Crepe Myrtle Pruning - Crafting New Growth into Trunk

sugardaddyJanuary 21, 2013

Last winter was the first one in our new house it has two crepe myrtles in the front yard. After reading several articles on good pruning, I did my best with my two. I suppose they're young, only about 5-6 ft. high and the trunks at the base were maybe 1.25 in. in diameter.

On one of them, I had to cut back a couple of the trunks because they were rubbing and/or twisting off in really strange directions. This left me with two trunks, which still produced a decent looking tree over the summer.

As new growths came up from the trunk base, I would remove them until one came up where I wanted to have a new trunk. It grew to be about 3 ft high over the summer.

But I wonder how to treat it now. I did not trim off the blooms. Since it's only 3 ft tall, I think if I cut it, it will fork at that height. I think I want it to get taller before it has its first fork. Do I do nothing to have its new growth be straight? What are my options?

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Let it grow at least a couple more seasons.
Don't ever do anything about the blooms. Leave them alone.
Every fall, when the leaves fall off, look at the skelton and cut away the branches you don't want at the base.
Don't do any more cutting other than that.
But let it grow for a couple seasons before you cut anymore.
Your trees are really young, let them fill out and the trunk get a little more established before any more cutting.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 11:39PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

I agree. Your baby trees need a couple years to get the roots established. Pruning so early makes them want to re-grow when they should be attending to growth underground for stability and search for water.
Shape at the end of the season and trim off the suckers as they sprout but that's all.
Crapes are all but impossible to kill once they are settled in and well rooted. After a couple years you can prune all you like.
They don't need food. Just sufficient water to the surrounding area beyond the root ball.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 11:54PM
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A friend just gave me a small (abt 2.5 ft tall) bushy crepe myrtle she'd dug from her yard and potted in a one-gallon container last fall. The cultivar, she said is Lagerstroemia Purple Magic. The plant is obviously rootbound now, but that's not the main problem. This morning, I was going to remove it from the pot, straighten out the roots then repot in a 5-gallon container so I can nurse it along after the trauma of repotting. I planned to plant it around the middle of Sept.
The big problem I now see is that someone cut the ONE main trunk back to about six inches. There are two skinny branches coming out near the bottom of that main trunk (they are not coming out of the soil) and a few tiny shoots near the base. Now I'm wondering if it's worth all the time and trouble to repot and eventually plant, since the 1" thick main trunk is missing. I never cut the top of the main growth of anything unless I want to stop it from growing taller.
I've never had a crepe myrtle, so I don't know if it will grow taller without that trunk (my friend's trees are about 8' tall)? Please help with this, it's too hot here to waste a drop of energy for a plant that will remain a small shrub forever.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 8:39AM
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I would imagine it will grow just fine without the main trunk. After all, they all become trunks if you let them!

I have often seen people say you can cut one back to the stumps if it has been "knuckled" badly, so I think you could be fine. However, I'm no expert.

I had a new stalk last year grow a full season (here in NC) to a height of about 40 inches. Then this spring, I waited to see which new growth did the best this season (the second for that stalk/trunk) and trimmed off the rest (which I assumed would help with vertical growth).

After a good bit of growth already, we're at maybe 6 ft. with that trunk now!

I'm afraid I don't know which cultivar I have, but if you have one of the ones that is not a dwarf, then you could see some decent size in just 2 seasons.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 10:46PM
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