Question of the Week – Number Two: May 28, 2020

Redbud on left was transplanted last winter. Crape myrtle on right has been slow to develop this spring.

“What is wrong with these two trees? They so weak and lethargic.”

These are two completely different problems, as posted recently on my Facebook page.

What’s with the redbud?
The FB friend posting the photo of the redbud on the left said that she had dug and transplanted it this past winter. I will tell you, as I told her, that redbuds are not easily dug and relocated.

I learned that as a teenager running a landscape contracting business out of our backyard in College Station. I had more mortality on balled-and-burlapped (“dug”) redbuds than with any other tree species.

That said, I don’t see any evidence that she did any pruning at all to compensate for roots lost in the process of digging and moving this small tree. That’s non-negotiable in my opinion. The question is whether it’s too late to do so. I would probably trim it back by 50 percent or more and apply a high-phosphate liquid root stimulator monthly the rest of this growing season. Even with that, I’d give it small odds of making it seeing how it looks before summer’s hot weather arrives. I wish I had better news.

Continued Below

As for the crape myrtle?
That’s the freeze damage that happened with the first killing freeze late in October. Several varieties weren’t completely dormant yet and they were either wounded badly or killed to the ground.

You’ve seen my recommendations here for the past couple of months. If the damage was more severe than this I suggested you cut the plants completely flush with the ground and let new shoots coming up from the base become the new trunks, thinning them down to a manageable number as they gain strength and size.

This plant, however, may have enough vigor left in it to regrow and fill in. I don’t see any sprouts from below, so trimming it flush to the soil isn’t a good option. I’d recommend removing all the dead wood and reshaping what’s left as necessary.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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