Two questions regarding some crepe myrtles I have inherited at my new house.
Shortly after I moved in, trimmed three of them way back because they were
horribly overgrown--which leads me to two problems I am now having:
1. A good number of the new limbs that have sprouted this summer are
angling down toward the ground, rather than up. Is there anything I can do
PREVENT that? Before anyone gets wise and suggests that I trim the
offending limbs, I've done that, and new ones pop up and angle downward. I
want to prevent them from angling down in the first instance.
2. Is there a good way to prevent new shoots from coming up out of the
It sounds like you didn't prune the thing properly. Many people give their
crepe myrtles flattops, which causes the exact problem you are experiencing.
The best way to prune a crepe is to thin out some of the trunks at the base
(starting with the interior ones). Next prune out all remaining dead or
diseased wood. If it still looks overgrown, you can thin it out a little
from the outside working in until you have a nice form. Topping a crepe
myrtle is not recommended. If this option won't work for you, cut all of
the trunks down to the base and the tree will come back with fresh wood.
No way to prevent them, but you can prune them out as soon as they appear.
Congratulations on living in the southern US where crape myrtles are a
popular summer flowering ornamental tree. In the winter time (Jan or Feb.)
when the danger of freezing temperatures is past, trim your crape myrtles.
New growth occurs on older growth + new leaves bud out on the slightly older
and new growth. Do you want to train them as a bush or a tree? If a
tree, they'll grow upwards to 20 feet tall. I trained my as colorful accent
trees in patches around my property. The color looks great. Each winter,
I'd carefully remove limbs/twigs which were spindly. I'd prune at an angle
(not straight across as this will encourage growth below the cut and give
your tree an umbrella shape - perhaps your current problem) the thicker
limbs. Remove any limbs projecting below 6 feet (or below your head when
mowing). When the fresh growth occurs below 6 feet, easily remove with your
hand or a small pruner.
As for the growth near the ground level, this is occuring for 1 of 2
reasons. Perhaps the roots are becoming compacted. The soil around the
trees is insufficient for proper lateral root growth and their sending up
new trunks. To verify this, note where the drip line is (widest spread of
the limbs) and dig a small hole about 1-2 feet down. If the soil is tight
(i.e., clay), you'll have to aerate about 1 foot down and all around the
tree to encourage root growth to spread outwards. Make sure not to damage
any major roots as your move towards the tree itself.
If the soil is not compacted, then your trees are over 10 years old. As
crape myrtles age, they begin to send out new root growth in late spring and
summer to increase their photosynthetic rate. The older main trunk may be
becoming clogged (xylem and phloem channels) -- think of it like clogged
arteries in animals. To compensate, the roots send out new growth. As long
as your getting plenty of growth on the main trunk (including flowers), then
If your trunks are spindly, another neat trick to do with crape myrtles is
to have two or more trunks grow together. Just take old panty hose (or
something similar which is stretchable and soft), cut the legs off, and use
them to tie two or more trunks together. If the trunks are supple to bend,
you can even wrap one trunk around another. Then use the panty hose to lash
them together. Over the years, the trunks will eventually fuse where they
touch and strengthen your tree. Works great in the South where tropical
storm winds can break these trees quite easily. You can even do this when
the trees are young and supple. I've done it with dark red and white
flowering crapes. After 12 years, I'm enjoying a strong tree which sprouts
two sets of color in one area.
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