Say hello to The Lilac of the South. Maybe these spectacular summer blooms will help take the sting out of climate change. We don’t usually see crepe myrtle trees in these parts, but the one pictured here has survived on the East Side for a few winters anyway. Traditionally planted in hardiness zones 7-10 (and iffy in 7), crepe myrtle (also, crapemyrtle) had not been considered viable here in zone 6-ish. Until now?
So what’s going on? Gardening Know How addresses this exact issue. It may not be that our winters are getting warmer, but rather that new, hardier cultivars have been developed from the Lagerstroemia fauriei variety. The article lists several whose flowers look very much like this specimen, but the article adds:
While these hardy crepe myrtles can survive in zone 6, it is a stretch to say that they thrive in regions this cold. These zone 6 crepe myrtle varieties are only root hardy in zone 6. That means that you can start growing crepe myrtle trees outdoors, but you’ll have to think of them as perennials. They will probably die back to the ground over the winter, then resprout in spring.
That would not seem be the case here — one can see that the stems/trunks have matured, even developing the blotchy bark myrtles are known for. (I kept hoping to see someone in the yard or on the porch so I could ask some questions. I invite them to comment with the secrets to their success if they see this post.)
I still think we are getting warmer — I gave away my heavy parka last fall and I hadn’t worn it in years. The USDA Hardiness map has Providence at 6b (-5 to 0˚F).