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. Shari Wilson

    I’ve noticed my lilac bushes have several sucker shoots coming up near them. May I dig these up and transplant them to start new ones or should I leave them where they are?

    April 17, 2008 at 11:05 pm
  2. grumpygardener

    Dividing a lilac by separating suckers from the main plant is a good way to get more lilacs. But you want to do so before warm weather arrives — like maybe this weekend.
    The procedure goes like this:
    1. Select a sucker about 2 to 3 feet tall.
    2. Scrape away the soil from around the base of the sucker to see that it has roots of its own.
    3. Use a sharp spade or shovel to cut down between the sucker and mother plant.
    4. Transplant the sucker, taking as many roots as possible with it.

    April 18, 2008 at 9:50 am
  3. Bob

    I have a very mature Crepe Myrtle in my front yard. From its roots, I’m getting many volunteers. I have my eye on one of them that is now about two-feet tall. Because I absolutely love Crepe Myrtles, I would like to transplant this volunteer to another part of my yard. Can you help me with how to do this? Because this volunteer is coming off the roots of the big tree, I want to make sure I don’t damage the mature tree in the process of trying to get the volunteer.
    Thanks,
    Bob (in Northern Virginia)

    July 14, 2008 at 11:32 am
  4. Grumpy

    Whenever you accidentally (or deliberately) cut the roots of a crepe myrtle, the roots will send up suckers. For most people, this is an annoyance, but for you, it’s an opportunity. Leave that big sucker alone until the fall. Then use a sharp spade to cut down on each side, separate it from the mother plant, and transplant it. Both mama and baby should do fine.

    July 17, 2008 at 9:15 am
  5. Mike

    Now I am just getting into Tree Moving myself. Just had a read of the comments and answers and have to say thanks, It has really helped me out.

    January 19, 2010 at 4:59 am
  6. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Glad to be of service.

    January 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm
  7. elmer mazza

    I have a queen crape myrtle in my yard I live in south florida do I need to cut the old pods off the tree in the winter? thank you elmer

    July 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Hi Elmer,
    I love queen crepe myrtle. Wish we could grow it in Alabama. You can cut off the seed pods if you wish, but you don’t need to. The tree will bloom again just fine without it.

    July 9, 2010 at 9:54 am
  9. Amanda

    Hi, I have a feeling I just made a big mistake, and if so is there anything I can do? Here goes, my mature crepe myrtle started sending up new plants up to 8 feet from it. I dug them up and transplanted them to the backyard. The roots were only about 6-8 inches long, the plant itself a little bigger, maybe 12-15 inches tall. Within 24 hours all the leaves are wilted, did I kill it or will it revive?
    Hopeful for help,
    Amanda

    July 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Transplanting root suckers at the hottest part of summer is a bad idea. Your transplants are suffering from transplanting shock and probably won’t survive. The time to transplant is in early spring or the fall. Don’t worry — you’ll get more root suckers in the near future. Cutting into the roots of a mature crepe myrtle is sure to produce these.

    July 14, 2010 at 10:06 am
  11. Scott Wolfe

    greetings grumpy! I recently moved into a house in new braunfels texas and the previous owner committed crepe murder, or so the thought. They cut down what probably were 30′ tall crepe myrtle trees. But, miraculously, they have shoots coming out of the stumps (3) and are now 4′x4′ bushes that are blooming. Its the middle of the summer and I dont know if I should trim them or not. Please advise…thanks.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:12 pm
  12. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Scott,
    Let them go on blooming this summer. Then this fall after the leaves have dropped, prune off all but 1-2 shoots coming from the end of each stump. These will become the new main branches. Keep pruning off any new shoots growing from the stumps except these saved ones for the next 3 years. Soon, your crepes will look as good as new.

    July 18, 2010 at 10:23 am
  13. dopey

    Help! I plantda Muskogee crape myrtle in a raised bed along my foundation about nine years ago. It is now ove 25 feet tall, its roos are choking the azaleas around it, and it’s cracking the walls of the bed. Obviously it will have to be moved after its leaves drop in the fall, but how do I dig out this huge tree without killing it or the azaleas around it? Should I start cutting off top branches now, or will that encourage more root formation? I read that crapes are rather shallow-rooted, so I’m hoping I can get this one out of its 3-foot-deep raised bed.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:28 am
  14. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    I’m not gonna kid you, you’re in for quite a job. Don’t prune the branches now. Wait until the plant goes dormant this fall. Temporarily dig up any azaleas you need to to make moving the crepe myrtle easier. Before you dig, cut it back to about 15 feet. Next, twine rope or twine around the main trunks and pull it tight. This makes moving and digging easier. Dig as big a root ball as you can manage. Good luck! Hope you have some strong guys to help.

    July 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm
  15. ~A

    I went to San Antonio and saw what looked like a yellow flowering crepe myrtle…when I looked up crepe myrtle varieties I did not see a yellow one. What did I see? Whatever it was I want it!

