Transplanting Your Crepe Myrtle

April 17, 2008 | By | Comments (100)

Q: How big of a root ball needs to be dug to transplant a crepe myrtle? I have one that is an off-shoot of a larger tree…the one I want to transplant is now about 10 feet tall, but has few side branches. I would like to miove it to my back yard, but am not sure if I can dig a rootball that is large enough….also can I do it this time of year?? Thanks in advance. - Patricia

A: Now is a good time to transplant a crepe myrtle. Yours doesn’t sound too big for you to handle, but if a couple of burly, good-looking guys bearing a strong resemblance to Matt Damon offer to help, I wouldn’t turn them down. The trick is digging a root ball that’s 2-3 feet in diameter and at least a foot deep so the plant comes away with enough roots to grow. Dig when the soil is moist, so the soil will stick to the roots. After you and Matt lift the plant from the hole, place the root ball on a tarp that you can slide easily over the ground to the new destination. Plant the crepe myrtle so that the top of the root ball is even with the soil surface and then water thoroughly. Finally, tell Matt I really like his “Bourne” movies and hope he’ll let me be in the next one. Grumpy

COMMENTS

  1. Dave & Heather

    We just paid to have a Carolina Beauty Crepe Myrtle delivered & planted in our front yard. It has been in the ground about 5 days now & on the 3rd day we noticed the top of the tree has/is turning brown. Shock? Dying? Water issues? Help!!!!!
    We live around the Charlotte, NC area and the temperatures have been around the 60-70s during the day & 40-50s at night with a touch of rain one night into morning.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm
  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    You need to keep that plant watered! Put a hose to the base of the plant and soak that sucker! Make sure to soil stays moist until the plant is actively growing.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:16 am
  3. Eric

    Grumpy gardener,
    First off your webthread on crepe myrtles is great. Thanks. And secondly, I have been offered three ten foot plus trees. I just have to dig them up and transplant them into my yard. I live in San Antonio, Texas and it is nearly the end of may. My question is, should I bother? Or should I jump on the opportunity? And what procedure am I in for? Thanks in advance!

    May 24, 2012 at 2:41 am
  4. Rebecca Ames

    I had a dwarf crepe myrtle moved to a new spot in my front beds. The next day it looked wilted, and in past week all the leaves have dried up and started falling off. I have watered it everyday. Is is dead, or does it sound like transplant shock?

    May 28, 2012 at 9:01 am
  5. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Eric,
    It is WAY too late to dig crepe myrtles in San Antonio. All you’d get for your efforts would be 3 dead trees. If you can, wait to dig until after they drop their leaves in fall.
    Rebecca,
    Sounds like transplanting shock. Keep the soil moist and maybe the plant will come back.

    May 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm
  6. Eric

    GG,
    Thank you very much.
    I appreciate it emensly.
    Eric

    May 30, 2012 at 10:38 am
  7. Erin

    Hi, Grumpy!
    I live in northern Texas. About a year ago I stupidly transplanted a crepe myrtle (in late spring x.x) to the center of my yard so it could get proper sun. Naturally it died straight away, and by the beginning of this year suckers came up in abundance. I read that you can start one back from the suckers, so I cut the dead limbs to the ground and have started all over again. Now the 5 suckers that are left are about 2 1/3 feet tall and are getting woody. I was wondering how long it takes for a crepe myrtle to grow from a sucker to a full-bloom tree. Mine is the usual smaller, pink variety of crepe myrtle.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    You are most welcome.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm
  9. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Erin,
    Healthy crepe myrtles can grow quite quickly, although obviously some varieties grow faster than others. But i see no reason why you shouldn’t see at least 3-4 feet of growth a year from a sucker. So you should have a new tree in just a few years.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm
  10. Gina

    Had to trim some large limbs off my crepe myrtles to bring them off my roof. The limbs are about 1-2 inches in diameter.
    Can I take the limbs and put them in some 5 gallon buckets with root stimulator and grow new plants?

    June 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm
  11. Patty

    Is it too late now to move a Sixteen Candles Summersweet shrub? It is being smothered by two very large gardenia bushes and I would like to move it this next weekend. It has suffered quite a bit of dieback and is not at all happy in the position it is in, will it kill it to move it now, I live in Alabama where the temperature now is in the mid to high 80′s. Thank you.

