Crepe Myrtle question...

boomothergoose(z7 TN)December 12, 2005

I have two crepe myrtle's in my back yard and wondered if anyone can tell me how you get that clean undercut look. I undercut mine but get shoots all the time.

Also, I have my eye on a subdivision entrance that I think is just beautiful. I noticed a few weeks ago they were working on it and they topped four of the crepe mytrle's. I don't know how hold they are, but they are about 10 or 15 feet high and they have REALLY cut them down to almost 6 feet. Is this normal??

Thanks for the help!

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Choose 3 or 5 (I've had to use 4 or 6 in rare cases) good healthy shoots. Keep all other shoots cut back all the way to the ground if possible. It will take three or four years, but eventually, the tree will greatly reduce (and maybe stop all together) their production of new shoots from the base. And, if shoots do pop up after that, they will be much smaller and easier to deal with. I use a prunning saw or knife depending on how soon I catch the unwanted shoots. It's much better to catch the shoots early for ease of prunning and to teach the tree not to send up new shoots.

Don't top Crepe Myrtles like the people did in your subdivision. I have heard people say that they had heard that topping the tree would make the tree bloom more. This is NOT CORRECT. Only trim out crossing or diseased branches from the shoots you chose to keep, much like most any other shrub or tree should be prunned. In some cases, branches can be prunned back a little if the tree is known to pruduce a very heavy load of blooms and tends to get weighted down too much.

I learned something by responding to your post. Many nurserymen/women use Crape Myrtle or Crapemyrtle, but it seems that Crepe Myrtle is equally as valid.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 6:35PM
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While researching the how to's of pruning crape myrtles last season, I read to trim out all the tiny side branches off of your main trunks/stems. I did this in the spring prior to my myrtle leafing out, and I do think that it improved the shape.

However, I agree that topping of myrtles (also called crape murder)should be avoided. I have seen a few severe winters that would result in significant die back in crape myrtles, but by the end of the summer, they had regained their size.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 1:20PM
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boomothergoose(z7 TN)

Thanks for the help!
I appreciate you both taking the time to respond.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 3:26PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Guess it depends on the variety. But, I have not experienced a significant amount of extra tiny side branches on my trees. If you have a lot of twiggyness (new word?), thinning would make bigger blooms on the branches left by redirecting the trees energy to those blooms.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 6:15PM
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Two Crape Myrtles on our property are about 10 years old and are still producing new shoots from the base. It only takes a few minutes to cut them off.

People lopping the tops of of Crape Myrtles is one of my pet peeves. I don't know where or when this got started... but every new gardener who sees it done on a commercial property or by some other ill-informed gardener thinks it's the correct way to prune them. It's not - Crape Myrtles are trees, not shrubs. Crape Myrtles flower on new growth and cutting them back produces new shoots, therefore, more flowers at a height where they can be admired. But... this new growth is weak and makes the tree prone to wind damage and are more sensitive to cold. Really, just cutting flowers to bring inside is all the trimming that's usually needed. Brandon and TnShadyLady are both right about pruning. Most designers think an odd number of trunks is more attractive, but sometimes you have to break rules. Crape Myrtles are prone to powdery mildew so you want to maximize the amount of light and air flow in the center of the tree. Crossing branches should be pruned since if they rub against one another the bark will be damaged which may lead to disease. The tiny side branches won't stay tiny forever and anyway, if you remove them, the plant will shuttle it's energy to the main branches. It's really up to you. The main idea is for the tree to retain its natural shape but with fewer main branches. Just please do not commit "crape murder" or "crape rape".

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 10:37PM
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smalljaw(z 6b mid TN)

Ha ha ! Be careful with the word murder ? Some people may not be clear . Although I think it is what it is . I think people see others topping so they believe it is the thing to do . If more landscapers enjoyed their jobs we would have more diverse landscapes instead of a sea of green with lots of irrigated turf . I have never seen anyone top Lagerstroemia fauriei . This is by far the most cold hardy being that it is a mountain variety . The cultivar 'Townhouse' is the best . the bark is so red .'Fantasy' has the tendency to not want to shut down . We have an unamed cultivar that has the darkest bark out of any I have seen , but it wants to keep growing into winter . Fine for now . It seems odd that everywhere is flooded ( figuratively speaking ) with hybids for flower color instead of more year round interest like the bark . The only drawback to fauriei is that it needs room . The ones at JCRA( Raleigh )are incredible . That place is a wealth of knowledge and beauty . I still can not beleive that Todd is not there . 'Acoma' is cool . Is anyone growing anything with limii (hybrids or straight species ) ? 'Cheyenne and 'Arapaho' the 3 way hybrids are going through their first winter here . These will be readily available in 2006 .The new Razzle Dazzle series from UGA and McCorkle will be out next year as well . Everyone will want these for containers and 8 weeks of flowering . Cherry Dazzle -red , Dazzle Me Pink -pink , Snow Dazzle-white , and Ruby Dazzle - pink with re-purple foliage . Be on the lookout and everyone please try fauriei .