    August 16, 2010 at 11:28 pm
  16. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    The Grump does not believe a yellow crepe myrtle exists, so it must have been something else. My guess is a some form of cassia or senna. Google these names and see if the photos match what you saw.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm
  17. Cate Hendricks

    I was looking at crape myrtle plants at a nursery and saw what looked like five separate plants in one pot. Would I be able to split those separate plants at the root ball?

    August 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm
  18. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Cate,
    Probably. They’re likely 5 rooted cuttings stuck in a pot.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm
  19. Cristina

    I just bought a 5 gallon red rocket from home depot that is about 3 ft tall. Can I plant it in the ground now or should I wait for early spring to do so.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  20. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Cristina,
    If you can remember to water regularly, you can plant now. Keep in mind that you have to get water down to the roots. Don’t just wet the soil surface. So soak your crepe myrtle several times a week. Next year, it won’t need as much water.

    September 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm
  21. wantabegreenthumb

    I live in Birmingham Alabama, I want to transplant nine crepe myrtles from one side of the front yard to the other. When should I do this? Should I wait till all the leaves have fallen off. How do I know when they are dorment?

    October 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm
  22. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Yes, wait until the leaves fall off. That tells you the plants are dormant.

    October 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm
  23. Linda Alvarez

    I have a red crepe myrtle (don’t know variety)It only has 1 main trunk. Ikeep it trim into a tree. Should I let some of the suckers grow so that it has more than 1 trunk?

    January 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm
  24. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Linda,
    That is purely up to you. Some people like it with only one trunk. Others prefer multiple trunks. No right or wrong answer on this one.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:03 am
  25. sandra

    We live in Lytle, tx I have this Crape that I transplanted about a 3 weeks ago. Ive been watering it and the tree bark is still green but the leaves have seem have turn brown. Did it go into shock? What can I do to bring it back? I have another tree I need to transplant,is right now a good time to do it?

    April 24, 2011 at 10:47 pm
  26. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Sandra,
    I would say that your plant has indeed suffered some transplanting shock. Crepe myrtle is tough. Keep watering it and it should leaf back out with maybe a little dieback.
    Don’t transplant the other one now. It is just too warm.

    April 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm
  27. sandra

    If my the trees leaves start coming back and there is some dieback when I can I prune them back?
    thank you

    April 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm
  28. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Sandra,
    Go ahead and prune off the dead stuff now.

    April 30, 2011 at 8:17 am
  29. Jean

    I live in Atlanta in a house with a really over grown yard. Three crepe myrtles are planted in a triangle about 3 feet on each side by my screen porch, in front of the gate where the tree people need to bring in a small front loader. My husband thinks the myrtles will have to be sacrificed for the good of the entire garden, but am wondering if they can be dug up by same front loader and just moved to a bed in the front yard dug by same loader. If this is possible do I need to amend planting hole?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm
  30. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Jean,
    You can try to move the crepe myrtles now, but in this heat, getting them to survive will be difficult. You’ll need to dig a very large root ball for each and disturb the roots as little as possible. If you decide to sacrifice them, consider replacing them this fall with crepe myrtles that get only 10 feet tall, such as ‘Delta Jazz,’ ‘Early Bird,’ ‘Acoma,’ and ‘Pink Velour.’

    May 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm
  31. Jean

    So if they are going to charge me $100 to dig them up with the front loader and replant is it worth it to try or is transplanting in Atlanta in late may almost impossible. They are really pretty and healthy crepe myrtles.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:34 pm
  32. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    As I said, successfully transplanting them now will be difficult, because they’re actively growing. I wouldn’t pay $100 for the front-end loader. Hand-digging to get very big root balls without tearing the roots is the only option.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm
  33. Amanda

    i HAVE ABOUT 5 I WOULD LIKE TO MOVE FROM ACROSS THE YARD TO LINE OUR DRIVEWAY…CAN I DO THAT NOW? DO I NEED TO CUT THEM BACK AND THEN DIF THEM UP ?? HELP PLEASE

    May 31, 2011 at 11:39 pm
  34. Amanda

    I LIVE IN NORTHERN FLORIDA…

    May 31, 2011 at 11:40 pm
  35. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Amanda,
    It is way too hot to transplant now. Your crepe myrtles would die. You’ll have to wait until after the leaves drop in fall.

    June 1, 2011 at 10:59 am
  36. Amanda

    Okay..ill wait thanks for info. When the leaves fall do I need to cut the tree back???

    June 1, 2011 at 11:26 am
  37. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    The leaves will probably fall in November. You do not need to cut them back.

    June 1, 2011 at 11:35 am
  38. Amanda

    Thank you so much :)

    June 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm
  39. Nancy

    I live in deep E Texas. There are crepe myrtle trees at the old home place of my grandmother and one here at the homeplace of my other grandparents. They were here when I was a small child 65+ years ago – but, they don’t seemed to have grown more than 4-6′ since I was a child. Why is this?

    June 19, 2011 at 9:34 am
  40. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Nancy, some crepe myrtles get big and others don’t. Once they reach their mature height, they pretty much stay the same height.

