Can three crepe myrtles be dug up?

by Louise
The entrance to my subd has 3 crepe myrtles that have grown to about 15 ft and they totally obscure the subd sign. One neighbor wants to cut them down and destroy them, but I wonder if anyone in the tree business would want to dig them up and replant them and fill the holes with dirt. Here’s a pic of the three together and one of just one of them. I called a couple of landscape design companies and one large nursery and none wanted them. Am I asking the impossible? If we cut them down very short, can that be done now or will winter hurt them? And if it's OK, how short can they be cut and not be killed? Maybe shortening them would work and we can keep them trimmed below the sign in future years. The max height we'd want them when they grow out would be about 5 ft tall. Is that workable for crepe myrtles?
  14 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Oct 04, 2015
    You can cut the crepe myrtles down now of they are finished flowering.The down side of this would be if your hardiness zone stays warm or warms back up there could possibly do damage as winter approches. But why would you want to cut them ?Try thinning out only the dead wood if there is any.
    • Louise Louise on Oct 04, 2015
      @Janet Pizaro They need to be cut because they totally obscure our subdivision sign.
  • Shari Shari on Oct 04, 2015
    About 4 months ago, I planted a total of 15 Catawba (purple) crape myrtles so I did quite a bit of research on them before planting. I learned there are different varieties of crape myrtles that grow to different heights. There are miniature versions that grow to be between 1' and 4'. The dwarf size is between 6' to 10' at maturity. Mediums grow to be between 14' and 18', and the biggest are the Standard tree height that are 20' to 30' at maturity. These in your subdivision are probably some variety of the Mediums and obviously, whoever selected these crapes did not pick the right size for the placement inasmuch as they now obscure the subdivision sign. Cutting them back drastically is not going to change the size they inherently are; they'll probably just eventually grow back to their full size because they are quite hardy. You can prune them to thin them out and encourage more prolonged flowering but that doesn't affect their height. If they are cut back aggressively (called, "crape murder"), they can become knobby looking and not so attractive. Rather than ruin the looks of them with "crape murder," perhaps you could try placing an ad on Craigslist saying they are FREE to anyone who wants to come dig them up. I have a feeling someone would jump on that offer because crape myrtles are really pretty (and quite expensive if you buy them this size). Then, whoever is in charge of your subdivision grounds maintenance could plant one of the miniature versions of crape myrtles since they need to remain 5' or less, or pick some other smaller, more appropriate plants or trees that would not interfere with the sign when they are mature. I found these websites helpful when I was doing my crape myrtle research before purchase. You might also find them helpful for pruning and/or transplanting info:
    • Louise Louise on Oct 04, 2015
      @Shari Very helpful. Thanks!!! When they were planning to plant these way back when, I told them they'd obscure the sign one day but they didn't listen to me. Now, all those people have moved away and here we are -- tall trees. I never thought about Craigslist. I've posted it on lots of sites but not that one. I'll do it now.
  • Sarah A. Victory Sarah A. Victory on Oct 04, 2015
    Since you live in GA you can cut them back fairly short and they will still come back in the Spring. You can also thin the branches and see if that helps but if it is the height that obscures the subdivision sign-- I understand topping them. Crape Myrtles may also be limbed up (lower branches cut close to the main branch) and if your sign is low to the ground that might suffice for viewing. I have had good luck moving a red Crape Myrtle in TN in the Fall of the year. They are very easy to grow and I planted one this Fall that the leaves came out again on it after it arrived w/the leaves dried to a crisp. Good luck!
  • Colleen Walpert Colleen Walpert on Oct 06, 2015
    Looking at the size of the plants, I would have my doubts whether or not they would survive a transplanting. However, you could try digging straight down around the base of the plant about 2 feet out from the main trunk. That would cut the horizontal roots. Then try to lift it up while cutting the vertical roots, leaving as much of the root as possible. Replant immediately in a hole prepared that is three times the width and twice the depth of the rootball. Backfill the hole so the crape myrtle is seated at its original depth. Water, water, water. Mulch in a donut not a volcano and hope for the best. You will have a lot of dieback but might save the original plant. Continue watering until it is established. I would suggest planting new crape myrtles from the Princess Series. They are a fairly new cultivar with 5 or 6 varieties that do not grow taller than 6 feet.
