Retraining a Frozen Tree-Form Crape Myrtle
After cold Winter, crape myrtles fight to come back from the freeze. In fact, there are plants that froze completely to the ground. Dead tops with no signs of life. Fortunately, there are some steps we can follow to retrain them.
This plant will still be alive in its root system. Your task is simply to retrain the sprouts to form a new tree.. Each of the shoots could be trained to be a new trunk.
Follow these guidelines :
Step 1: (May 2021) Cut all the old trunks back to ground level. If posible, Use a hand pruning saw.
• Step 2: (May through Summer 2021) Allow all new shoots to develop around the old stumps. There may be as many as 25-30. Let them all grow.
• Step 3: (Sept. 2021) Prune unwanted shoots to reduce numbers down to the best 12 or 15, objective is to choose those that are strong and straight. At that same time, surround your new shoots with an enclosure of 24-inch wooden stakes to keep them from being broken during the winter.
• Step 4: (May 2022) Prune to remove all but 5 to 7 best stems. That will allow all water and nutrients to be focused to them. Leave stakes in place.
• Step 5: (Spring 2023 – just two years later) Remove final unwanted stems leaving only the permanent trunks. If stems are sturdy enough to support themselves, including their bloom clusters, remove stakes. Otherwise, use plastic plant ties to keep them in place one more year.
High-nitrogen fertilizers used in early spring, early summer and early fall will help all this occur more quickly, as will frequent watering.