TX Organic Research Center



Best to trim suckers on crape myrtles
November 13, 2009
By Howard Garrett

QUESTION: Our crape myrtle has many long, leggy branches with dead seedpods at the ends. Can we trim it? N.K., Joshua

ANSWER: Crape myrtles can be pruned anytime, but I prefer to leave the seedpods because small birds eat the seeds. The only thing I prune are ground suckers, which stop developing if the tree's root flare is exposed properly.

QUESTION: An 8- by 3-foot section of my Bermuda lawn is about 3 or 4 inches lower than the rest of the lawn. I think this was caused when the area was dug up for a water line replacement. How should I fill this area to make it level with the rest of the lawn? Will the grass grow through the dirt I put on top of the sunken area, or should I plant sod? J.A., Frisco

ANSWER: Sprinkle about a pound of dry molasses on the area, and then add enough compost to almost cover the grass. As the grass grows, add more compost until the sunken spot is level with the surrounding area. Grass won't grow much until next spring, so for a fast repair you could remove the grass in the sunken area, add soil to level the depression, and then plant sod.

QUESTION: Three red oaks in my yard have root and butt rot caused by fungi, according to an arborist. He recommended root stimulants, aeration and injection of a product called Fungisol. I can afford only the Fungisol. What is your opinion? L.G., Dallas

ANSWER: You need a different arborist. Reduce irrigation, remove soil from the root flares of the trees and use my Sick Tree Treatment. Avoid chemical fungicides such as Fungisol because they kill more beneficial organisms than the targeted pathogens would.

QUESTION: We planted a Chinese pistache about eight years ago. I noticed recently that it was leaning at about a 30-degree angle. We thought wind and rain caused it. Then, a few days ago, we found the tree on the ground, snapped at the base of the trunk. Friends said they experienced the same thing with a tree. T.S., Flower Mound 

NSWER: This is a common problem. Chinese pistache is a beautiful imported tree, but it can have serious problems when planted incorrectly. Most are planted too deep in containers or when balled and burlapped. This causes circling and girdling roots. If the circling and girdling roots are not removed before the tree is planted, they gradually strangle the trunk, and then wind can cause the trunk to break.  If you decide to plant another Chinese pistache, remove excess soil and girdling roots before planting, and be sure the tree is not placed too low in the ground. At the base of the tree's trunk, the portion of the root that flares out horizontally should always be above the soil level.


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