    June 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm
  12. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Gina,
    Sorry, but that won’t work. Throw the branches away.
    Patty,
    If it prune you summersweet now, you’ll cut off all the flowers. And you can’t move it now or you’ll kill it. Why I would do is prune the gardenias now and then move the summersweet in fall.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:46 am
  13. Kristina

    Hello, I have a couple questions. My neighbor sold his house and the new owners decided that they did not want these beautiful crape’s in the yard. SO my husband and I used a bobcat and transplanted them. two were large and two were small. Questions: We had to cut them back a lot to move them will they survive with as hot as it is and if so, how long do you suppose it will take for leaves to come back?

    June 24, 2012 at 7:43 am
  14. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Kristina,
    Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but transplanting crepe myrtles in the middle of summer is a no-no. The transplanting shock will probably kill them. But before you dig them up, keep them well-watered for several weeks. If they’re still alive, they should send out new growth.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:40 am
  15. Kristina

    So far they seem to be doing okay. It’s hard to tell though because my husband had to cut them down a lot before moving them. I’m hoping they will live but our neighbors were digging them up to burn them :( So atleast we are giving them a chance. Do you think Root Tone would help?

    June 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm
  16. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Kristina,
    Root-Tone is only used to root small cuttings. Sprinkling it on the soil would have no effect.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm
  17. Munga

    Hello Grumpster! Two questions. First question: I have a crape myrtle ( pink). It’s about 4 foot tall. I wish to transplant it to a sunny spot in my yard. I live in north central Texas. I will wait until the leaves fall off in fall. My question is this: do I still need to water it a lot even though its dorment? Second question: I have a huge oak leaf hydrangea that was planted in a tight spot. It needs to be moved. It is about 12 foot tall and probably 8 foot wide. I will also transplant it in the fall. The leaves tend to take a long while to drop. Is it okay to move this type of shrub? The root ball is probably huge too…. Lots of suckers. Water it a lot in fall also? Is it best to cut it back before moving it?

    July 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm
  18. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Munga,
    If you transplant your crepe myrtle in fall after the leaves drop, you need water it thoroughly only once to settle the soil around the roots. As for your oakleaf hydrangea, it’s OK to move it in fall once the leaves have turned color. Water it thoroughly after the move and then water once a week until the leaves finally drop. Don’t cut it back unless you have to, because you’ll be cutting off flower buds for next spring.

    July 3, 2012 at 11:44 am
  19. amateurgardner

    I have planted a Arapaho or Apache crape myrtle within six inches of my brick home & two feet of a sidewalk. Will the roots conform to that area? It can root off to the other side away from the sidewalk and under the flowerbed border into the yard. Foundation & sidewalk worries. I can keep it trimmed away from the house * roof, I think.

    July 8, 2012 at 11:47 am
  20. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Six inches is way too close to the house. Even if the roots don’t damage the house’s foundation, they’ll probably crack the sidewalk. The leaves will also trap moisture against the siding, causing mildew. Constantly pruning your plant to keep it within bounds will make it look ugly and be a royal pain. I would move it this fall after the leaves fall off.

    July 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm
  21. Susan

    Hello. I just bought a 8 ft Miami Crape/Crepe Myrtle at a nursery. I dug the hole 2 1/2 times the width and approximately the same depth . It has been in the ground now five days. It was watered deeply the first 4 days. NOW the problem… THE LEAVES and existing flowers are WITHERING. The temperatures here in Maryland (late July early August) are in the 90s. It is very hot. I don’t want to overwater because I’m afraid of rot as we have clay type soil. I did amend the soil with some compost and mulch. When I test the soil it is plenty damp. Please advise. I don’t want to lose this $125 tree. Thanks. Susan

    August 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm
  22. Steve Bender

    Susan,

    I think you have planted your crepe myrtle correctly. The problem is the very hot weather. When it’s this hot, plants growing in sun will wilt even when the soil is moist. The roots just can’t take up moisture fast enough to replace what the leaves are losing. Nevertheless, it is vital after planting in summer to make sure the roots have sufficient water. How can you tell when to water? Go out and look at your crepe myrtle first thing in the morning before the sun hits it. If the leaves are wilting, water thoroughly. If they are not, don’t water that day. Also, be sure to mulch your crepe myrtle to keep the soil moist longer.

