Natchez Crepe Myrtle dying!!

Novice27(7)May 20, 2014

I bought this tree on the 14th and put it in the ground on the 15th of this month. I have 2 rhapsody in pink on either side of it and they are both doing well. Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong by my pictures?! I've sent TLC (where I purchased it) an e-mail but I'm posting here to see if anyone else has any advice while I'm waiting from a response from them. Thanks for any help you can give me!

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Here is another picture of leaves close up. I watered it thoroughly immediately after planting and then watered again yesterday (5 days later) thinking the leaves looked like they could be droopy due to not enough water. Also I have a couple of inches of mulch on top.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 11:40AM
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It looks like transplant shock. Maybe it came out of a greenhouse and didn't have a period of time to harden off? The sun is fairly hot and the wind is up now so it would definitely need a period of adjustment to adapt.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I watered it thoroughly immediately after planting and then watered again yesterday (5 days later)

Did you fill the planting hole with water and let it drain first? If not, the dry dirt around the hole would have soaked up a lot of that watering.

Not nearly often enough for a newly transplanted tree, and if you wait till they wilt, they have a hard time coming out of it.

Get a moisture meter and check the moisture as deep as the meter will go in several places around the edge of the planting hole, and water enough to keep it solidly in the "moist" range. When you water, water slowly and deeply, applying 2x the amount of water as the container size was (15G tree gets 30 Gallons of water), slowly applied so it can soak in.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 1:36PM
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I was also going to say it looks thirsty. In addition to the advice above, you might try misting the leaves with water several times a day because the wind is so strong right now. With crepe myrtles it's sometimes bad to wet the leaves (they get powdery mildew pretty easily) but your tree needs some help now, so I'd get it well-hydrated from both the roots and leaves then stop wetting the leaves to avoid the powdery mildew beast.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 5:22PM
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Thank you so much for the replies. TexasRanger, I would love for this to be transplant shock but it is deteriorating so quickly I feel like it must be something that I've done or am not doing. It was outside at TLC when I bought it but I have no idea for how long. LazyGardens, to answer your question, no I didn't fill the planting hole with water first. A 15 gallon tree would require 30 gallons of water?! That seems obscene! I definitely didn't give it that much water. I gave it a good soaking again today so we will see if that helps. Thank you both for your insight!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 5:47PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

How did you transport the three plants home? Were they in the back of a truck, for example, with the wind blowing on them as you drove home? If so, maybe the Natchez White got more wind than the others.

Looking at it, I don't think it is dying. Crape myrtles are really tough and can handle a lot without dying, so I don't think you've killed it. The plant likely is in transplant shock like Texas Ranger said, combined with the hot, dry windy weather we've had the last few days. Don't just water blindly. Stick your finger down in the soil (use a trowel to poke and prod if you have to) several inches and see if the ground is dry or moist and then water accordingly. In this instance, I do not think you've overwatered but keep in mind that overwatering can be just as harmful as underwatering so strive for soil that is moist but not sopping wet.

Without knowing what kind of soil you have and how quickly or slowly it drains, it is hard to guess if you've watered enough. The amount of water you'd need in dense clay would be different from what you'd need in faster draining sandy loam or in incredibly fast draining sugar sand for example.

It will be interesting to hear what the folks at TLC think is wrong when you hear back from them.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 8:12PM
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Rapid deterioration is not unusual when planting something that goes into shock, it usually sets in pretty fast and the plant takes some time to come out of it. I moved a small Butterfly Bush a couple weeks ago, dug out a nice rootball with little root disturbance and immediately set it in the ground and watered it in well. It was wilty just like your tree until today when it looks like its perking up a bit after it sat there droopy for 2 weeks. Big plants are more difficult to get established and that is a big plant you bought. I've had the same thing happen when trying to plant in large ornamental grasses from a nursery, they are almost always root bound so smaller is better. In general I buy mostly smaller plants because in the long run, they will catch up quickly to a larger more expensive plant -- a larger one takes forever to get established and root into the surrounding soil and often a smaller size will outgrow it due to it being faster to establish.

Was it root bound in the pot? Sometimes a tight mass of thick roots will dry out even when the surrounding soil is moist. You should rough up the edges or cut slits along the sides of the mass of roots if the roots are girdling around the pot before planting. If you lift it, it will still be in the shape of the pot if that was the case and the plant will dry out just as fast as it would in the pot until it finally roots into the surrounding soil.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 5:31AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

First of all, you need to carefully remove all of the green tape strapped to the poles. They are not intended to be kept on the plant after delivery. If the trunks won't stand up without the stakes, return the tree.

Newly planted container plants only need a small amount of water but it must be slowly directed to the root ball. Frequently, for fastest establishment. As the plant becomes established, you will water much less frequently but with more water, and over a larger area.

There's a great deal that we don't know about your situation. Was the plant extremely pot bound or was it under potted? Did you plant it properly, without any amendments in the planting hole? If pot bound, did you cut into the root ball in order to encourage outward growth? Did you water the container before planting? What kind of soil do you have and how well does it drain?

