The Miss Francis Crape Myrtle is a new breakthrough in color, producing dense clusters of flowers in the perfect lipstick red. The foliage is lustrous green, and remains healthy all summer, as this plant has been bred to resist disease. This tree grows a little less than 20 feet tall, or smaller if regularly pruned, so it is the ideal way to bring bright color into a smaller garden, on a tree that is easy to grow. Plant it on a lawn, or as a screen or informal hedge. Grow it as a backdrop to other flowering plants, and its vibrant coloring will really bring your garden alive. It blooms from June to August, so you will have color for months. Even when not blooming its beautiful leaves make it the perfect background plant, and in winter the handsome peeling bark, revealing many shades of cream, tan and brown, make it attractive even in that difficult season.
- Brilliant bright-red flowers bloom all summer
- Perfect size for a small specimen tree or shrub
- Excellent resistance to powdery mildew
- Dense foliage stays all summer, creating a dense screen
- Attractive winter bark
Plant the Miss Frances Crape Myrtle in full sun, as even a little shade will reduce flowering. It thrives in any kind of soil, from sand to clay, and in both acidic and alkaline soils. It has some resistance to salt spray, so it grows well near the beach. It is tough enough to grow well in harsh urban areas, and it always look green and healthy, because it has been bred for disease resistance. It is also highly drought resistant, so once established it needs almost no care from you. It will bloom and bloom, shrugging off drought, poor soil, and the hot sun.
Crape myrtles come in many colors, but pure red is at the same time one of the most desirable and also one of the scarcest. There are just a handful of varieties with pure red flowers, and the best among them is the Miss Francis Crape Myrtle. It forms a broad, rounded bush reaching 18 feet tall and 20 feet across within a decade. The foliage is rich green, on dense branches, making this tree ideal for screening and shade.
The flowers, in a rich shade of true red, are carried in panicles 6 inches long, and the tree is in continuous bloom from late June all the way into August. Because this tree is resistant to the leaf diseases that can disfigure older varieties, there is no leaf-drop, and the leaves stay healthy even through the hottest and most humid weather. In fall the leaves may show some tones of orange and yellow, before falling to reveal attractive peeling bark in many color shades, from near-white to tan and gray.
Growing Miss Francis Crape Myrtle Trees
The Miss Frances Crape Myrtle is a tough, reliable plant that is ideal for those sunny, drier places in your garden. It will make an excellent specimen on a lawn; a row of screening trees for privacy or to block out an ugly view; or as background planting to other shrubs and flowers. Imagine the beauty of red blooms against the sky in your garden, and on a tree that is very easy to grow.
Indeed, crape myrtles are very, very easy, and ask nothing but a sunny spot. Once established the Miss Frances Crape Myrtle will survive drought, and grow in almost any kind of soil, just as long as it is well-drained. Even if your soil is sandy or stony, this plant will thrive, although of course like any plant, richer soil and some attention to watering during dry spells will give you a larger tree, with more flowers and denser foliage.
With its shorter height, the Miss Frances Crape Myrtle fits well into smaller gardens, and if you have a small urban garden, then it is ideal, since this tree is tough, and thrives in harsh urban conditions. Just choose a sunny location, as even a little shade will reduce the quantity of flowers produced. Since it has been bred for disease resistance, you need have no concerns about it becoming unsightly and dropping its leaves – that is not going to happen with this plant.
Uses on Your Property
You can grow the Miss Frances Crape Myrtle in several ways. Left to grow naturally it will form a rounded tree 18 to 20 feet tall and wide. You can trim it to create a tree-like form, with one or a few main stems. You can also encourage it to grow from the base, forming a rounded tree with low branches. By trimming it harder you can keep it around 10 feet tall. Prune in late winter, cutting the stems from the previous year back as much as you want. You can leave them several feet long, or just a few inches long. Either way you will have a good flower display, since crape myrtles bloom at the end of new growth that develops in spring. You can also trim it to create an informal hedge or screen, but don’t trim until after flowering – do it in fall and winter only – as summer trimming will remove the flower buds before they can form.
History and Origins of the Miss Francis Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) has a long history in America. The first plants arrived over 150 years ago, and they thrived in the South. Over the last century, scientists started breeding hybrid plants from several species, chiefly at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, to produce plants in new colors and sizes, as well as disease resistance. Since then other breeders have worked with these plants, which respond well to breeding, producing a wide variety of offspring.
The Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture have done extensive breeding, and in 2015 they released several new varieties, with ‘Miss Frances’ being a top pick, especially desirable for its red flower color, dense growth, excellent leaf retention, and rapid growth.