    August 3, 2012 at 10:03 am
  23. Susan

    Grumpy! Oh thank you for the information. I will do that. The only problem is … now I notice about 1/4 of the leaves are turning slightly yellow. Now you have given me hope though. I was really worried. THANK YOU AGAIN!

    August 3, 2012 at 7:39 pm
  24. Susan

    Grumpy, I did think of another question which I cannot find an answer to via internet. Which varieties of Crape Myrtles have the Biggest Bloom Clusters ? Thanks in advance.

    August 4, 2012 at 7:00 am
  25. Bryan

    Hi, I have two questions. First, when is the best time of year in Maryland to transplant two dwarf crape myrtles? Secondly, I have a regular crape myrtle that I transplanted a couple of years ago. It lived and has brown to be close to ten feet tall in that time. It has what appear to be berries on it, which I assume are the buds. A few of them bloomed, but not that many, and not for very long. I’m looking at it now and see a few few red blooms whereas, all my neighbors’ crape myrtles are in full bloom. What’s wrong? Could soil be a problem? It gets full sun for a number of hours during the day but not the entire day. I would think that after two years, it would be well over the transplant issues. It never really has bloomed much in either of the two places it has been located.

    August 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm
  26. Steve Bender

    Susan,
    I would plant a red one called ‘Red Rocket.’

    Bryan,
    Wait until after your dwarf crepe myrtles lose their leaves this fall to transplant them. As for your big one, I wonder if it’s getting enough sun. Full sun is best. If the “berries” you see now are green, they are the developing seed pods. Many people mistake them for flower buds.

    August 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm
  27. Erik Williams

    I have about a 4 foot tall crape myrtle that has not really grown at all for about the 5 years we’ve been in this house. It stays the same height but it does put out leaves and flowers every year but they also always seem a little withered. Any suggestions?

    September 15, 2012 at 7:59 am
  28. Jeff

    I just got 2 huge crepe myrtles from a neighbor who was going to saw them down. I abused them pretty badly, using a tractor to pull them up after digging around them. It’s amazing how strong a single small root can be! One of the trunks broke off at the stump, about 8″ diameter. OUCH! I don’t know if I could hurt them any worse. After pruning them with an axe, just so I could transport them, I wonder if I need to saw them to clean them up. Oh, and the rope I pulled them with tore off a lot of bark. The weather has been cooler & wet lately, but they were in full bloom before I “saved” them.

    Is there a special place in Tree Hell for me, or is there any hope for these tortured trees?

    September 19, 2012 at 10:51 am
  29. Steve Bender

    Erik,
    I can think of two possibilities. First, you may have a dwarf crepe myrtle that just doesn’t get tall. Or your may have a regular crepe myrtle that doesn’t have good, fertile soil.

    Jeff,
    I think the future for your trees is pretty bleak. The only thing to do now is plant them, keep them watered, and hope for a miracle.

    September 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm
  30. esther

    mom and i purchased a crepe myrtle natchez tree on a whim a day ago. our first tree and barely doing research on it. the hole we dug is twice as deep and wide than the actual tree. its in a good area to grow tall and away from the house. our soil is hard when dry and clay when wet in the front but i filled it up with some good soil i bought from a nearby nursery. i was told it was the best. they advised i dont mix any native soil with it and not to fertilize till 6 months later. i do have miraclegro fertilizer and put a little this morning, thinking to help with the shock. however, we were advised to buy a root stimulator. i understand the watering part. yet, last night we planted it and the soil beneath the tree was wet. course, we found out thats not good and to water only in the morning from now on. we were told to soak it through but i am concerned of the poor lil guy getting root rot. the soil does not drain too well in that area. as i said it was on a whim. i’ve always wanted to buy a tree and fill areas that not much green show. so any advice will be appreciated as well on how to take care of it during the winter. we live in el paso, tx. weather is below 100 right now. it is around 3-4 ft tall. do i need to do anything for it when there’s high winds and lots of rain as well?

    appreciate your time

    September 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm
  31. esther

    i meant the pot in which the tree came in when i mentioned the digging of the hole :)

    September 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm
  32. CONNIE

    Hi! Just found your site- very informative! Have two Crapes in Va. that will be dug up within the next few weeks and will be traveling for 7hrs. or so in our truck to be transplanted in NJ yard. I plan to water roots well and try to “ball” them in material for the long ride. Any other info. from you will be GREATLY appreciated! Oh, how long could they stay out of the ground before not surviving? Thanks so much!

