Crepe Myrtles make wonderful landscape trees. It’s no wonder that many of us want to fit as many into our gardens as possible! Unfortunately, saplings can be hard to find in many local nurseries and, if you do find them, are quite expensive.
The good news is that propagating (reproducing) Crepe Myrtle at home is surprisingly easy and relatively accessible to all gardeners. All you need is a mature, healthy tree to get started.
Jumping into a topic like propagation can be daunting, especially if you’ve never tried your hand at it before. But don’t worry, this article will cover all you need to know about how to propagate Crepe Myrtle…and keep it simple.
Propagating Crepe Myrtle Options
One of the things that make propagating Crepe Myrtle so easy is the sheer number of methods you can choose from including seeds, roots, or stem cuttings.
Propagating is a wonderful way to expand your plant collection, especially if you want more of a particular variety or cultivar. If your goal is to produce exact replicas (or clones) of your current tree, be sure to use a vegetative propagation method like taking root or stem cuttings.
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Propagating from Seed
Unlike many other popular landscape plants, Crepe Myrtles are incredibly easy to propagate via seed.
To harvest seeds directly from the plant, wait until the pods are just starting to open on their own. While the seeds will naturally fall to the ground over time, you can manually shake some loose from the pods and into a bag or bowl.
If you’d rather not wait for the perfect time to shake seeds from your tree’s branches, you can cut the seed pods off before they open.
Bring the cluster of seed pods indoors and place the stem in water. They will eventually open on their own, at which time you can easily collect the seeds at your own pace.
It’s a good idea to collect more seeds than you think you’ll need as some probably won’t germinate.
Collected Crepe Myrtle seeds are viable for at least two years on average. Older seeds can still germinate but the success rate will drop consistently over time.
Because their flowers are capable of self-and cross-pollination, there’s no need to worry about finding a partner plant to produce seed. You should, however, keep in mind that Crepe Myrtles grown from seed won’t be identical to the parent plant.
Propagating from Root Cuttings
Growing a Crepe Myrtle from root tissue is a great way to multiply your garden without taking cuttings from the tree body itself.
Carefully dig around your tree’s root system, then use a sharp, clean garden knife to cut pieces of root between two and four inches long.
Cuttings taken from close to the root crown tend to result in more vigorous growth because of how much cell reproduction occurs in this area.
Propagating From Cuttings
Stem cuttings are perhaps the easiest method of Crepe Myrtle propagation. There’s no need to store seed pods or dig into the ground. All you need are a set of garden shears and a bit of patience.
Cuttings should be planted in pots with access to plenty of sunlight and consistent watering. Within a few months, your cutting should have its own root system and show signs of new growth.
Do not remove all of the foliage from your cuttings. Leave at least two or three leaves at the top of each cutting for photosynthesis.
Some gardeners opt to apply rooting hormone to the ends of the cuttings before placing them in soil. Doing so certainly won’t hurt the future plant but — thanks to Crepe Myrtles’ eagerness to propagate themselves vegetatively — I find that generally, this isn’t necessary.
Softwood cuttings need to be harvested in late spring, just before new growth begins to turn brown and woody. These cuttings tend to be the easiest to produce roots from.
Don’t be tempted to start pruning branches if you are planning on using softwood cuttings for propagation as this could result in your tree not blooming. For all help and advice on when and how to prune, click here.
By mid-to late summer, your Crepe Myrtle’s softwood branches will have turned to semi-hardwood. This growth can be identified by a distinct woody appearance, mature leaves, and resistance to bending.
Semi-hardwood cuttings take longer to propagate than their softwood counterparts. But they are a great option for anyone who missed the chance to take cuttings earlier in the growing season.
The key to successfully propagating Crepe Myrtle with this method is using a cutting with several healthy nodes. Nodes are the raised sections of a stem where new growth — stems, leaves, and flower buds — emerges. The ideal cutting contains three to four nodes.
Cuttings, whether softwood or semi-hardwood, should be taken from as close to the main branch as possible. In other words, you should find a softwood or semi-hardwood branch that is the proper length rather than cutting a longer one down to size.
When To Propagate
The best time to propagate Crepe Myrtle is entirely dependent on the method you choose:
For best results, seed pods must mature on the tree before they are viable for collection. Wait until the seed pods are brown and dry before harvesting the seeds inside. This typically happens in late fall. For the best results, store seeds until early spring when they are most likely to germinate.
Root cuttings should be taken when your tree is dormant. Early spring tends to be the most efficient time to propagate via root cuttings as the new plant can transition straight into the growing season.
You can propagate Crepe Myrtle using stem cuttings nearly anytime during the spring and summer. Just keep in mind that your exact timing will determine whether softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings are the most readily available.
Unlike many other plant species, Crepe Myrtle is not picky about the soil in which it grows. This is also true when propagating either from seed or by using cuttings.
When starting seeds or cuttings in containers, I recommend using a general-purpose potting mix. You can use soil from your garden if desired but the store-bought potting mix is less likely to contain diseases, fungi, or insects.
Since moisture is so crucial at this stage of propagation, feel free to add a layer of sphagnum moss or clean mulch to the container’s surface as well. If the seedling or cutting will be kept somewhere fairly dry, you can cover the entire thing with a plastic bag.
Once cuttings have taken root or seeds have sprouted, it’s time to move them to where you plan to plant them eventually. Keep them in the pots you have propagated them in at this point.
I recommend moving propagated plants to the intended planting location a couple of weeks prior to transplanting. Doing so lets the plants start acclimating before being removed from the original container.
When moving your propagated plants from the pot and into the ground, be sure to leave the newly developed root system intact. Dig a hole at least 50% wider than the roots so they have plenty of space to spread out and continue growing.
Sprinkle a slow-release granular fertilizer for Crepe Myrtle into the planting hole and
be careful not to plant your sapling too deep in the soil. The top of the root ball — no matter how small — should be level with the soil’s surface.
As a general rule, Crepe Myrtles should be planted in the early spring or late fall. This gives the plant time to adjust before the cold of winter or the heat of summer.
For example, a seed that was planted in the spring may be transplanted that fall or kept in its container until the spring of the following year. The same is true of root and stem cuttings.
There are benefits to transplanting as soon as possible as well as giving the plant a little more time to mature.
Transplanting a seedling or rooted cutting after only a few months gives it plenty of time to adapt to its new location.
There’s less risk of severe transplant shock, which could affect growth and flower production in the first year. The trade-off is that a seedling or cutting that isn’t well-established yet may not survive things like weather or pest damage.
By waiting a bit longer to transplant your Crepe Myrtle, the plant has time to grow a stronger trunk and more expansive root system. But the transplanting process will be more physically taxing, and the plant may not adapt as quickly to its new environment.