Crepe myrtles are beautiful flowering trees that can reach 15-25 feet in height. They thrive best in hardiness zones 7-9.
Transplanting a tree is never easy, but a crepe myrtle may be more likely to survive the move, as they are less sensitive to root loss. If you are considering moving your crepe myrtle, there are some steps that can be taken to improve the tree’s chance of survival.
Selecting the New Site
The new location for a crepe myrtle needs to be the right environment. Crepe myrtles thrive best in full sunlight. The new site also needs to have space for both vertical and horizontal growth. Do not transplant a crepe myrtle to an area that with have obstacles for growth in later years.
You can make the transplantation process easier by preparing the crepe myrtle in advance. Keep the crepe myrtle especially well-watered for the season before the move. The goal should be one inch of water weekly. This includes rain water.
1. Choosing the Right Time
A crepe myrtle should be moved when the tree is dormant. The tree is dormant once it loses its leaves. This generally means the optimal time to move the plant is in winter. If the weather is cold enough, it will be necessary to wait until the soil is workable, however the tree must be moved before the new leaves begin to appear.
2. Does Age Matter?
Both young and old trees can be transplanted. Due to size, younger trees are easier to transplant. Crepe myrtles are a smaller tree, with a height range from 15-25 feet, making it easier to move a mature crepe myrtle than other mature trees. All trees experience some shock after being moved. However, younger trees’ growth rate can mean a faster recovery time.
3. Digging the New Hole
The new hole needs to be dug out before the tree is removed. The transplantation process is traumatizing for a crepe myrtle, which means the plant should be out of the earth for as little time as possible. Make sure the new planting hole is large enough to provide space for the tree’s current roots, as well as allowing space for the roots to expand.
Crepe myrtle roots can expand to up to three times the size of the plant canopy. Finally, make sure the new hole will not make the crepe myrtle sit too low into the earth, as this can suffocate the tree.
Digging Out the Tree
To dig out a crepe myrtle, dig outside the range of the roots. This is done so as to leave the roots as undisturbed as possible. A crepe myrtle root ball can be two-three feet in diameter.
1. Root Pruning
Transplanting is one of the few opportunities to prune roots. Although root loss is generally considered a bad thing for trees, some people believe that pruning roots encourages a higher root production. Additional roots mean a tree is more stable against wind and is able to have a higher water and nutrient intake.
Crepe myrtles handle root loss better than other tree species. For proper root pruning, first make sure the tree has other structural roots to feed it. Cut the root so as to have the smallest possible exposed surface to minimize trauma.
2. Don’t Twist or Tug the Roots
Twisting or tugging the roots to unearth them can cause irreparable damage. Any damaged roots need to be removed. Generally speaking, 40% of root loss during a transplant will result in the plant’s death. Treat every root carefully so as to retain as many healthy roots during the move as possible.
3. Protecting the Roots During the Move
When moving the crepe myrtle, it is important to protect the roots. A good idea is to transplant the tree on a surface, such as on a tarp or in a burlap sack. If you choose to use a burlap sack, tie the sack around the base of the tree to protect the entire root ball. Keep the root ball moist throughout the process.
4. Recovering from Root Damage
Transplanting a tree isn’t easy, and accidents can happen. If a root is damaged or broken during the move, make sure to cut the root a quarter on an inch above the injury.
5. Avoid Tree Paint
Tree paint used to be highly recommended to help trees recover from pruning. Tree paint acts as a sealant on the pruned spot. Unfortunately, this prevents the tree’s natural process of compartmentalization, in which the tree forms callus tissues over the wound and therefore protects the spot from contaminants. Trust your crepe myrtle to heal itself.
Protect the Branches During the Move
Branches, like roots, need to be protected during the move. If too many branches are lost during the transplanting process, it can affect the overall tree’s health. Wrap burlap around the crepe myrtle’s branches to provide some extra protection.
Replanting the Tree
Trees should be handled delicately during a transplantation. Do not drop the tree into the new hole. Make sure to gently lower the crepe myrtle to make the transition as easy as possible.
The soil in the new location needs to be ideal for a crepe myrtle. The crepe myrtle thrives best in well-draining loam, clay, or sandy soils. Additionally, the pH level needs to be at 5.5 to 7.5. Fertilizer in the soil can help a crepe myrtle readjust. Choose a high-nitrogen fertilizer, although be careful to not over-fertilize. Over-fertilizing can be recognized by excessive growth with reduced flowering.
The juvenile crepe myrtle needs consistent watering at one inch a week. Recently transplanted trees need extra love to fully survive the move. Make sure the crepe myrtle receives the required amount of water each week. A good tip is to remove grass, weeds, and other competition for water within a four-foot radius of the tree.
While transplanting a crepe myrtle isn’t easy, it is possible. Careful preparation of the new location, gentle removal from the previous home, and proper removal of damaged roots and branches can give the tree a much better shot at survival.