I have a crape myrtle in the front yard, probably about 30 years old,
25 ft high, blooms huge. I had some brush removed on a slope and the
said they would prune the myrtle also, since it was getting near some
When I checked it out they cut it to about 6 ft high and the branches
are 1-2" or
so thick. Of course I could choke those guys it looks horrible. Will
recover? Should I just remove it and plant a quick growing nellie
My experience with crape myrtle is that it will indeed survive heavy
pruning. But it might take 2-3 years until it looks good again. I
don't like crape myrtle because it suckers badly from the base, creating
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
I took out a small crape myrtle about 5 years ago and it still sends
up shoots from tiny root fragments. However, it's really a shame that
your tree was butchered.
: I have a crape myrtle in the front yard, probably about 30 years old,
: 25 ft high, blooms huge. I had some brush removed on a slope and the
: said they would prune the myrtle also, since it was getting near some
: power lines.
: When I checked it out they cut it to about 6 ft high and the branches
: are 1-2" or
: so thick. Of course I could choke those guys it looks horrible. Will
: this thing
: recover? Should I just remove it and plant a quick growing nellie
It will certainly grow back! In a few weeks you'll be able to see
tiny little buds randomly over the tree. These will grow into limbs
with flowers. Don't worry!
This is probably the best way to prune such an old tree. For a few
years it won't look like it used to, but you can shape it as it grows
back. Each year take away the suckers near the base, and remove
branches that cross or grow into the middle. As to the height, you'll
see several new limbs growing vertically out of the cut-offs. This
year, let all these grow up and blossom, what a delight :) Next year
(or the next after that) prune these about 1 foot above the cut so
there are only 2 or 3 growing in the direction that you want the shape
of the tree. In this way, you'll keep getting new growth and new
blooms from them. After a few more years, the first growth from the
cut-off will be getting thicker, and it won't be as easy to see where
they were murdered.
I was wondering if it would help to water and
fertilize it to help it recover. Like standard miracle
grow solution? If not I'm not going to bother with it.
Any particular type of nutrient that would help?
This tree stood absolutely bare for weeks, so I put
one gallon regular strength 'general use' miracle
grow on it, watered it for a few days, and it sprouted
many buds. Possibly I just timed it right though.
Put rusty colored mulch around it and its looking much
That's called "topping". A lot of yard care businesses do it; it is
so common that I think many clients actually expect them to do it like
that. I always make a point of asking the neighbors who cut their
tree, without a whiff of disapproval. That's how I found a business
that does not do topping. They do really good work.
Crape myrtle survives severe cutting far better than many other trees.
It should come back. You may want to cut it some more, in a year or
two, to speed its recovery from the topping.
That is exactly the way the Brooklyn Botanical Garden prunes theirs. Though
for some reason this year they only pruned the ones on the West side of the
path up from the rose garden like that and left the other side tall. I know
who pruned them and I could ask.
Don <www.donwiss.com> (e-mail link at home page bottom).
This seems to be the new way to prune crape myrtles. I don't have a
suckering problem here in West Tennessee. Having said that, I agree
with everyone that it will come back quite well. Think of when you
prune a woody shrub, for every cut across, the tree or shrub puts out
two or more branches. It may even surprise you and bloom! My neighbor
in Greeneville had a man who came round and completely whacked her
purple crape myrtle to the ground in the late winter, and lo and
behold, it not only returned, but grew to close to the same height the
older branches were originally (five to six foot) and was COVERED in
purple blossoms! I was blown away. Here though where I live, they
"knuckle" ALL the crape myrtles. Mine will only get crossing branches
removed. I like the natural shape and only tip the spent bloom ends
which encourages the twig ends to double up. And unfortunately mine
is the old fashioned watermelon pink one. I more like the red ones
and there is a really strong white that I used to have that I left
behind at olde faerie holler. It was 22 foot tall and too happy where
it was planted, and the pink one I had tucked next to it had just
gotten it's wind and was blooming with the white so that it seemed to
be of two colors. Keep us posted on how it returns and does for you.
I'm interested and look forward to seeing how it does.
madgardener, gardening in the lowlands of her new west Faerie Holler
somewhere in West Tennessee, zone 7b Sunset zone 33
This is true for crape myrtle but not for all woody shrubs. For the
salvia family -- rosemary, sage, lavender -- and for many conifers, a
cut below the lowest green foliage will result in the entire branch
dying back to its base.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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