    June 20, 2011 at 7:54 am
  41. Del

    Thanks for your helpful information. I am a serial crepe murderer (in the NC piedmont region) for 2 of the common reasons you listed (too tall, landscapers are doing it). In my defense, it was the previous owner of the home who selected and planted them. A red one is at the corner of the house (facing NNW) and is about 5 ft form the house. The other is pink and is planted on the WSW side of the house only 1 ft away (yikes!) from the chimney.
    Both of them are at least 12-15 years old but do not bloom very well becuse of too much shade (and maybe because of the crape murder?). The red one I always cut back to about 6-8 ft tall and the pink one I cut to 12-15 ft (it’s on the tall side of the 2 story house) From your site, it looks like it is possible for me to transplant these mature trees. I have a spot picked out for at least one of them already where it will receive more sun and provide some shade for a new deck I am about to start working on.
    I think it will be difficult to get the one near the chimney out with a good root ball but I will try since it needs to come down anyway since it is too close to the house (I assume the roots can possibly damage the foundation though I see no evidence of this). I know I need to wait until late fall or winter to do it.
    Here are my question:
    1. Do I need to cut the trees back before transplanting?
    2.How far from the deck should I plant them?
    3. Which one would provide the best shade? The pink one seems to fill out with more leaves (long, green leaves) and the read one seems to want to grow more outward – it has rounder, darker leaves.
    4. Anyother advice?
    Both seem pretty healthy despite my best efforts to “murder” them.

    July 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm
  42. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Del,
    Here are the answers.
    1. No. Only do it if it makes the move easier.
    2. It depends. Do you want shade for the deck? Then plant on the south or west side about 3-6 feet from the deck. Keep in mind, though, that they will drop flowers on the deck in summer.
    3. Hard to say from your description, but for a deck you want a tree with primarily ascending, arching branches that leave plenty of head room beneath.
    4. Keep reading “The Grumpy Gardener.”

    July 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm
  43. dawne s.

    Hi, I had to transplant three crape myrtles due to my mom’s landlord making everyone in her community get rid of their gardens. My question is since they were just transplanted this close to fall, should I prune them now, or wait until next spring? I had one of my own that I had transplanted in September of 2010. The top part died of course but had new growth from the bottom, so I trimmed the main dead branches to sbout three feet tall, now it has bloomed beautifully. Please let me know if I should regard my mom’s the same way. Thanks.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:28 am
  44. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Dawne,
    If they’re wilting badly, I think I would prune them back now. If the leaves look OK, wait until they fall off naturally before doing any pruning.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm
  45. jasmine

    dear grumpy, I recently bought a house. In the front there are two crepe myrtles that are about 10-15 feet tall. they are way too close to the house, literally rubbing on the roof and window. My husband, being the plant hater he is, wants to cut them out of the ground and haul them off to the dump. HELP! can i transplant these huge myrtles? is there any hope? my mother suggested crepe murder! so im glad i found your site!

    September 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm
  46. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Jasmine,
    Crepe myrtles planted too close to the house will be a problem every year. I would suggest to either transplant them to elsewhere in the yard this fall or remove them and replace them with semi-dwarf types. My blog post, “Plant A Smaller Crepe Myrtle” should help you. Just type “crepe myrtle” into the search box.

    September 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm
  47. thefordness

    theGrumpness,
    I got a Crepe Myrtle that someone else didn’t want anymore (had no idea what I was in for… I’m still sore) Got it dug out alright with about a 2 1/2 ft wide by 1 1/2 deep root ball. We ended up topping it so I could haul it to my back yard (a shame I know) and I dug a big ole hole and buried it. It looks good so far. I’m a first time homeowner (in Texas) and this is also my first transplant of any kind (I get the feeling I will be here a lot as I learn how to take care of my yard). My questions are: How much and how often should I water it? I watered it quite thoroughly when I put it in. And, what advice have you for me towards making this a beautiful tree again? It started out about 12-14 ft tall, now left with about 8ft, multiple branches. From what I have read so far, I am hoping that the cut ends will produce new shoots that can be made to grow in line with the original branches eventually? Thanks for any help you can give me!

    March 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm
  48. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    The Fordness,
    You’ll need to soak the roots a couple of times a week for the next few months. If your plant is wilty first thing in the morning, it needs water. You’re on the right track about the pruning. Select 1-2 shoots that grow off each cut branch and prune off the rest. The ones left will become new main branches.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm
  49. Lisa

    my neighbor purchased a baby crape myrtle from a nursery in Fall 2011. This is the first year it is budding and it is starting to bud now. Unfortunately she died and her family wants to give us the tree. If we transplant it to our yard will this effect it’s survival? should we transplant at this season? we live in suburban Philadelphia. ty

    April 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm
  50. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Lisa,
    If it is small and you make sure to get lots of roots when you dig, it might make it, but it will suffer some transplanting shock. Make sure the roots stay moist during the journey north.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm