How to Make Crape Myrtle Cutting Have Multiple Trunks

misterleadfoot_z9(Z8/Z9)August 23, 2014

I've have searched high and low, here and on the web, but there is not much info to be found on this subject, and the little info I did find is contradictory. I'd like a definitive answer, if possible, so I came to this web forum. I have lurked here for months, but this is my first post. Please forgive me if I didn't post this in the right forum.

As a first-time propagator of Crapes, I took two thin pencil-lead-sized cuttings of my Dynamite for rooting. Even with rooting hormone and plastic bag coverings, they took 4 months to root. Next time I will try larger cuttings, but I am happy to be batting .100 for now. :-)

They have both just leafed out. One is about 8" tall, the other about 4". I want multi-trunk trees out of these, but they are both growing on single stems right now. The one link I managed to find on the web was one in which someone had the same question. There were some answers that said to not touch the young'uns, and that they would naturally form multiple trunks. One other answer said to top the cuttings. I know from experience that there is no turning back once you top them, and I want to raise the PERFECT multi-trunk, un-murdered, Dynamite trees. Don't get me started about what my gardener did to my 8 ft Dynamite, right as it began to develop a nice tree canopy. In fact, I am in the process of "fixing" that one.

Anyway, does anyone know how I can ensure multiple trunks without murdering the leader on my new Dynamite babies for no reason?

Thanks in advance!

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Multiple trunks develop from side shoots on a young tree, LATER in the development. It's actually difficult to keep them from developing - you have to remove the sprouts all the time.

Yours are less than a foot tall and a few months old ... get them planted and about 3-4 feet tall and you should start seeing some side shoots.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 3:01PM
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Thanks for the reply.

I should have mentioned that I dug up a root sprout from one of my other Crapes, and it already had multiple trunks at 6" tall. This has got me to wondering if cuttings develop differently than a more "natural" root sprout. I hope that I explained this clearly.

In any event, do you think that a CUTTING will naturally develop multiple trunks without topping, like the root sprout did?

Thanks again.

This post was edited by MisterLeadFoot_Z9 on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 15:11

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 3:10PM
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I have cuttings too! I started them 3 weeks ago and all the leaves fell off but i think they will still root.
Anyway, i read somewhere that if you want a multiple trunk that you need to put 3 or 4 cuttings together when rooting then.

But they will naturally send out shoots from the bottom.
So in a few months or so you may start to see the shoots.

In fact, i have a tonto crape myrtle that was one branch with another branch coming off of it about 6 inches up.
The branch that was coming off the main stem broke off.
I think an animal did it. Anyway about 2 weeks later, 3 more shoots came up from the ground! So it now has the main branch and 3 little stems comming up the bottom.
The new shoots are about 3 weeks old.
Here is a pic.

You can see the main long trunk and then the 3 new ones!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 7:48PM
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here is a close up of the new shoots

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 7:50PM
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I, too, have read the thing about planting several cuttings together, but I don't buy into that thought because that just results in multiple plants that APPEAR to be one plant.

I currently have 4 adult plants, and all of them have multiple trunks. Now, these adults' multiple trunks all start ABOVE the ground. In other words, you see one trunk coming out of the ground, and all the other trunks split off that trunk, which is what I like seeing. I want the same thing on these new babies.

As far as your cutting goes, that's kind of what I wonder if I need to do. I mean, shoots typically sprout when you cut somewhere above the base, which is what basically happened to yours when that branch broke off. This is why I wonder if I should top mine. But, I am scared to do that because I don't want to cut the main stem for fear of it then causing the plant to split into multiple trunks at that point, which might be too high up. I'd really prefer if the splits occur down low, just above the ground, you know what I mean?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:43PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

I would guess all nursery crapes are grown from cuttings.

So yours will be no different.

Dynamite naturally develops multiple trunks - to a bushy habit. Like one poster said, you'll be busy limiting the number of sprouts.

As it develops over the next 2 or 3 years, just allow as many strongly vertical shoots as you like. Not sure what you mean by 'perfect'. The archtype crape style would probably be 3 to 5 'trunks', and those limbed up (cleaned of shoots) to about feet. But varieties differ in their propensity to form strong trunks. Dynamite might be a bit harder (or take longer) to train than say a Biloxi. Rain will also weigh down the blooming branches. You may want to remove blooms the first several years.

This post was edited by dave_in_nova on Mon, Aug 25, 14 at 10:15

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 10:14AM
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My dynamite is very multi-trunk. I agree that a single trunk seedling will develop side shoots (future trunks) as it matures.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 10:18AM
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OK, then, it sounds like I should not top this thing, and let nature take its course.

Dave, what I mean by "perfect" is having multple trunks start off the main trunk a few inches off the ground, then having them shoot up and out, bare, and at about 5 ft. or so having the canopy form into a tree. I guess "perfect" is quite subjective. ;-)

So far, my mature Dynamite has done all of what I described quite easily, with no assistance from me (that is, undil the friggin' gardener topped/murdered then in early spring). But, even the new shoots heavy with blooms prove to be quite woody and strong.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Sounds like yours will be fine. Crape myrtles are very fast growing and forgiving.

Just prune away everything that you don't want. You'll be removing a lot of small shoots from those main trunks for several years. You'll also probably get a lot of root suckers that will need to be removed.

Sounds like you need to have some communication with your 'gardener'. LOL!

This post was edited by dave_in_nova on Tue, Aug 26, 14 at 7:47

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 7:46AM
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Oh, believe me, I did have words with him about it. I even told him not to touch any of my crapes any more, but I think the smarter way to go is to show him some pictures, so he'll become educated for the future with me and other clients. ;-)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 11:26AM
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