How To Plant A Crape Myrtle Tree

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This article provides instructions for planting a crape myrtle tree on level or sloped ground
by Brent Wilson · All Zones · Planting · 0 Comments · August 12, 2013 · 11,064 views

When selecting a flowering tree for southern landscapes, Crape Myrtle are perhaps the number one choice of homeowners and professionals. Who wouldn't want a tree that flowers for up to 100 days of summer? There are a few things to consider before buying a crape myrtle.
Color Wheel

Best Time to Plant: Container-grown crape myrtle can be planted outdoors any time of year. Field-grown (Ball & Burlap) are best planted during the dormant season or early spring before leaves have fully emerged.

Size: Crape myrtle come in many different sizes: dwarfs, semi-dwarfs and standard-size trees. So, before buying and planting, make sure to select a variety that has a mature height and width that will fit the planting area.

Sun Exposure: Choose a site that provides full to mostly sun. Shade diminishes flowering.

Color: Select a color of crape myrtle that is complimentary to the colors of structures, fixtures, or other plants nearby. A color wheel is a diagramatic way of showing relationships between colors. Colors on the right side of the wheel are warm. Colors on the left side are cool. Colors adjacent to one another are analogous. Opposite colors are complementary.

Planting on LEVEL GROUND:

Scroll down to find instructions for planting on a SLOPE.

STEP 1 - Dig the planting hole 2 to 3 times as wide and no deeper than the rootball of the tree. Wider is always better. Place soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole. Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil you are planting in, you might need to add a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in heavy clay soil thoroughly mix in some good organic matter, a good planting mix, and/or sand at a 50/50 ratio with the clay soil. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider adding in some peat moss and or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy soil you might not need to add any soil amendments at all. If the soil is dense clay, thoroughly mix a good soil conditioner or planting mix at a 25 to 50% ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. Now you have your "backfill soil mixture."

STEP 2 - Remove the crape myrtle from the container it was growing in. You might need to set the tree on it's side and pound on the container some to loosen the rootball so that it can be removed from the container.

STEP 3 - After removal from the container, scratch the surface of the rootball to a depth of at least 2 inches to loosen exterior feeder roots. This will help facilitate the "rooting-in" process after the tree has been planted. I use a claw tool to loosen roots.

STEP 4 - Place tree in hole making sure that the top edge of the root ball is slightly above or even with the ground level and that the tree is vertically straight. If necessary, place additional soil in the bottom of the planting hole to adjust and achieve proper planting height.

STEP 5 - Start filling the hole around the root ball with the backfill soil mixture tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When halfway filled soak the hole with water. Then fill the rest of the hole with the backfill mixture to the top of the rootball, but not putting any soil on top of the rootball. If the rootball was above the ground level taper the soil mixture from the top of the rootball gradually to the ground level. Essentially, you are planting the rootball in a slightly "raised mound" to insure good drainage.

STEP 6 - With remaining soil mixture, or additional native top soil, build a 3 to 6-inch high water retaining ring around the perimeter of the planting hole to capture additional rainfall during the first growing season.

STEP 7 - Broadcast a well-balanced, granular shrub & tree fertilizer such as Fertilome Shrub & Tree Food atop the rootball at rates suggested on product label. An excellent alternative method of fertilization for your tree is slow release Agriform Fertilizer Tablets. The size tablet we use, requires one tablet per 1/2" of trunk diameter. After planting, simply press the tablet into the soil to about a 3 to 4-inch depth at a point halfway between the perimeter of the hole and the outside edge of the root ball. Or drop them in during the backfilling process.

STEP 8 - After planting and fertilizing, deeply soak the planting site at least two times. After thoroughly watering I always apply a solution of Root Stimulator to facilitate the "rooting in" process. Thereafter, water only enough to keep the soil damp but not wet. Dormant trees planted during the winter will require little if any water until they break from dormancy in spring, provided there is regular rainfall. During the first active growth season, before watering always check soil moisture using the finger test.

STEP 9 - To retain adequate moisture, apply a 2-inch layer of wood mulch, or a 3 to 4-inch layer pine straw around the tree. Leave a 3 to 4-inch space free of mulch around the trunk of the tree. Mulch placed against the trunk can lead to rot.

STEP 10 - For larger trees staking may be necessary. Tree stake kits are perhaps the easiest way to go about this process. You can make your own stakes from scrap lumber, however, make sure to consult with your local independent nursery and garden center professional about proper staking method. Usually, tree stakes can be removed after 1 year, or one complete active growth period (spring to fall).


Planting On A Slope

STEP 1 - Begin by digging a hole at least twice as wide and no deeper than the root ball of the tree. As you will need to create a berm to help retain water for the tree, place the soil removed from the planting hole just beneath the hole on the slope. If the soil is dense clay, thoroughly mix a good soil conditioner or planting mix at a 25 to 50% ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. Now you have your "backfill soil mixture."

STEP 2 - Remove tree from container and use a claw tool to scratch exterior of root ball to a 2-inch depth to loosen feeder roots. Place tree in hole making sure that the top edge of the root ball is level with the back or upper side of the planting hole and that the tree is vertically straight. Place additional soil in bottom of hole to make sure root ball is at the proper height and level.

STEP 3 - Start filling the hole around the root ball with the backfill soil mixture tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When halfway filled soak the hole with water. Then fill the rest of the hole with the backfill mixture to the top edge of the rootball. Do not put any soil on top of the rootball.

STEP 4 - With remaining soil mixture, or additional native top soil, build a water retention mound on the lower side of the planting hole. The amount of soil you will need will depend on the steepness of the slope. This mound should rise up several inches above the top of the root ball to create a catch basin for rainwater or irrigation.

STEP 5 - Follow steps 7 through 10 in planting instructions above for fertilizing, watering, mulching and staking.




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