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 3:18PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

I LOVE L. fauriei. It's a plant that will stop you in your tracks in February, and how many plants can you say that about? I think one reason L. x 'Natchez is so popular is the fauriei blood that gives it that handsome exfoliating bark.

What I don't get is why L. fauriei is relatively hard to find.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 9:40PM
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smalljaw(z 6b mid TN)

It does not make sense , but that is life sometimes . I hear retail nurseries say they are supplying the demand . That is what is fudged up . Just because somebody wants the dreaded winter creeper does not mean you need to sell it to them . Greed takes over in their mind . Anyways , the bark is sexy . No doubt, I am so over 'Natchez' . It is wild how people freak when they see mature speci.'s of fauriei . I have seen 'Townhouse' seedlings that are over 6' tall for anywhere from 12 to 25 bucks depending on the container size . Oh ! I think something that would stop you in your tracks in Feb. , Edgeworthia chrysantha , ummmmm umummmm yummmy . Looking forward to Hamamelis and Prunus mume's , yeah for Jan. . Just a minor threat .

    Bookmark   December 18, 2005 at 1:06PM
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After reading here and looking it up, I want to see L. fauriei up close and in person. From what I understand, it has cold hardiness, beautiful fall color, and outstanding exfoliating bark. 'Natchez' has been such a hit because it resulted from a cross between L. indica and L. fauriei and got its best characteristics from fauriei. Another seedling from the same cross was later named 'Sarah's Favorite'. It is said to be a better choice than 'Natchez' with better cold tolerance and earlier, brighter fall color.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 3:27PM
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smalljaw(z 6b mid TN)

'Sarah's Favorite' is o.k. . Are you close to Memphis Virginia ? Zone pushing should be easy for you . If you are up in the Nashville area , holler , we can go eat at Marty's . Ha ha . I have 3 'Townhouse' that are ten years old and probably 20' tall . It is funny to look at all the little tufted's and wren's scratch marks on the bark . Perfect imperfections . If I can figure out how to put a pic up I'll do it . You may check JC Raulston Arboretums website at NCSU . They may suffice your needs for a while ?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 12:20PM
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I'm not just close to, but in one of the older neighborhoods near the University of Memphis.

I don't know if Marty would welcome me or not since I promised to send her some acorns and still have the box sitting here next to the computer. This year has been like that. Maybe one of these days I can make a road trip up Nashville way and we can all meet for lunch. I'm ready to take a break from Memphis if only for one day. I love to pick "real plantsmen"'s brains. Just can't stop learning. I know Marty fits in that category and if she says you do, I believe it.

If you really want to post pics, there's a pretty good thread on just that started by MadGardener_ETN not long ago. It's probably on page 2 by now.

The photos of 'Townhouse' and 'Fantasy' at JC Raulston Arboretum's website are beautiful. Do they really get to be 30 to 50 feet tall?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 2:05PM
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smalljaw(z 6b mid TN)

Wow , I know there are some beautiful homes down there . Some monster trees and good soil , huh . Did you go see Tony Avent this fall . I came down there several years ago to see Dan Hinkley , super cool and laid back . I heard about the Pinus bungeana that was cut down on (U. of M.)campus a few years ago , that is crazy not good . Yup fauriei get big and Marty is pretty chill . She has plenty to do twenty four 7 , don't we all . I have so many seeds to deal with , arggh , maybe tomorrow if it rains .
You are right . Learning is essential if you want to grow . If you are not killing you are not growing . People tell me all the time that something won't live here , when I have had it in the ground for years . Persea borbonia is a good example . Pinckneya pubens , both have been down to negative 5 , no worries . Edgeworthia chrysantha - dang fine shrub , loves a frost free zone .
My lady friend usually handles the photo stuff , but I am on it . I will check it out , thanks .

    Bookmark   December 24, 2005 at 12:40AM
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I live in Texas and my Crepe Myrtle's are beginning to bloom. Or at least most are. One has those side twiggy branches and I really want to prune them back. Can I still do that in June without killing my tree. I love my trees.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 7:24PM
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I have cut off the dead parts of my crepe myrtle's that didn't leaf out after the freeze. This was easy enough with my smaller ones. But I have one that is at least 25' tall. It has leafed out all but about 1' at the very tips. Will this dead part finally fall off? I'm not able to get up to this one to prune it.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 2:52PM
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I have 3 crepe myrtles. All 3 were planted in Dec 2005 when we built a new house. They are about 8-10 ft tall. The landscape guy picked the trees without us seeing them first. They all only had one trunk each so I have selected a few extra "suckers/shoots" to keep for trunks. My question comes just like so many others...pruning!!! HELP! I dont want to top them off! They are all top heavy and leaning more to one side or the other. What is the best way to encourage vertical growth without taking too much away from the canopy? Should I wait until later in the year? Im in North MS.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 8:09PM
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