You cut the crape myrtle. Now, how do you stop cupping?

Q: Our crepe myrtle got out of control, so we cut it down and had the stump dug up. Two years later, small shoots appear in the lawn, a few centimeters to four feet from the original location. We prefer not to use herbicides. What can we do?

A: Trees didn’t earn their status as the longest-lived plants by promising to sprout only from seed. Although some types of trees can live for hundreds or even thousands of years supported by a single trunk, many types also create clones by sending up suckers from their roots. These suckers can form while the original trunk is alive, as well as long after it’s gone, as you’ve discovered. When the suckers are left to grow, they eventually grow wide and tall enough to look like full-fledged trees.

But it’s one thing to bask in the rustling golden leaves of a grove of aspens sprouting from suckers in a national forest — and something completely different to see baby trees spring up in a lawn or flower bed. . You can let a sucker grow if you want a new crape myrtle there. Otherwise, the easiest solution is to pull or cut the suckers as they emerge. If they are small and young, you may be able to pull them out by hand. they often detach from the roots at this stage. If they grow taller and develop thicker stems, you will need to use clippers. Cutting off suckers above ground can leave hard toe spikes. Additionally, stumps can sprout into a new group of suckers, which means mowing them is not enough. Clip below the soil surface – ideally where the suction cup connects to the root. If you want to keep your mower clean, or if your ground has stones and you don’t want to dull the blade, first use a trowel to remove some dirt, make the cut, then fill in the divot you made .

A crape myrtle does not have a taproot; instead, it has fibrous roots 10 to 12 inches deep. So if you’re willing to redevelop some of your land, it might be possible to remove the roots and eliminate the problem permanently. Be prepared to dig a lot though: the roots of a crape myrtle can extend two or three times as far as the branches when reached.

Because the prospect of having to repeatedly remove the suckers is so annoying and the alternative of digging up the roots is so daunting, a chemical solution may seem like an attractive alternative. Yes, it is possible to use a herbicide to prevent the formation of new suckers. But this is not a permanent solution: new suckers will still form, but not so quickly. Products like Monterey Sucker-Stopper RTU ($51.99 for a 16-ounce spray bottle on Amazon) and Bonide Sucker Punch ($21.99 for an eight-ounce bottle with an applicator brush under the lid) contain 1 – ethyl naphthaleneacetate, a growth regulator that prevents suckers from sprouting from the roots and pruning wounds for up to six months. For use on crape myrtle root suckers and other woody ornamentals, apply Sucker-Stopper when shoots do not exceed 10 inches in height, according to label. Wear goggles, gloves and clothing that will prevent the product from getting into your eyes or on your skin. The instructions also say to apply the herbicide only to the suckers, not to the ground or other nearby plants. With a spray, this might be difficult to accomplish. You may want to try brushing it with a small disposable brush.

Crepe myrtles aren’t the only trees known to produce lots of suckers and shoots. The Sucker-Stopper tag also indicates its usefulness on 15 other species of ornamental trees, including elms, carobs, flowering plums and several species of maples, as well as apples, pears and olives. . When suckers are a problem near a tree that someone wants to keep, proper pruning can go a long way to reducing the problem of suckers because suckers are more likely to form when a tree is under stress. Excessive size does that.

While it is certainly possible to leave a sucker or two to grow where you want a new tree, if the original tree was grafted, as fruit trees often are, the suckers will be the variety used for the rootstock. Tree nurseries often graft buds that will grow into branches producing good-tasting fruit onto selected rootstocks for a different purpose, such as the size the tree will eventually reach. Suckers from these trees will not produce the same type of fruit and will likely be disappointing.

Comments are closed.