Dwarf Wax Myrtle: Tips For Growing Dwarf Myrtle

Dwarf Wax Myrtle: Tips For Growing Dwarf Myrtle

By: Amy Grant

Dwarf myrtle trees are small evergreen shrubs native to moist or dry sandy areas of pine-hardwoods in East Texas, east to Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina and north to Arkansas and Delaware. They are also referred to as dwarf wax myrtle, dwarf candleberry, bayberry, waxberry, wax myrtle, and dwarf southern wax myrtle and are a member of the family Myricaceae. The plant’s hardiness zone is USDA 7.

Difference Between Wax Myrtle and Dwarf Myrtle

Depending on who you talk to, dwarf myrtle is thought to be simply a smaller variety of its common sister species, Morella cerifera, or the common wax myrtle. Apparently, the genus Myrica was split into Morella and Myrica, so wax myrtle is sometimes called Morella cerifera and sometimes called Myrica cerifera.

Wax myrtle will generally have larger leaves than the dwarf variety and will attain a height a couple of feet taller (5 to 6) than the dwarf.

Growing Dwarf Wax Myrtle

Valued for its aromatic, evergreen foliage and its 3 to 4 foot (.9 to 1 m.) manageable height, growing dwarf myrtle is also adaptable to full sun or partial shade in a wide range of soils from boggy to arid.

The fine wispy foliage of dwarf wax myrtle looks lovely as a pruned hedge or it may be limbed up to form an attractive specimen plant. Dwarf wax myrtle has a stoloniferous root system or spreading habitat (through underground runners) that tends to produce a thicket or dense colony of plants that are useful for erosion management. This thicket-like growth can be curtailed through pruning the plant to contain its spread as part of the care of dwarf myrtle.

The leaves of the dwarf wax myrtle are heavily dotted with resin on both the dark green top and the brownish olive undersides, giving it a two-toned appearance.

Dwarf wax myrtle is a dioecious plant, which bears silvery blue-grey berries on female plants following the yellow spring/winter blossoms. The new spring growth has a scent akin to bayberry when the foliage is bruised.

Dwarf Myrtle Plant Care

Dwarf myrtle plant care is fairly straightforward when grown in the correct USDA zone, as the plant is highly adaptable to a variety of conditions.

Dwarf wax myrtle is susceptible to the cold, especially freezing winds, which will cause leaf drop or severely browned leaves. Branches also become brittle and may split or break under the weight of ice or snow.

However, dwarf myrtle plant care and growth is possible in areas of salt spray, which the plant is very tolerant of.

Dwarf myrtle plants can be propagated through cuttings.

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You're sure to find a crapemytle that's right for your yard. These versatile shrubs come in range of shapes and sizes, from dwarf varieties that reach less than four feet to tree-sized varieties that can grow to more than twenty feet.

Start by thinking about how much space you have and what flower color you want. It’s also smart to choose a disease-resistant cultivar that’s known to perform well in Florida.

For small spaces, try a dwarf or semi-dwarf cultivar. ‘Chickasaw’ creates a dense, three-foot bush covered with lavender-pink flowers. ‘Acoma’ is a white-flowering cultivar that has beautiful, weeping branches and reaches just over 10 feet tall. It’s also resistant to powdery mildew.

If you have more space, try growing ‘Comanche’, a coral flowering intermediate cultivar that grows 20 feet tall, or ‘Miami’, a 35-foot-tall selection that produces dark pink flowers. You can read more about the many types of crapemyrtle in Florida.

Crapemyrtles perform best when they receive full sun. Newly planted crapemyrtles should be irrigated regularly for the first few weeks. Once established, these plants are extremely drought tolerant and have low fertility requirements, though they respond to fertilizer and water with lush growth.

Contrary to popular belief, crapemyrtles do not require much pruning. Remove any poorly placed limbs as needed, but avoid what is commonly known as "crape murder." Learn more about proper pruning techniques in our article "Pruning Crapemyrtle."

Semi-Dwarf Varieties

Enduring Summer

This series is available in Red, Pink, Lavender, and White. They grow 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Glossy green leaves emerge tinged with red and turn to dark green.


This series is available in several colors: Holly Ann-cherry red, Kylie-magenta, and Zoey-red & pink. They only grow 4 feet tall and wide. The leaves that emerge a copper-red, turn deep green in summer and a purple-red in fall.

Double Feature

New growth of small wine-red leaves are followed by an abundance of ruby-red blooms. This variety produces no seed capsules. Mature size is only 6 to 8 feet in height and width.

Plant A Smaller Crepe Myrtle This Year

Why do people murder crepe myrtles? No, it's not too much Neanderthal DNA. It's that the variety of crepe myrtle they planted got way too big. Here's a guide to which crepe myrtles won't outgrow your house or yard, so you won't have to chop them grotesquely each year.

What Went Wrong

Crepe murder -- the grisly rite of chopping crepe myrtles into ugly stumps -- really got a shot in the arm about 20 to 30 years ago, when the first mildew-resistant hybrids with native American names ('Natchez,' 'Muskogee,' 'Tuscarora,' etc.) were introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum. Growers didn't know how big these crepes would get, because they hadn't been out long enough. So they guessed -- and almost always guessed wrong. Crepe myrtles they said would grow 10 to 15 feet tall ended up growing 20 to 30 feet tall. Which meant that many crepe myrtles grew too big for the spots they were in and homeowners started chopping off their heads every spring.