Containerized plants can be tricky to establish as the temperatures rise, especially large, deciduous plants.

I'd give the root ball a couple of gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter every sure that the mulch is pulled away from the trunk so that the water gets to the root ball and not captured by the mulch layer.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 6:32AM
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While I was working at Home Depot our crape myrtles quite often looked like that after a hot windy day.

A good watering usually perked them up.

With the size of the plant a 5 gallon bucket worth of water daily during this windy drying weather would be good.

After about 2 weeks or so, start cutting back, to watering 5 gallons every other day... and keep that up the first summer.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 7:31AM
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TotemWolf(7 SWOK-Greer County)

To help with good steady watering, get a 5 bucket or one of those cat litter buckets and drill about a half dozen or so 1/8 inch holes in the side at the very bottom edge. Set this by the tree or whatever you want to water and fill it up with however much water you want to apply.
It will slowly water for you. No timer needed.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 8:14AM
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Great point, Totem!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 1:16PM
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Good point rhizo, I was thinking the same thing. I usually dig a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball but not deeper, add a large bag of organic matter + a bag or two of coarse sand to the existing soil, depending on the size of the hole. Any left over soil I take to another area since its now amended & good soil. That crepe looks like a two bags of sand sized hole would be needed. Here in Oklahoma where we usually have a high clay content, the sand helps to keep the surrounding soil from packing down, allows air to the roots air and makes it easy to soak in water quickly and deeply. Roots spread much faster in it. I have added sand (along with organic matter) for years when amending my soil or creating a new bed because the soil stays moist longer, water soaks in much faster and the drainage is improved 100%. I buy a truck load when making a new planting area. Its cheap.

I create a ridge around the hole to create a well. When watering, a hose set low to dribble is good and I only water when it dries out. A layer of mulch on top but not right up against the plant keeps the soil moist longer and I frequently check with my hand underneath the mulch.

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Wed, May 21, 14 at 14:46

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 2:44PM
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So most of you were right on! I ended up just going to TLC and a very helpful guy in the nursery immediately said that it was dried out. He instructed me to apply a slow drip for 2 hours tonight and then for the next 6 days, apply the slow drip for 1 hour every day. The following week I am supposed to slow drip for 1 hour every other day and the next week every third get the picture :) To answer some questions, I mixed my soil which is mostly red dirt and clay with the Back to Earth compost from TLC. It was pot bound and I ensured that the roots that were wrapped around were able to grow outward. I typically do not purchase such large plants or trees; however, it's intended purpose was to shield my neighbors back door from our backyard immediately but it can't do that when it's losing leaves! I so so appreciate everyone's advice. Hopefully I will have a revived tree in a week or so and I will post another picture if this works. Thanks, again!!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 10:01PM
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You know, it is actually a WHOLE lot better to put only the original soil back! Because, that will keep the roots from just hanging out in the nice amended soil!

Moni, who learned this at the OSU master gardeners program

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 10:33PM
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Gee, OklaMoni, if you've ever cut a myrtle down, you would realize that they just don't give a damn about such barriers and those roots will travel far, unbelievably far so I don't think amended soil will hurt at all in this case. You end up with a grove of little myrtles by cutting one down showing just how far they do travel away from the original--- even growing under the concrete driveway.

I have heard that same thing when planting trees, I'd forgotten it.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 12:03AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Not all crepe myrtles are equally vigorous. Some of the smaller types take forever to grow very big for me. I love Pink Velour but it is one that does not takes over. I have others that need to be babied and don't grow very fast. The wind has been terrible here recently. It may have been sheltered at the nursery by the building and other plants. When I let a new plant wilt, I sometimes hang a mister nozzle in the plant and let it mist for a while.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 12:48AM
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Just wanted to let everyone know that I have followed instructions exactly and my tree is coming back! It ended up losing a lot of it's leaves but there is a ton of new growth already! I really appreciate all of the advice and insight from all of you! Thank you, again.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 11:58AM
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New growth, up close :)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 11:59AM
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Thanks for getting back on this with us, Novice. Looks good. Good luck with all of them.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 6:57PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

This may be after the fact since your tree is coming out of its slump.

I purchase at discount stores when I want a bargain, and am pretty sure i know exactly what I am doing.

I go to a good named nursery when I may need good help or advice.

In my opinion, a nursery with TLC's good reputation should have fixed your crape myrtle before you left with it That is a huge tree, and not something that most gardeners could have the equipment to fix. Good nurseries have large pieces of equipment to handle nursery items like this. I feel that they had an obligation to the consumer to "do their thing" so that their product would be a success in your garden.

I do not have a lot of success with root bound plants. It seems like even if I cut off the bottom of the plant, and soak it in water for a few hours before planting it, the plant may not live. In my opinion - with all respect to their very good reputation in Oklahoma City, they should have fixed that tree for you, and should have told you exactly what to do.

I have over 20 crape myrtles, and two Natchez, but to know how to fix one that height, I would have been lost.

I look forward to seeing a picture of the grown tree.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 1:51PM
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