Help with Crepe Myrtle

scanmikeJune 13, 2014

Hi,

I live in NYC and my crepe myrtle was planted last year after losing my first one to Sandy. It had a slow start this year, I guess due to the bitter cold winter. It's alive and doing well but the leaves haven't grown evenly. It's a tree form, so I don't know how to help it get it's symmetrical shape back. The left side didn't leaf out as well as the right and there are dead branches or branches without any leaves. I know know there is a correct way to trim these, so wondering what should I do about the top with the seed pods or whatever they are called still on from last year?? Will the left side eventually fill in?
I appreciate any advice.
Thanks,
Denise

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the correct way.. is to remove all the dead stuff ... period ...

cut just above a live branch ...

we can balance it out.. in a year or two .. dont get carried away at this point ...

as a recent transplant... INSURE deep proper watering for this year for sure ... and in drought next year ...

just understand.. that it is not an annual/perennial... start thinking in tree years.. things just dont happen as fast as with other plants. ... so lets just generate some green leaves.. and we will worry about shape next year ...

ken

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 6:38PM
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subtropix

Cut the dead branches off (they will not recuperate), but your plant will! Many Crepe Myrtles took a hit this year in the East and Southeast. Most of mine did survive but some did die. Yours should rebloom this year. Some are more tree-like than others, others, more dwarf, but most will grow bigger than you expect in Zone 7, given time. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 6:48PM
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scanmike

Ken,

So even though it's a year old, I have to watch the watering as if it were newly planted? So I should just cut off the top of each branch above the new leaves and cut off any branches that haven't sprouted? I was afraid of "crepe murder" if I cut the tops off. Is there anything else I should know such as fertilizing etc?
thanks,
Denise

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 7:33PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

You probably want to prune just above living branches, rather than leaves, of your crApe myrtle. Do a Google Image search for 'reduction cut' or 'drop-crotch pruning' to get an idea of the type of pruning that may be needed. When people mention CrApe murder, they are usually talking about situations where heading cuts, or stub cuts, are used.

Whey do you still have your poor little crape myrtle strapped to a stake? I would set it free ASAP! I'm not sure crape bondage is much better than crape murder.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:15PM
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scanmike

I will remove the stake tmr for sure ! Thanks for letting me know. I thought it was for support. So if the leaves stopped sprouting at a certain height then is the branch alive or dead above that point ? I am learning as I am going, sorry if the answer should be obvious.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 3:48AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

anything of that size.. anything... requires you to be mindful of soil moisture.. while it grows a root mass to support the large transplant ...

below is a link to brandons web page ... look into PROPER WATERING ... and that does not mean drowning it ... its all about learning how your soil moves water.. and insuring.. it doesnt go bone dry for an extended period ...

it should be pretty much free range by fall ... but why not check it.. if you have drought or extreme heat next year.. insert finger and find out.. no guessing...

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 9:24AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Small branches with leaves on the bottom part of the branch, and no leaves above, probably are dead at their tips, HOWEVER, there is no reason that these small limbs must be pruned back until they start branching out. The plant will close off the dead tip and probably start a new shoot just below where that walling off occurs. Once the new shoots are produced, you may want to remove the dead branch tip with a proper reduction cut.

Sometimes the dead part of a small branch is clearly visible by a change in color or texture of the bark. In those cases, you can prune away the dead parts without concern of removing potentially viable parts.

Once the dead portion of a branch tip is well defined and new growth occurs from lower down, it is a good idea to go ahead and remove the dead portion. This will allow the plant to cover over the wound hopefully before rot is introduced.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 1:19PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hopefully mikes updated pic will appear below ...

it looks to me.. that you left dead stubs of at least 6 inches or so ... i would not ...

but.. i also say.. i can always go take more off.. but i cant glue them back on ... so good job on being careful ...

open you finger ... make a L for loser ... lol ... if the thumb is dead ... you cut it off at your palm ..not just below the nail ... sorry... its the best i can do with words ... do NOT leave long dead stubs ... they will rot... and eventually the rot will get down into the trunk ... if properly cut.. it will heal over .. see link to get a flavor ... of how not to do it ....

and i will repeat.. and yell .... FORGET ABOUT SHAPE OR FORM ... we will do that NEXT YEAR ... you are way too focused on such ...

