Trees and Shrubs forum: Training a very young Crape Myrtle into tree form

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Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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pirl
Jun 27, 2015 9:07 AM CST
Please guide me! I have two young ones and would love to experiment trying to grow more of a standard than shrub type. They're growing beneath the Powhatan, which we love mainly for the autumn color.
Thumb of 2015-06-27/pirl/75d64d
Thumb of 2015-06-27/pirl/38564a

Here's the mother tree:


Thumb of 2015-06-27/pirl/47d15b
Thumb of 2015-06-27/pirl/8eee6e
Thumb of 2015-06-27/pirl/a50440

Thanks.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jun 29, 2015 8:02 AM CST
Leave them alone, don't trim.
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Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jun 29, 2015 8:18 AM CST
Couldn't be any easier than that! When do I move them since there isn't enough room for them to develop where they are?

If I don't trim them how will they grow into tree or standard form? I don't want the bush form.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Jun 29, 2015 12:23 PM CST
All crape myrtles would look like/be trees if not pollarded or trimmed into shrubs, as long as they are grown where fully hardy (IDK where the cut-off for that is for this kind of plant, they're deciduous here, but hardy.) I would get them into their permanent homes ASAP. Every time the roots are disturbed, there will be a flush of suckers.
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Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jun 29, 2015 3:26 PM CST
When I got Powhatan, the mother plant, it was in tree form and probably not 3' tall. Now it's around 6' tall. It does not sucker but our other CM suckers a lot.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Jun 30, 2015 10:34 AM CST
Trimming triggers suckering.
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jun 30, 2015 11:53 AM CST
We only were forced to do trimming once, due to the storm Irene:

Before...see the CM on the far right.


When this limb was ripped from the tree it landed atop the CM.
Thumb of 2015-06-30/pirl/b552bd

You can see the limbs crushing the CM and breaking many of its branches:
Thumb of 2015-06-30/pirl/4de4ff

The poor CM began to rebound within a few weeks, thankfully.
Thumb of 2015-06-30/pirl/cd1fa8

As of last year:
Thumb of 2015-06-30/pirl/218404

Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Jun 30, 2015 12:27 PM CST
That's a great example! It wasn't by choice, but it was essentially pollarded, its' structure altered. You could try to encourage a future tree-like appearance again, by removing all of the branches that don't contribute to that shape. You seem like the type to be in the garden often enough to do it gradually, a few couple branches this week, a couple more next week, until eventually, what's left has a tree shape you like. The more gradually you can do it, the less likely it will be to make suckers/the less suckers at a time.

Sure was pretty, so sorry that happened!! The blooming might be more heavy with the current lollipop shape, but I also prefer a more V-shaped tree-like structure.
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Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jun 30, 2015 2:16 PM CST
It's a few of the lower branches I might remove to make access to the suckers, and the plants around it, easier.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jun 30, 2015 3:27 PM CST
Just envision what you want it to look like and start cutting from the ground up. Then thin out any branches that are crossing or don't look right to you/too close together.
Then thin out the smaller branches/twigs so that it doesn't look like a bush on a stick. Your shrub is probably too large already to move to another spot.
Keep in mind that trees and shrubs grow out from the tips. The best way to describe this-if you hang a birdhouse in your bush 1' off the ground and come in 10 years, your bird house will still be 1 ft off the ground, it will not be up in the air some where. You should mulch your shrub heavily for winter. Do realize that if for some reason you have an unusually cold winter at some point, the crepe may die back to the ground or partially die back so that you may lose several years of shaping and have to start over. I can't grow crepes here, the winters are too cold, a few kinds I have had luck with coming back but they always grow back from the ground-a shrub. I cannot prune them into a tree form. Here is a link to pics that might help you decide what you want yours to look like. Basically you just have to find the main skeleton of your shrub and cut off everything that doesn't compliment that form.

https://www.google.com/search?q=crepe+myrtle+tree&biw=1680&b...
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jun 30, 2015 6:42 PM CST
Thank you for all the help. I probably won't be able to dig the little ones until next week but that gives me time to decide where I want to put them.
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jun 30, 2015 10:18 PM CST
We removed 4 CM's that were too close to the house this spring. Now those spots are full of suckers that are about 2 feet tall now. Contemplating bushing them out. But I'm afraid they grow so fast wanting to be a tree, I won't be able to keep up. I am not against cutting them all down and trying to get rid of them. Thoughts? Hints? Suggestions?
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Jul 1, 2015 8:39 AM CST
Cheryl, I'm seeing a lot of suckers in a new bed where I've dug up some grass a few feet from a giant 100-yr old CM. I thought I pulled out all of the roots during the digging, but obviously not. A few times a week, I see a new little clump of CM foliage poking up somewhere. They pull up really easily, but IDK how long this will go on.

