Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

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Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  jalbright on Thu Aug 23, 2012 3:51 am

I've had this dwarf crepe myrtle since 2009 and over the past winter it lost all it's branches. It's lost branch tips before, and I attributed it to the tender branches of a young tree, but these were starting to get some size on them. Around June (very late) it finally began pushing out some buds from the trunk so it's still alive. Here in northern Illinois I allow the trees to stay out until they go dormant (a few good dips into the high 20F's) then overwinter in a temperature controlled insulated box that stays around 33-38F all winter long. Any thoughts on what I could try differently this winter? I trunk chopped it in July and now have several 6 inch branches but I'm concerned they will all die back again.

Here is the tree in early June:


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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  JudyB on Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:25 am

Crape myrtle isn't hardy much below freezing. They do not usually die, but will die back to the roots in some cases. You'll need to protect it better especially this winter since its growing so late.

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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:49 am

JudyB wrote:Crape myrtle isn't hardy much below freezing. They do not usually die, but will die back to the roots in some cases. You'll need to protect it better especially this winter since its growing so late.

I agree. Also plants in containers and dwarf varieties tend to be less hardy then their larger relatives in the ground.

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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  JimLewis on Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:31 pm

Hmmm. I have 10 shohin or slightly larger crape myrtles, and that sit out on my benches, unprotected, every winter. Their roots have frozen and thawed and frozen and thawed, and they've been out in single digit temperatures a few times and the teens many times; some of them are named cultivars and at least semi-dwarf, while others are yardadori of no particular provenance. I sometimes lose the tips of of branches, but have never had severe die back.

Mind you, I don't live in Chicago, but cold is cold and the teens are the teens, and the winter winds blow gales around my hilltop house.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  Russell Coker on Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:07 pm



I can't tell you how to protect your crape through the winter because that's not something I have to deal with, THANK GOD!

But to say they aren't hardy much past freezing is a little misleading imo. We've discussed before that some people try to treat them as tropicals, which they are not. Some varieties/hyrids are hardier that others, no doubt, and Billy's right about the dwarfs - and anything in the ground vs in a pot.

For what it's worth here's what I'd do regardless of how you overwinter it... Get it out of that pot and into something much bigger with really good soil. And don't skimp on the fertilizer, at this point you don't care how big the leaves are. It's not a bonsai yet and has a lot of growing ahead of it before it looks like anything. I can't tell if that top 1/3 is alive or dead, but you need to remove those buds at the base and let it grow to rebuild branches and possibly a new head. CMs thrive in long hot summers, is June the normal month for you to see new growth?? I'd expect to see that in late March or early April. If that's correct, and fall is just around the corner for you, that growing season is about half of what it wants.

Hope this helps a little.

R


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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:21 pm

I have three dwarf CM. One is in a large Bonsai pot and is just growing, the other two are in training pots. While I was in Hawaii at the end of July I think two in training pots got either too much or too little water and when I got home all the leaves were dead, but both have since recovered. I think I left all three out over winter here. I think you always get die back on CM, no matter what you do. CM leaf out and bloom early to late depending upon variety. The dwarfs are used by nurseries for hanging baskets and they must use special techniques to get bloom on schedule. I have two dwarfs in the ground and they have never done well. I have some full size CM in the ground in the same area and they are huge. But, as I said above, CM leaf out and bloom at different times and do seem to leaf out earlier the further south you are.

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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  Oliver Muscio on Thu Aug 23, 2012 3:10 pm

I agree with Jim and Russell regarding cold hardiness. I have a "crape myrtlette" dwarf grown from seed from Park's Seeds. For years I would bring it indoors in winter. (In the '70s and '80s my regular yard crape myrtle would be killed to the ground about every third or fourth winter with lows ranging from 5 to -17 degF) The weather is milder now and I now longer bring it inside in winter. Instead I leave it and a non-dwarf CM in an unheated shed. Our winter lows have run around the upper to mid-teens the last few years, and I have seen no die-back except on the finest growth.

With the protection you are providing (temps around 30) I am sure that cold is not the problem. I would guess that moisture or lack of it is more likely the problem. Perhaps the soil is drying out from lack of water, or perhaps it is being kept too wet?

Oliver

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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:52 pm

being kept too wet?

I know CM don't like to be too wet.

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Re: Overwintering Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Post  jalbright on Fri Aug 24, 2012 3:34 am

Thanks for all the responses. I don't think cold is the problem since I keep it above 32F but Russell's comment to get it into a larger pot is interesting (it was noticeably more vigorous when I had it in a larger grow box). And the amount of water during storage may be a factor also, but I honestly don't know if it needs more or less.

The top 1/3 never budded out so after July 4th I chopped it. Here is a pic from late July and the branches have doubled in length since then (a wave of Japanese beetles didn't help).

Thanks again for your suggestions.


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