(To see how to correctly prune a large crepe myrtle, click right here.)

What Went Right

Gardeners and growers both saw the need for smaller, more compact crepe myrtles that didn't need annual pruning. Growers created new selections of semi-dwarf (12 feet tall or less at maturity) and dwarf (less than 4 feet tall at maturity) types that bloomed well, resisted disease, and were hardy. Let Grumpy introduce some of his favorites, all of which are available at garden centers now.

'Acoma' -- That's it up top. White flowers atop an arching, sculptural small tree. Grows about 10 feet tall. Great in a large container.

''Burgundy Cotton' -- Upright tree to about 12 feet. White flowers appear atop foliage that changes from wine-red in spring to burgundy-green in summer.

'Delta Jazz' -- Combines bright-pink flowers with spectacular burgundy foliage that doesn't "green" in hot weather. Grows 6 to 10 feet tall. Part of our Southern Living Plant Collection.

Early Bird Series -- Comes in three colors -- lavender, purple, and white. Long-blooming plant starts flowering in May. Grows 5 to 8 feet tall. Part of our Southern Living Plant Collection.

'Hopi' -- Medium-pink flowers on a spreading, bushy plant 7 to 10 feet tall and wide.

Magic Series -- Rounded, bushy plants 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. Colors include coral-pink, fuchsia-pink, and purple. Foliage emerges reddish and then changes to deep-green.

'Pink Velour' -- Neon-pink flowers with wine red foliage that doesn't fade. Nearly seedless blooms for a long time. Grows about 12 feet tall.

'Red Rooster' -- Brilliant red flowers. Foliage emerges maroon and changes to green. Flowers may show white or red flecking. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall.

'Rhapsody in Pink' -- Combines soft-pink flowers with purplish new growth. Nearly seedless blooms a long time. Upright grower to 12 feet.

'Siren Red' -- Dark-red flowers on a rounded plant 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. New foliage emerges wine-red and then changes to dark-green.

'Tonto' -- Red flowers and maroon foliage. Grows 10 to 12 feet tall and wide. Handsome bark.

'Velma's Royal Delight' -- Intense, purple-magenta flowers and deep green leaves. Cold-hardy to well below zero degrees. Bushy plant grows 4 to 6 feet tall.

'Zuni' -- Medium-lavender flowers on a vase-shaped, spreading plant 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. Long bloomer, cold-hardy, handsome bark.

'Centennial' -- Bright-purple blooms on a rounded, dense mound, 3-5 tell and wide. Quite cold-hardy. The best purple dwarf.

'Pocomoke' -- Bright-pink blooms and deep green foliage on a mounding shrub that grows 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. Great in pots.

Razzle Dazzle Series -- Mounding shrubs 3 to 4 feet tall and wide come in a wide range of colors. Do great in containers. Grumpy recommends 'Cherry Dazzle,' (red blooms), 'Berry Dazzle' (fuchsia-purple blooms and burgundy new foliage), and 'Strawberry Dazzle' (neon-rose flowers). 'Raspberry Dazzle' doesn't bloom well.

'Tightwad Red' -- Dark-red flowers on mounding plant to 4 feet tall and wide. Seedless.

'Victor' -- Deep-red flowers. Grows 5-5 feet tall and wide. Cold-hardy.

Take These Little Guys Home

Pruning / Training:

The crape myrtle flowers at the ends of its shoots, so one must take care with pruning if flowering is desired. The safest method is to prune in autumn which will stimulate bud production for next year. Cutting the crape myrtle back severely and then allowing it to grow freely for a year will thicken the trunk. The next year, pinch the tree constantly to promote branch ramification. If pruning is discontinued shortly before the flowering period, it may still flower.

This bonsai may be wired from spring to autumn, taking care to protect the bark. The branches are quite delicate and it will be just as easy to shape as desired through pruning due to the excellent branch ramification. Decide on the position or shape a branch is to occupy before bending it. Slowly apply a small amount of pressure with the thumbs, bending gradually, repeating in several locations rather than risk too much in one place. Repeat the process every few days.

Be sensitive to any increase or decrease in resistance wiring should be carried out with attention and patience, ensuring that the wire on the bark is not tightened so hard that the wire leaves marks on it or breaks the branches under the stress of careless wiring.

Growing Conditions

Crepe myrtles need full sun to perform well. They will grow in shade, but blooms will be sparse, and plants will get leggy. These hardy trees have few pest or disease problems, and they require little water and fertilizer.

Also, crepe myrtles need minimal pruning. Some gardeners top them annually, but this ruins their natural shape and beauty. Remove the sucker growth that sometimes appears around the base. Only prune to shape trees or to take out any cross branching. In the winter, you can remove old seedpods by clipping the tips of branches.

Summer blooms and fall colors make crepe myrtles a garden favorite. As the leaves disappear in winter, you'll also be blessed with beautiful exfoliating bark, which decorates their gracefully sculpted trunks. For year-round interest, remember this Southern classic. Plant one now, and watch your tree change with the seasons. — Charlie Thigpen

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