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 2:17PM
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scanmike

Sorry for the confusion regarding separate post to Ken. Here's the new pic.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 2:51PM
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scanmike

Ken,

Believe me, I cringed when I got that whole left limb off. So I am thinking I have to cut a bit more on the left side.
See below photo where the leaves sprout out in three directions and the dead (no leave output) branches stick up . My husband thinks I am nuts and would just say "chop it", but I have seen him first hand destroy a pussy willow. Thanks for your patience. Learning by trial and I hope, little error.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 3:02PM
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subtropix

Not a difficult shrub, at all. Cut out what is dead. This is not a slow grower at all, but dead branches will not be resurrected, so branches that have not regrown by now are...dead (period).

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 3:25PM
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scanmike

Ok. So if the branch has leaves up to a certain point, but they didn't sprout all the way up, do you cut it down to just above the leaves?? Just want to be clear.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 4:17PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Scanmike, did you read my last post?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 8:48PM
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cearbhaill

"Ok. So if the branch has leaves up to a certain point, but they didn't sprout all the way up, do you cut it down to just above the leaves?? Just want to be clear."

Yes.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 7:53AM
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scanmike

Brandon, I missed that one.Thanks for explaining. I feel more confident now. Thanks to everyone who helped and cearbhaill, thanks for the clear answer.
Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 8:42AM
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scanmike

One more question just arose. I just noticed new stem growing about 1 inch away from the tree, towards the left side. I keep cutting any new growth coming from the bottom to keep the tree shape. Should I allow another stem to grow next to it? I often see the more pricey trees have two or three main trunks.

Thanks,
Denise

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:49AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Lots of Crape Myrtles here did that too. It's an odd thing, but a lot of the ones I see with dieback died back on one side but not the other, as opposed to top or bottom.

As a side note, I was down in Raleigh, NC this past weekend. I've never seen Crape Myrtles as HUGE as some of the ones they have in Raleigh up here in MD.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 8:51AM
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jbraun_gw

My experience with Crepe Myrtles in California was they put up lots of root suckers. So much so that they were sold potted either as multi- trunked or single trunk tree form.

Good job on pruning. A lot of people think they are going to mess up on pruning. Practice makes perfect.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 8:59AM
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scanmike

Hairmetalforever, seems to be the case with my tree. One side died more than the other.

So, if I leave that one sucker alone, I am assuming it will grow into a new trunk. Funny, but it seems that the new suckers are sprouting up on the side that died off.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 8:04AM
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ghostlyvision

That's what crape myrtles do Scanmike, the roots live a long time and will continually send up shoots to reestablish growth above ground. After 5 years I've finally gotten down to nil most of the shoots coming up here from the numerous crapes the previous owner had planted (too close to fence, right next to house, etc.) and we removed. Now that I've gotten those under control, I put in a pink velour in a good location. lol

Unless you want several trunks on/around your tree. snip off the shoots as they come up.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 2:43PM
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poaky1

Is New York City zone 6b or zone 7a? It must be zone 7a, after last winter and to have such little damage.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 8:40PM
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subtropix

Immediate NYC/NJ Metropolitan Area is 7A to 7B due to Metro heat island effect. Drops to 6b in most of the surrounding suburbs. There is a drop off driving north, west, or even southwest due to such factors as....elevation, distance from the sea, loss of heat island, etc.. Crape Myrtles that I see though, made it just fine.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 5:52AM
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scanmike

I think we are zone 6 or slightly above. I live by the ocean. Most crepe myrtle's I see did fairly well. I can't say that about fig tree's in NYC though. Mine actually just starting sprouting leaves from a foot above the ground to some of the upper branches. I will let the one shoot grow and see how it goes.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 3:48PM
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drjoeljohnson

Our Crepe Myrtle is 40 years old and huge! Winter damage is evident. My question: I scraped the bark off the lower part of the branches that have no leaves...just to see if there was green. They are all green! Should I prune off the top portions of the branches where there is no evidence of life? Will it regrow?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 9:55PM
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