    September 24, 2012 at 8:36 pm
  33. Steve Bender

    Esther,
    There is no need to use fertilizer or root stimulator now. After reading how you planted it, the main thing to check is that you didn’t plant too deeply. Digging such a deep hole might cause the tree to settle. Make sure the top of the root ball is ay least 1/2-inch above the soil surface and then cover the top with mulch. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Next time you plant a tree, make the hole no deeper than the height of the root ball.

    Connie,
    Water the trees thoroughly the day before you dig them. Try to get nice big root balls and wrap them up tight with burlap. It is very important that the root balls stay moist and intact during the move. Load them in the truck bed with the root balls close to the cab and lay the plants down so they’re out of the wind. Using twine to wrap around the branches and pull them tight will help too. Try to get them in the ground ASAP after the move.

    September 26, 2012 at 11:15 am
  34. Sandy

    I am in Tulsa. Previous owners of our home planted several dwarf crepe myrtles around pool..ugh. Always a mess so I would like to move them. Do they need to be in direct sun? I have three along the front yard that are only in partial sun and they seem to thrive as well as the others. Also, how do I know for sure that they are dwarfs? To keep the mess manageable around the pool, I have cut them back each year so I don’t know how big they would get if I didn’t. Any other suggestions for color around the pool without the mess?

    September 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm
  35. Steve Bender

    Sandy,
    Dwarf crepe myrtles grow into shrubby bushes, not trees. All crepe myrtle bloom better in full sun, but they will take part sun too. If you want color around the pool with no mess, I suggest you go for colorful fliage rather than flowers. Sun coleus, like ‘Redhead,’ ‘Wasabi,’ and ‘Henna’, would be nice.

    September 30, 2012 at 6:53 am
  36. Janet Walters

    Is it possible to air-layer branches of a Crepe Myrtle to generate a new bush. I have one I love that was planted by a former owner so I do not know the variety. It has huge clusters of deep, rosy, wine colored flowers and grows to about 10 feet tall if unpruned but I must keep it to about 6 feet to prevent it from crowding a large Arborvitae.

    November 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm
  37. Steve Bender

    Janet,
    I have never tried this, but it’s worth a shot. You can also propagate it by rooting a cutting taken in June using rooting powder.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:10 am
  38. Jeff

    I planted 10 fig cuttings with root hormone. 2 months later, I have 1 that sprouted. So the lesson is, plant a lot of stuff.

    I transplanted a couple of huge crepe myrtles with small root balls. Did a terrible job, pulling them up with a tractor, broke off 6″diameter trunks, tore off the bark, chopped through the roots to free them.

    A month later (Sept/Oct) they have sprouted. Tough trees!

    November 15, 2012 at 11:59 am
  39. Grumpy Gardener

    Jeff,

    As Dr. Ian Malcolm stated in “Jurassic Park,” nature finds a way.

    November 16, 2012 at 8:16 am
  40. paris

    I am moving back home with my parents but I want to take my crepe myrtle with me, iv only had it since the spring of 2012 and I don’t want to kill it. will I be able to dig it up this time of year without hurting it?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm
  41. Steve Bender

    Paris,

    You should be able to dig it up and transplant it. Now is a good time to do it.

    January 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm
  42. David

    Hello, Mr Grumpy Gardner. We have been offered 3 Crepe Myrtles but we have to dig them up and transplant them ourselves. They are about 15 feet tall and we live in Nashville. About 3 main “trunks” on each one. Is it a good time to move them in Nashville? Also, my partner thinks it is going to be an easy task but I Think it might be more trouble than it is worth. We are both pretty able bodied men so I hope we can because if we dont take them they will be ripped out and used as mulch. Is it a good time and are we looking at horrible labor or will it be do able? Thanks so much!!!

