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Monday, May 14, 2018

Problem Tree Structure Should Be Done Early

Q. We have a Crape Myrtle tree planted from a 24 inch box. It is multi trunked. One of the lower trunks is crossed by a large branch from another trunk. I was wondering if I could gently coax this branch back into a new location? I don’t want to remove it because it will leave a large gap in the canopy.
This Crape Myrtle should be restrained from gaining too much height too fast to encourage a dense flower display.

Its too late to move any of the main limbs to a new location now. It would have been possible at a much earlier age.

A. Small, young branches can be bent, twisted and secured into new locations. They are much less pliable starting after the first year of growth. They are most pliable during the first year and the beginning of their second year of growth. They are most pliable when new growth is just beginning up until about two months after growth begins.

Limb spreaders used on this fruit tree are forcing second year growth to a new location. The infarstructure of the tree was established during the previous two years

Old Branches Should be Removed

            Sorry, but older branches must be removed. They cannot be bent into new positions. These branches are too old to bend without breaking or snapping off. Use a sanitized handsaw and remove it close to the trunk. The cut does not have to be treated in any way. In a couple of years, with some proper pruning, it will not be missed.

How to do It

            The side with the hole you created after pruning will have a lot of new growth the first year, particularly where limbs are exposed to sunlight. Remove new suckering growth except perhaps 8 to 10 growing where you want them. Desirable new growth would be growing outwards at different locations along the trunk at 45° angles from horizontal.
            If the tree needs three or four new suckers, leave eight. Rub out anything growing inward or crossing as soon as you see it. Removing undesirable growth early causes the remaining suckers to grow faster and stronger into new branches.
            Force the tree to become “bushier” and denser by removing strong, vertical growth. Keeping it “bushier” and dense helps provide a good floral show each year and restrains its growth. Remove unnecessary growth with hand pruners any time during the growing season.

When to do It

            Major limb removal requiring more than a hand shears should be done during the winter. All Crape Myrtles produce flowers on new growth. This means pruning during the winter is the best time to encourage increased flowering.
            During the winter, find branches growing vigorously vertical and remove them where they begin their upward growth. Reducing plant height by removing growth that is strongly vertical helps keep the plant denser and more “floral”. Remove these branches at a "crotch", i.e. just above a limb growing outward. Do not leave a stub.

Restrain new growth

            Branches longer than 24 inches growing anywhere on the tree should be cut back to about 18 inches in length during the winter.
            If you have rock covering the soil underneath the tree, it will start having nutritional problems in a couple of years. Apply bagged compost to the rocks beneath the tree and water it in. If this is unsightly to you, auger vertical holes multiple places in the soil around the tree to a depth of 18 inches. Fill these holes with compost.
            The best compost I have found for this purpose in the Las Vegas area is available from Viragrow in North Las Vegas. Don’t add any fertilizer if you use this compost. It has plenty naturally in it already. Every other year lightly sprinkle the same compost over the top of the soil and water it in.

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