  • Joan Joan on Oct 07, 2015
    May I ask, Why not move the subdivision sign, or place a new appropriately sized sign in front of the crepe myrtles??? Those crepe myrtles have beautiful trunks and should be saved if possible.
  • Louise Louise on Oct 07, 2015
    Good question. I'll look into that.
  • Z Z on Oct 08, 2015
    I'd think about hiring someone with a tree spade and having them moved. Cutting them back would only be a temporary fix.
  • Bettie Morin Bettie Morin on Oct 09, 2015
    Just cut them back a little shorter than the height you'd like them in the spring, then keep them trimmed. You'll have some pretty shrubs.
  • Sue Klinedinst Sue Klinedinst on Oct 09, 2015
    I'm in favor of saving the shrubs in the current location. That said, however, anything can be moved with the right equipment (lots of man hours), right amount of money (lots of money), right amount of care (water and mulch).
  • Marcia Marcia on Oct 09, 2015
    crepe myrtles bloom on new wood. Don't be afraid to give them a good haircut when they are dormant. That's also the best time to transplant.
  • Joyce Lee Joyce Lee on Oct 09, 2015
    You can cut them back now and use the cuttings to start new ones too. But you have to keep them trimmed up but it is well worth the effort.
  • Kathy Kathy on Oct 10, 2015
    Years ago, I transplanted 3 crepe myrtles in the fall. Mine were also in the 15 foot range. I had a large oak tree that shaded a few of them too much so I moved them to the other side of the house with more sunshine available. They no longer produced flowers because of lack of sun. (I was not going to trim my beautiful oak canopy for crepe myrtles!) I pruned the trees back in September using a bypass pruner. I left the trunks alone to not shock them too much. I did this with each of the trees, taking a Saturday for each. I watered the tree very well for a few days prior to the move. I prepared the area it was to be moved to prior to starting the transplant. The base inside the hole was not cut, I left it solid. I made cuts into the sides of the hole with a shovel to encourage the roots to grow in that direction. We have a lot of clay soil so I made cuts to prevent it from becoming root bound in the ground. I used rooting hormone in the hole to encourage more root formation especially near the side cuts. I fit it into the hole at the exact level as before to prevent it from sinking downward. I did not want to expose the cut roots to air very long so I made the entire move for each tree in less than an hour. I live in south Louisiana and did this in early November - no longer hot and it was cool enough to encourage root growth. I staked them for support for 6 months. I mulched with 5-6 inches over the entire area and watered daily for 3 weeks, then backed off from daily to watering depending on the humidity level and heat. We seldom get freezes before Christmas, our problem with transplants is the heat. Once I saw some new growth beginning, I knew they were ok for the most part. Those trees are thriving very well with beautiful blooms.
    • Louise Louise on Oct 10, 2015
      @Kathy I haven't found anyone who wants these and there's no where to transplant them in the area where they're growing now. I think we'll cut them really short for now and then next year try again to find someone who wants them. It seemed to me that a landscape design company would love to have them since trees this size would cost a bunch of money. They'd just have to dig them up, but even tho I've posted it in all kinds of places, no one has said they want them. :-(
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Oct 11, 2015
    Most professionals are not jumping at the offer because it is not cost effective for them. They can purchase the same tree that they do not have to dig and baby for less money than it would cost to dig and transplant . Yes you could bob them, it won't kill them, but you will be doing this once a year and soon they will become ( to me) ugly knobby things. Sometimes it is best to cut your losses while ahead.
  • Kathy Kathy on Oct 11, 2015
    Aww that's unfortunate. I've seen people cut CM almost to the ground and they still survive!! They look a bit weird since they don't have the characteristics of the shrub version but after a while you get used to the look. This might work for you in the long run.