the first flush of flowers are deadheaded. It has excellent resistance to leaf spot and powdery mildew and is perfect to add a shot of summer color in a foundation planting or as an informal hedge. Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle is a semi-dwarf form of crape myrtle, blooming in early summer with pure white flowers. It forms a rounded shrub, with a dense, full shape. The foliage emerges reddish-purple in color and eventually matures to rich dark purple, nicely setting off the dark pink flowers. It will bloom again in late summer if the first flush of flowers are deadheaded. It has excellent resistance to leaf spot and powdery mildew and is perfect to add a shot of summer color in a foundation planting or as an informal hedge.
History and introduction of Crape Myrtles:
In the mid-1960s, the National Arboretum embarked on a crape myrtle breeding program that continues today, forty-five years later. It was begun by the late Donald Egolf, a research horticulturist whose goal was to produce disease-resistant, cold-hardy crape myrtles. In the first five years, he focused on breeding and selecting pure Lagerstroemia indica for these traits. The result was the release of six cultivars in 1967 and 1970, each named for a Native American tribe, chosen to impart a distinctly American designation to introductions from this program. Several of these selections are still widely grown today, including ‘Catawba’, ‘Cherokee’, and ‘Seminole’. Though an improvement over cultivars then available, they were to be followed by a much more important milestone in breeding and development. In 1956, a long-forgotten species of crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia fauriei) was rediscovered on the small Japanese island of Yakushima. Botanists found only one specimen on the island. Seeds collected from that tree were sent back to the United States and dispersed to arboretums and nurseries. The resulting seedling trees proved to be immune to powdery mildew, a disease that often afflicted L. indica and that the USNA breeding project had sought to eradicate. This purely white-flowered tree was less showy in bloom than L. indica, but it bore dramatic cinnamon and burgundy exfoliating bark. Egolf began hybridizing Lagerstroemia indica with the seedlings of L. fauriei. He hoped to impart disease resistance and handsome bark to the hybrid offspring, which were assigned the name L. xfauriei. What he achieved was a lasting legacy of spectacular and popular cultivars. Disease resistance, beautiful bark, and enhanced cold hardiness were imparted to these hybrids, just as Egolf had planned. Following the release of the first hybrid selections (‘Muskogee’ and ‘Natchez’) in 1978, twenty-one hybrid cultivars would be selected, named, and introduced over the next twenty-five years. Each was thoroughly tested for disease resistance, length of bloom, and cold hardiness in Washington, DC (USDA zone 7a). Later, a third cold-hardy species was added to the hybrid program: Lagerstroemia limii, a lavender-flowered species occasionally grown in western Oregon. Its large furry leaves and rough bark distinguished it from L. indica and L. fauriei. In 2003, the first two triple hybrids were released, fulfilling a long-sought goal: the introduction of truly red-flowered hybrid crape myrtles (‘Arapaho’ and ‘Cheyenne’) with disease resistance. This National Arboretum breeding program continues to use names of Native American tribes, though not all of the introductions so named are hybrids; the first six cultivars were purely Lagerstroemia indica. Lagerstroemia indica, commonly known as crape myrtle, is an upright, wide-spreading, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub or small tree in the loosestrife family. It typically grows to 15-25’ tall. It is native from the Himalayas through southern China, southeast Asia and Japan, but has naturalized in the U.S. from Virginia to Arkansas south to Texas and Florida. An additional common name is Lilac of the South in reference to its popularity in southern gardens (USDA Zones 7-9). Key ornamental features include long bloom period, exfoliating bark and superb fall color. Terminal, crepe-papery inflorescences (to 6-18” long) of showy flowers with crimped petals bloom in summer (sometimes to frost) on upright branches. In the wild, flowers are typically rose to red. Cultivated varieties have expanded the flower color range to include white, pink, mauve, lavender and purple. Alternate to sub-opposite, thick and leathery, privet-like, elliptic to oblong leaves (to 3" long) emerge light green often with a tinge of red, mature to dark green by summer and finally turn attractive shades of yellow-orange-red in fall. Flowers give way to round seed capsules which often persist well into winter. Smooth pale pinkish-gray bark on mature branches exfoliates with age. In the St. Louis area where winter injury can be a problem, plants will typically grow to 6-10’ tall. In the deep South, plants will grow much taller if not pruned back. Straight species plants are not sold in commerce. A multitude of named cultivars from dwarf to tree size have been introduced over the years, many of which are hybrids between L. indica and L. faueri. Genus name honors Magnus von Lagerstroem (1691-1759), Swedish botanist, Director of the Swedish East Indies Company and friend of Linnaeus. Specific epithet means of the Indies in reference to native territory. Common name is in reference to the crepe-papery inflorescences and the myrtle-like (Myrtus communis) features of the bark and foliage.