Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle: A Timeless Beauty for Your Garden

Sometimes, in the midst of all the new and trendy plant varieties, we tend to overlook the classic beauty and versatility of the crape myrtle.

watermelon red crape myrtle

Standing tall as a compact specimen tree, it packs a powerful punch in any garden setting, whether as a single tree, a group, or lining an elegant avenue.

While there are countless newer options available, we’re reaching back a century to reintroduce you to the timeless Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle—a truly striking specimen tree that will captivate any warm garden.

Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle: A Profile

Enjoy months of breathtaking pink-red blooms that resemble the luscious flesh of a watermelon, making a bold statement in your garden and becoming the talk of the town.

Standing at just over 20 feet tall with a broad, rounded crown, the Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle boasts foot-long sprays of flowers that continue to blossom abundantly.

watermelon red crape myrtle

Its striking winter bark adds another layer of visual interest, accompanied by unique seed heads.

Even during the times between its vibrant blooms, the lush green leaves fill the tree with life.

Although we recommend zone 7 for optimal growth, you can still cultivate this stunning variety in zone 6 as a shrub, even with some winter damage, which won’t hinder its flowering display in the slightest.

Growing the Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle


The Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle is a deciduous tree that reaches a small to medium size, growing a couple of feet taller each year.

watermelon red crape myrtle

It forms a broad, rounded crown and can be nurtured with either a single trunk or two to three trunks.

With a height ranging from 20 to 25 feet, and a similar spread, it’s crucial to allow 10 to 15 feet of clearance from buildings and other potential obstructions.

Avoid planting it beneath low overhead cables.


In zone 6, expect some winter damage, resulting in a large shrub no more than 10 feet tall, but rest assured, flowering will still be profuse.

As the tree matures, its trunk showcases an enchanting display of mottled patterns, with bark shedding to reveal patches of varying shades of grays, browns, and creams—offering visual intrigue throughout the year, especially in winter.

watermelon red crape myrtle

The glossy oval leaves, which grow up to 3 inches long, emerge as bronzy-red in spring and mature into a deep green shade.

In the fall, they transform into attractive shades of orange-yellow.

Blooms and Seed Pods

The Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle produces its superb flowers at the ends of new shoots.

By mid-summer, the first blooms burst open, revealing crinkled and ruffled petals that resemble delicate crepe paper.

These blossoms congregate in large heads up to 12 inches in length, creating a breathtaking show in your garden.

The bright pinkish-red color mirrors the vibrant flesh of watermelons, making a vibrant statement.

watermelon red crape myrtle

Successive waves of blooms emerge, gracing your garden with weeks and weeks of floral beauty.

In late summer or early fall, a second flush of blooms may appear.

To encourage this, it is advisable to deadhead spent flowers, especially while the tree is still young.

Following the blooming season, clusters of unusual round seed pods develop, featuring a yellowish-brown hue that remains throughout winter—a captivating sight during the quiet months.

Using the Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle in Your Garden

As a small specimen tree, the Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle unsurpassed in its beauty and impact.

Plant it on a lawn as a striking centerpiece, or tuck it into a corner of your home to provide refreshing shade during the summer months.

watermelon red crape myrtle

Consider grouping several trees together or lining them up along a pathway for an enchanting display.

If you space them 10 feet apart, they can even form a solid screen, while spacing them more than 20 feet apart creates a stately avenue.

In zone 6, you can plant them at the back of shrub beds to infuse late-season color into your landscape.

Hardiness and Sunlight Requirements

The Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle is fully hardy in zone 7 and thrives in warm climates. In zone 6, prepare for some winter damage.

However, a simple pruning in spring will maintain an attractive shrub form and ensure a bountiful blooming season.

This variety flourishes in full sun, so make sure to provide it with plenty of sunlight. It won’t bloom as well in shady areas.

watermelon red crape myrtle

As for soil conditions, the Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle isn’t too demanding—it grows in most ordinary soils as long as they are well-drained.

Furthermore, once established, it can tolerate poor soil and dry conditions with ease. However, avoid planting it in areas prone to excessive moisture.

Maintenance and Pruning

The Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle is generally pest and disease-free, with excellent resistance to powdery mildew.

While it may not be a hybrid variety, which were developed later on, this tree is typically untouched by deer.

To ensure the desired trunk form, it is recommended to perform formative pruning while the tree is young. Younger plants can be dead-headed as needed.

watermelon red crape myrtle
  • If any pruning is necessary, it’s best to do it in the spring.
  • Remove old seed heads and trim back the branches of the previous year, even if you need to cut them down to just a couple of inches.
  • However, avoid trimming new growth, as it can hinder or even prevent flowering.

Nowadays, the more natural look is favored, so minimal to no pruning is required to fully appreciate the splendor of this remarkable tree.

History and Origin of the Watermelon Red Crape Myrtle

The crape myrtle, scientifically known as Lagerstroemia indica, first arrived in America in Charleston around 1786 when it was still a French city.

The French naturalist André Michaux brought the plant from England, where it had been introduced from its native China about three decades earlier.

Flourishing in the southern climate, the crape myrtle has been an iconic feature of the South ever since.

watermelon red crape myrtle

The Watermelon Red variety was first listed in the 1922-23 catalog of T.V. Munson Nursery in Denison, Texas, and later in 1930 at Griffing Nursery in Beaumont, Texas.

It is also sometimes referred to as ‘Griffing’s Watermelon Red,’ indicating the possibility that Griffing Nursery played a significant role in its development. Both nurseries were renowned in their time.