Single Trunk Crape/Crepe Myrtle (7a,7b)

loctanDecember 28, 2011

I am in zone 7b and am considering putting some crape myrtles (Sioux, Miami, Natchez, etc) in my yard and grooming it into a single trunk. Any advice or opinions on this? I am having problems searching for this.

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Perhaps my post wasnt clear, but i am not intending to take the diferent varieties into a single trunk, but each multi-trunk into a single.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 2:00PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

its less clear with your update.. lol ...

we dont do CM up here.. but shall i presume that large plants come with multiple leaders???? .. like magnolia up here ...

if i want a single leader in such plants.. i start with much smaller plants ... very small ... so i can shape it into what i want ..

if you want to start big .. then that is your problem ...

where are you??? .. there might be peeps who know suppliers in your area.. otherwise.. mail order small plants ... i would not be surprised that forestfarm would have a selection ...

if you want big.. talk to your high end local nursery.. and they may be able to have some shipped in for spring delivery ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 2:07PM
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Sorry I'm being unclear. I'm posting all of this from my new tablet and mobile phone.

(Stating the obvious here for clarity) A typical crepe myrtle has many offshoots and typically is groomed into 3 to 7 branches to make it more tree-like than bush like. I would like to pick a single one and shape it like a true tree with a single trunk. I could buy one shaped like this from a nursery (haven't seen any where I live in the Huntsville, AL (northern Alabama)). So I am looking for advice in grooming a current multi-stem into a single. And general opinions/advice on keeping one like this?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 3:08PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Yes, a crApe myrtle can be grown as a single-trunked tree. I personally prefer at least three trunks (mainly for aesthetic reasons), but I have seen others opt for the single-trunk shape. Starting with a small, single-trunked specimen would be a lot less work, but you could reduce the number of trunks on an existing multi-trunked specimen. If you do start with a multi-trunked crape, you'll have to be very diligent with sucker removal for the first few years. Later, and with continued attention, it will eventually settle down and tend to sucker much less (similar to many originally single-trunked specimens). When you do remove suckers, remove them early (don't let them grow too big) and pull them off instead of cutting them (when possible). Pruning will encourage even more suckering than if you can pull the young suckers off. I sometimes use a weeder or similar tool to "push" the suckers off of the stump (hard to describe, but it seems to be easier than just pulling alone).

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 3:49PM
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dirtman16(7a/b AL)

You should not have a problem pruning a crepe myrtle to a single trunk. But as ken suggested, start with a small plant. It's warm enough in Huntsville that they will grow very quickly. Larger varieties will easily put on 2-3+ feet a year once established. Do be aware that you will have to regularly remove suckers from the base of the plant as your intention goes against the nature of the crepe.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 3:51PM
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dirtman16(7a/b AL)

Whoops! Brandon beat me by 2 minutes. :)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 4:00PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the short answer.. presuming no bugetary constraints..

is to buy it the way you want it ....

and now is the time that most high end nurseries are making orders for spring delivery .... so call around ... ask for the manager ... and talk with them ...

do not.... wait and hope ... that you will find what you want in spring ... you may never find it ... and talking to the manager in spring.. will be too late.. or real early for fall delivery ....

good luck with that hand held gizmo ...


    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 4:16PM
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Thanks everyone. Seems the general consensus is that it is certainly possible but not necessarily desirable? Because its unnatural, too high maintenance or aesthetically unpleasing? I see this and think its georgous and am surprised its not done more often.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 10:02AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

there is no consensus as to it being possible..

buy a tree and do whatever you want to it..

WHO CARES WHAT OTHER THINK. .. its yours ...

whether you have the ability and patience to spend 10 years making it into that form is unknown to us ... it is not hard.. it is not an overwhelming effort ... no more than one hour per year ought to do it ....

its simply your ability to hang with the project until you accomplish your goal.. and then maintain it in that form ...

it is a flowering shrub.. whose natural tendency is to be multi-leadered ... you must battle such tendencies ...

to repeat.. and for certain.. ITS YOUR GARDEN.. MAKE IT THE WAY YOU WANT.. and ignore the purists ...

i can send you literature on the WEIRDER THE BETTER CLUB.. if you wish... i am a charter member, and the founder.. lol ...

carpe crapem .... seize the crape ... lol ...


    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 10:29AM
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dirtman16(7a/b AL)

I tend to like them single trunked as well, particularly the larger varieties. Go for it!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 11:45AM
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The larger ones may not like it.

What happens is that the bottom of the "trunk" develops into a big, knotty mess from sending up additional "trunks" and cutting them off. I know this can be avoided, if done properly becuase I've seen them-- old and massive with single trunks, (some in public spaces in Houston come to mind).

Here's a photo of it done quite well:

FWIW, I live near yout and haven't seen any folks selling them that way. However, the mid size variants (Osage, Catabwa) may not work as well as the big 'uns (Natchez) if going for a "tree look". (Just guessing that a 15 foot tall Osage with one main trunk would look wonky)

Here is a link that might be useful: Photo on Southern Living site (single trunk CM)

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 2:21PM
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The word that you are looking for is STANDARD, as in grown as a standard. Many shrubby plants are trained as standards by the nursery. These are tied and staked with a single stem. You're in Alabama! if that's the case search one of a zillion wholesale nurseries either there or Florida such as Royal Crest or Matlack which grow Crape Myrtle standards. If you can't purchase wholesale order them via your local retailer or contractor.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 8:12PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You should be able to find single trunked specimens in Huntsville. After all, that's what is used, more often than not, in the landscapes in the area. Seriously, drive around the City and you'll see thousands of Crape standards. (I'm from Huntsville.)

By ALL means, visit the locally owned garden centers/nurseries to ask for what you are looking for. The big box outlets won't help you, unless they already have some already in stock.

You may need to look for larger trees to find one already trained to a single trunk. Those available in the smaller container sized will most likely be untrained shrub-form.

I totally disagree that single trunked specimens are unpleasing. One needs to fit the form to the site. I like both options equally well, but like to see them matched to the location. And I've never found it particularly difficult to maintain a single trunk, as long as you keep up with it when the tree is still young. It doesn't take all that long for them to cease with all of that suckering.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 11:39PM
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Have seen a few done that way along the River Walk in San Antonio. The look was fairly good. The white flowering ones tend to have red patchy bark that lends some addition interest to the trunk. Assume you just cut anything that sprouts up that you don't want. Good luck and happy pruning.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 12:30AM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

I've never seen them before until I traveled to the town of Cary in NC. It's a bedroom community with a Stepford vibe and the main drag is lined w/ single stemmed Crape Myrtles with no sign of sprouting from the bottom.

It made me chuckle the first time I saw them...that town controls everything to the T.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 1:42AM
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Rhizo - you are seeing standards 10ft+ tall around Huntsville? I drive down madison blvd, the parkway, research park and they are all multis. Where are you seeing them?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 11:59AM
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If you are interested in seeing single trunk Crape Myrtles in Huntsville, AL check The Commerce Center
2101 Clinton Ave. Very attractive large single trunks. I have the same interest in growing after seeing these nice specimens. I plan to root my own.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 3:22PM
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