    March 12, 2013 at 11:45 am
  43. Steve Bender

    David,
    Now is a good time to transplant them — if you’re up to the work. You’ll need to dig out a root ball about 3 feet wide for each of them. Wrap the root balls in burlap during transport to keep them from falling apart. This is definitely work you can do, but you’ll be dog-tired afterward.

    March 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm
  44. Blakeley

    Hello,
    This thread has been very informative so thanks for keeping it going! A local nursery is closing and I got a really good deal on four 15gal. Crepe Myrtles ($12.00 each) that are about 13 feet tall. The only problem is that they had been neglected and the roots had grown through the plastic pot and into the ground…I had to cut them with an ax to get the pot/plant to break free. The root system has wrapped around pretty good inside the plastic pot. So here are my questions. (I live in Gulf Shores, AL on the coast)

    1. Should cut vertical cuts to break them up or tease as much of the root mass loose as possible…or just put it in the ground as it.
    2. Should I try to get a cleaner cut on the roots that either broke off or were chopped through with the ax?
    3. My soil is very dense clay so should I mix in some better soil to help with rooting and drainage and till it all up or just till the native soil as is when I plant?
    4. Do you recommend any additives to aid in getting the plant to succeed?
    5. Lastly can you please recommend a watering schedule for the next few months?

    Thanks for any advice and I apologize for my long list of questions :)

    p.s. My wife loves your writing

    March 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm
  45. Steve Bender

    Blakely,

    1. Tease the roots out around the outside of the root ball without breaking up the ball. You don’t want roots wrapping around the root ball and strangling themselves.

    2. Yes.

    3. Amending the soil for a plant like crepe myrtle that going to get big is a waste of time, because the roots will naturally spread beyond the original hole. Instead, dig holes in the existing soil that are three times the width of the root ball, but no deeper. Set the ball in so that it’s top is barely above the soil surface, fill in with soil, water well, and then mulch.

    4. No.

    5. Keep the root balls moist for the first couple of months after the plants leaf out. You’ll know they need water if the leaves are wilted early in the morning. When you do water, use a hose, not a sprinkler. You want to soak all the roots, not just the soil surface.

    Good luck!

    March 29, 2013 at 10:45 am
  46. Nadia

    I would like to transplant my crepe myrtle and from what I am reading, now is a good time to move them. They are little plants that has sprouted from a plant I have had in my yard for over ten years. Usually I pull them up and throw them away but I would like another one to grow elsewhere. What advice could you give me. Thank you!

    April 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm
  47. Steve Bender

    Nadia,

    Make sure the ground around the sprout is moist, but not wet. Then use a sharp spade to cut a root ball around the sprout about 6-8 inches wide. Water after you replant it.

    April 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm
  48. Monique

    Hi Grumpy. I appreciate your helpful website. I live in San Antonio, Texas and my husband and I are trying to have an all white flower theme. It is very difficult to find white drought resistant flowers. My question is on the “Desert Star” a wild flower found throughout South Texas. I dug up a flower with the root ball in tact and transplanted it in my flower bed on May 1st and added fresh miracle grow soil. Three days later the leaves are still green, however, the flower has turned pinkish and withered up. I see them in the dead of heat and they are usually a brilliant white anyway. Am I doing something wrong? I watered it right after I transplanted it.

    May 4, 2013 at 8:51 pm
  49. Marcia

    We had a 12 foot crepe myrtle transplanted last October here in Austin. It has a bubbler on it so has gotten sufficient water. However, it has yet to leaf out this year. The bark seems very green when scratched with the thumbnail. Should I be concerned, or just patient? Does it need fertilizer? THANKS!

    May 5, 2013 at 10:25 pm
  50. Steve Bender

    Monique,

    You probably don’t have anything to worry about. The plant may be going through a little transplanting shock, but should recover.

    Marcia,

    Any crepe myrtle that has not leafed out yet in Austin would concern me. Fertilizer will not make a difference. I hope you still have the receipt.

    May 8, 2013 at 11:37 am