Did you know you can make new Crepe Myrtle trees from hardwood cuttings for free? And did you know that right now is the best time to do this in the Dallas, TX area? With a lucky green thumb you could stick a hardwood cutting in a muddy place and grow a new tree, but there is a better method, one that is more likely to work for you where you live.
What Do I Need to Start My New Crepe Myrtle Trees?
Not very much! You need only three things. First, you need to have the cuttings from the crepe myrtle of your choice. Second, you need a rooting bed or a pot of prepared soil, one pot for each cutting is best. And third, (optionally) you need some rooting hormone like Rootone or a similar brand, enough to dust the end of the cutting that will be stuck in the soil. Pretty simple, eh?
So What Is The Magic?
There are a few simple ‘magic tricks’ to get the new, free crepe myrtle trees to sprout and grow for you. Here are the first three. There is one more that I will give you at the end of this article.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
- Keep the cuttings out of the direct sunshine until they have leaves on them.
- Pick most of the leaves off your cuttings, leaving 3 or 4 at the very most.
Remember, these ‘sticks’ have no roots to support them so they need easily available moisture. And the excess leaves? If you don’t pick them off, they will die off anyway and maybe take the whole cutting with them. In the mean time, they will sucking out moisture and promote dying off of the wood stem.
How Big Should the Crepe Myrtle Cuttings Be?
Almost any size cutting between 6 inches and 2 feet will do. They need to have at least three places where the leaves attached, (Leaf nodes, for you advanced gardeners) that can be underground for roots to form on. They also need at least one set of leaves above ground. Minimum length of the cutting should be 3 inches, but gosh, if you are “stealing a piece” that small, just ask for more! To get the best blooms, crepe myrtles need some pruning so it should not be a big deal to the owner. And it is a great way to make friends!
One thing to note: If your cuttings have flowers on them you are going to have to pick the blooms off. Yeah, absolute necessity! But, good news! If you want to, take a photo of the flowers, make a label with the picture on it (hint: use clear Con-tact paper to preserve the printed photo, for a photo- tag) and attach that picture to the cutting. Leaving the real flower on the cutting will very likely kill the cutting. You will have it trying to maintain flower and seed and root production with no roots at all! Can’t be done!
One other thing to note: Be aware of plant patents, especially if you are thinking of making cuttings to sell at farmers market or yard sale. A lot of work has been done hybridizing crepe myrtle and they deserve their due. No need to go to jail for a freebee.
How Late Can I Start Crepe Myrtle Cuttings?
Here in the Dallas area, right now is the best time for hard wood cuttings. We are USDA Zone 7 (or 7 ½ some say, depending). For us, and much of the area, there will be no more high heat, lots more rain, and no cold weather for at least 6 weeks or more. In fact, according to Farmers Almanac, we still have until 11/25/09, before the first frost. That is plenty of time for the roots to develop and a few leaves too. In fact, according to Auburn University (Alabama) college of Agriculture, you can take these hardwood cuttings all the way through November and still have them root and be ready to grow in the spring, as long as you keep them from freezing.
The Last Magic Trick?
The one last ingredient to get free crepe myrtle trees from hardwood cuttings is time. You are not getting a free, twenty foot tree from a cutting in the span of six weeks. Maybe six years, but not six weeks. By the end of next summer though, you should have a crepe myrtle ‘bush’ standing a foot taller than your cutting. And all for Free!