Also extremely interesting is that some of the smaller pieces of roots that got thrown in with the dug-up grass didn't die. They're not decomposing, they're growing new foliage. Need to make sure this stuff is shriveled before attempting to compost. So glad that was the plan for the chunks of grass anyway, or I could have inadvertently "planted" CM in other spots.

The disruption to the roots also seems to have spurred a much stronger flush (than usual, previous years) of suckers throughout the lawn, and around its' base. There's no hope of ever rehabilitating its' giant stump-base into anything looking like a normal tree. It's been pollarded most years for its' whole life. So, it will always be making suckers. I'd planned to get rid of all of the grass around it, but SOOOO glad I didn't do it all at once. Now I realize, that's a horrible spot for a garden, unless I want to battle CM suckers every year.

They're reliably hardy but deciduous here. Most specimens spend half of the year looking like really short telephone poles, and always surrounded by tons of suckers. Other specimens that have never been pollarded (only maintained for shape, as one would do with any tree,) make few, if any, suckers. Exactly the same patterns as Syringa (lilacs,) except that lilacs are pruned into hedges/clumps instead of being pollarded, when not left to their own devices, to form the beautiful trees that they can be.
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 1, 2015 9:52 AM CST
They do like hot weather and take forever here to leaf out, usually the first of June before they really look like anything. About the time I am seriously wondering if it made the winter and I should dig it out?-that's when it starts to sprout out some leaves.

It should also be noted that there are varieties of CM that are supposed to stay smaller, so if you have a small space but want a CM you should research some of those smaller varieties.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jul 1, 2015 12:18 PM CST
When I began this thread it really was about two little ones (not suckers) that sprouted within five feet of the mother plant so I wanted to know when to dig them and how to train them...and I'll be digging next week.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jul 1, 2015 12:41 PM CST
I would mark them and then move them when they are dormant. If you have to move them now I would at least wait until you have a few cloudy days or pot them and keep in some shade until the weather cools this fall.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jul 1, 2015 12:43 PM CST
I do have a shady spot where I can hold them. Thanks for the help.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Bulbs Foliage Fan Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents
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purpleinopp
Jul 1, 2015 1:39 PM CST
At 5 feet, your plants are close enough to your bigger tree to be suckers, that was part of my point in my last post. I know they are suckers coming up in the middle of our remaining lawn & in new flower bed area because attempts to remove them led to severed roots of the mama tree. Suckers can come from anywhere along the root system. I'm sure you'll be able to tell which yours are when you get the shovel out. A sucker or a sprout should grow the same way.

If a naked piece of root can keep growing in 95 degrees with the sun shining on it for a few hours a day, a month after it was dug up, I don't think you'd have any trouble re-planting your babies in new permanent spot immediately.

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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Jul 1, 2015 3:22 PM CST
I'll be checking as I dig next week.
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
Plumerias Ponds Foliage Fan Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tropicals Garden Ideas: Master Level
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jul 1, 2015 9:39 PM CST
I pulled up a million suckers today. You're right, @Tiffany, they are easy to pull, almost like sprouts, bunches of them per inch! Plus after our soaking rains, it was a cinch to get rid of. While weeding the rock bed, I noticed a young CM in the neighbor's yard. She probably won't even notice it. Might be nice to have one where it is, though it is close to the wrought iron fence. The mother tree could be across the driveway about 15 feet away or across the driveway and 30ft away. Do you think those roots traveled under the driveway and 10 feet north or 20 ft south to produce suckers? Or are those that I saw real off spring from seeds?

Yes, there are dwarf varieties. I have one. A purple on, I think? IDK? It has not bloomed and is a sloooooow grower. Though the standard size ones I planted at the same time have doubled in size and bloomed already.
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.

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