Garden Tip: (This one isn’t going to be fun. I’m going to ask that you trust me on this – I’ve been down this road before.)
Several varieties of crape myrtles in our side-by-side comparisons in the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney have taken a hit from this past winter’s cold. While temperatures didn’t drop as low as they have in other years, there was sustained cold as well as cold that came earlier than usual.
The result: several varieties have frozen to the ground. I have seen the same thing in other DFW area plantings, and it’s likely to be showing up in other parts of Texas as well.
Unfortunately, the varieties that seem to be hurt worst are the fast-growing types that are so commonly sold. Tuscarora, Natchez, Muskogee are either sparsely leafed or entirely bare as of April 17. This is a planting of my favorite red, an old variety called Country Red. Unfortunately, I can no longer recommend it for plantings in areas where temperatures drop into the low teens and colder.
What to do now: If you have crape myrtles that have not leafed out, you are almost assuredly seeing root sprouts coming up around the plants’ bases. Before those sprouts grow any taller, cut the old trunks (no matter their size) back to within an inch of the soil. They aren’t going to leaf out again, and you need to get them out of the way.
Allow the new sprouts to develop for the next several months. The plants will look like vigorous shrubs – you’ll probably have 20 or 30 stems per plant. Remember that the roots weren’t hurt, so they’re going to be pushing a bunch of water and nutrition up into the top growth.
By late summer 2015, as the new stems begin to turn woody, remove all but eight or ten of them. Even if you intend to have no more than three trunks eventually, allow extras to develop. They are quite brittle and they can snap and break easily.
Next year, remove all but the trunks you intend to leave. Keep the plants watered and fed, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they will look great once again. Within two or three years you’ll never know anything happened.
Here is a link to the variety recommendations of our Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney: http://crapemyrtletrails.org/best-crpe-myrtle-size/
(What you’ve just read is actually the very same advice we with the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney give to correct plants that have been mutilated through topping – simply cut them back to the ground and let them regrow.)
Posted by Neil Sperry – Facebook