How To Prune Severely Damaged Tall Crape Myrtle Trees

Filed Under: Trees, Pruning, Restoration · Keywords: How To, Prune, Severely, Damaged, Tall, Crape Myrtle, Crepe Myrtle, Tree · 2814 Views
We have several issues with our beautiful Crape Myrtles.

1. We have 3 'groups' of trees which the trunks are about 1.5-2" in diameter. By groups, they are three trees with 5-6 main trunks each. I'm assuming based on reading articles on this sight that they were suckers which developed from the three trees. We have lived in our house for 7 years and they have never been pruned. We honestly forgot they were there as they seemed to always look beautiful. These trees were about 12-14' tall. About a month ago, we had a storm which knocked several pine tree branches down and it damaged these trees. They were leaning on our house and many of the top branches were broken and bent. My husband and I, this past weekend, decided to 'prune'. We cut these back to approx 6-7 foot. They now look like each of the images on this web site which say they are what not to do. Yikes! What should I do with these now? Or what should I not do? Should I give them extra water, plant food, etc?

2. We also have two very large Crape Myrtles in our back yard. These are approx 18-20'. They are truly only two trunks which are approx 5" in diameter. We have periodically trimmed these beautiful trees up but never done much for them. They have always been healthy and gorgeous. Recently, we had the first mentioned dead pine tree cut down, one of the cut pine branches fell into our back yard, hitting my two favorite Crape Myrtles. The once tall trees, which made it through hurricane Ike, are now leaning starting at about 8'. My husband and I trimmed these up, most likely too much, this last weekend, but only in an attempt to release the branches which seem to have been bent and broken. Now we have these rather pathetic excuse for a Crape Myrtle left. It appears they still need to be cut back but this would leave them bare, as our others are. Again, what should I do to try to save these trees?

3. If I have any suckers which are on smaller sections, can I get these to regenerate in a different area? I need three more Crapes on the other side of the house and I would prefer not to have to purchase any if I can get them to grow. Am I simply pressing my luck on this one?

Thank you all for your help!

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Answer #1 ·'s Answer · Hi Amanda - Sorry it took so much time to get to answering your question. I saw it late last evening and thought I'd need a little more time to answer it. We've shut the nursery down for the day so now I have the time to answer it properly with no major distractions:-) I'll take one question at a time.

1. Regarding the 1.5-2" caliper multi-trunk crape myrtles that have never been pruned and were recently damaged in a storm. I don't think you have to worry about having killed these trees by pruning them, however it might take quite some time to restore their form.

Since some of the branches were damaged and probably broken from the falling pine limbs, pruning these now was okay. You always want to remove broken branches as soon as possible. Not sure if I would have pruned them back to 6-7' height trunks, unless that's where the damage or break occurred? Did you prune all the trunks to the 6-7' height or just some of them? It's best to prune just beneath where a branch was broken and then wait until the tree is dormant, preferably in late winter, before doing any additional heavy pruning.

Without seeing a picture of the trees, and how they've been pruned, it's hard to say what I would do now or in the future regarding pruning. Feel free to upload a photo(s) of the trees and then I can give more specific advice. Use the Upload A Picture link to the right of your name above to upload pics.

In any event, the trees don't have as much foliage now so will not require additional irrigation. Hold off on watering. I would also suggest holding off on feeding until next spring, after new growth has emerged.

2. Regarding the double-trunk crape myrtles in your back yard that were also damaged by falling pine limbs. I would suggest waiting to do any further heavy pruning on these until late winter. In the meantime, if you can upload a picture of these as well I can give more specific pruning instructions.

3. Regarding propagating the suckers growing off of you crape myrtles. You can grow new trees from the suckers. The best time to do so is in the spring when they are actively growing. If you want multi-trunk trees you'll have to take several cuttings and stick them in the the same pot.

Start by using some sharp pruners to remove the sucker as close to the base of the trunk as possible. I'd suggest cutting the suckers when they're about 8 to 10 inches long. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the sucker and dip it it some rooting hormone powder, though the powder is not absolutely necessary.

Then stick the cutting(s) in a small container (maybe 1-gallon size pot) filled with a moist premium potting mix you can find at your local nursery and garden center. Plant to a depth where the first set of leaves are just above the soil line.

Then place the container in a clear plastic bag to conserve moisture and place it in a somewhat shaded location and keep soil moist until the cuttings have started to root, which usually takes a month or so when temperatures are warmer. Make sure that the plastic bag does not touch the leaves of the cutting.

When the roots of the cutting have grown to the bottom and sides of the container (takes about 8 weeks or so), and the root ball can be removed without loose dirt falling off, they are ready to transplant.

This being said about rooting suckers, during spring or summer you can also take hardwood or softwood cuttings from any stems on the tree. Just cut a 6 to 8 inch long stem and follow the same instructions provided above.

Hope this information was helpful. Let me know if you have any further questions and upload some pics if you have them.


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