Crape Myrtle: cut the flower, plant grows faster?

behaviorkelton(7-ish)July 1, 2009

I've got some young crape myrtles (Natchez and Dynamite Reds). The oldest one's have been in the ground for two years.

*To encourage growth of the smallest ones, is it any good to snip the blooms off of them?

*Also, is there any harm in pruning year round on a Crepe Myrtle? These plants seems so vigorous that I doubt it, but don't know.

By the way, the Natchez crepe myrtles are growing at stunning speed. The one's I planted two years ago were belly high. Now, they are well, well overhead and wider than I am tall by a big margin. Only honeysuckle can compete with these guys for growth speed. I want to create a forest of them... sort of like the UT gardens only spaced further apart.

Hmmm, can I attach a photo?

BK

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

You got the spelling right in the title.

Removing blooms redirects energy effectively on some types of plants, but I think it would be minimal if any on a crape myrtle. The tree may even try to grow replacement blooms.

Like with most trees, it's best to do pruning in late winter or spring. This will give the tree a head start on sealing over pruning wounds that can be entry points for pests, disease, and rot. Minor pruning, removing any dead or diseased branches, and eliminating crossing branches can/should be done as soon as you notice the need.

That group of crapes at the UT Gardens does look awesome. It invites you to walk in, something like a bamboo forest does. I was looking at that the other day (hoping they wouldn't cut them down like everything else).

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 3:54PM
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behaviorkelton(7-ish)

Hi Brandon,

Thanks.

I'm getting more and more sold on Crape Myrtles. Beautiful trunks (looking nice year round), and they bloom big when most things are wilting under the July/August heat.

I was worried about their ability to tolerate 13 degrees (this past winter), and their ability to tolerate the perpetual wet days that we had over the past couple months. They came through great! No visible damage, no mold.

I'd love to create a shaded "Crape" garden in the yard with these guys. This would also remove the burden of the grass lawn. The Natchez seem to be just the ticket, but I would be open to other varieties. After buying my red "Dynamite Reds", I'm realizing that I'd actually prefer the lavender colors.. which sort of surprises me... maybe I'm getting older and less into the "dazzle" of red.

I go back and forth on the spelling (schizophrenic) because I was once harshly warned about the spelling. So, I know to beware of one of the spellings, but I forget which one was so wrong.

Ok, so "Crape" it is.

Kelton

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 4:12PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Just google 'Crape Myrtle Society'. If you google 'Crepe Myrtle Society', a link to the Crape Myrtle Society pops up to correct you. No biggy though; it seems there are fewer and fewer people that even know how spell it correctly these days.

If you do decide to plant them relatively close together like at UT, you should plant varieties that are approximately the same size together. You wouldn't want a short variety to be overtaken by taller ones around it.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 4:36PM
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dvtown

I like to trim mine as they grow to encourage height, at least on the smaller younger ones. I limb up the crape myrtle until it gets to my desired branching height (around 4 foot somewhere) then I let it start branching. I like keeping the trunks limited to 3 or 5 trunks to grow into more of a multibranched tree form. I noticed that last year when the deer came through and ate the blossoms from my crape myrtle that it quickly formed new buds for blooming.

Sounds like a neat idea! By the way any trimmings to take off the crapes can be rooted easily in a glass of water or in rooting medium. You don't need rooting hormone for crape myrtles although it might speed the process up a couple days.

I just remember that CrEpes are for Eating! E for eating.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 5:50PM
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behaviorkelton(7-ish)

On the trimmings... really?

I haven't tried, but would love to be able to mass produce these guys.

BK

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 5:56PM
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msbatt

But why isn't it "crepe", like the crepe paper the flowers resemble?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 6:41PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Heck if I know why any of the easily misspelled words in our crazy language are spelled the way they are. Maybe the derivation has something in common with the crape material that's "a black silk or cotton material with a wrinkled surface." My guess is that both spellings have a common root, but I don't know if anyone really knows the whole story. I think I've read that 'crepe' came from French. Maybe 'crape' came from some other origin.

I do know it's beneficial to spell it correctly though if you are doing a google search for info on this plant. Using 'crepe' gets mostly amateur results. Almost all scholarly articles, botanical gardens, etc use 'crape'.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 10:15PM
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conniemcghee

"E is for eating!"

Love that!!

I read up on trimming crApe (LOL) myrtles this past year, and the advice I read most often was to trim in late February/very early March. Sources advised that trimming in summer was likely to trim off next year's blooms. ? Of course, if you are just limbing up it would be OK to do that anytime, I suppose.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 11:45AM
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behaviorkelton(7-ish)

I'll just skip trimming the blooms I guess.

I'm definitely trying to prune for nice looking trunks... not wanting to see a bunch of off-shoot limbs until well above my head.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 11:52AM
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dvtown

Connie,

I think crapes flower on new wood so even if you prune something off you aren't hurting the blooms for next year.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 4:07PM
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conniemcghee

Found a good article about pruning crape myrtles.

I have a very large white one on the corner of our house. It was planted about three feet from the corner (good going, people). I would love to keep it, but it is so old and way too large for the space, I'm afraid it may eventually have to go. I tried pruning last year, but I just can't figure a way to do it without having an unnatural-looking tree. :( It's been repeatedly topped by previous owners.

Late winter/early spring pruning did seem to help blooms this year, though. Last year was pitiful. I think it had a total of three blooms.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pruning Crape Myrtles

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 1:19PM
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dvtown

Connie,

I'd be tempted to cut it to the ground and let it regrow. Or you could root a few cuttings from it this year and remove the whole tree next year. Then replant the cuttings in a better spot.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 8:20PM
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conniemcghee

Hmmmm. Maybe letting it regrow is the ticket! I hadn't thought of that. I'm sure it would. We cut down another that was even closer to the house in another place, and that thing will NOT give up the ghost! Has no idea it's supposed to be gone. LOL

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 3:52PM
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