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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - July 27, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Planting, Transplants, Watering
Title: Transplant shock
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Today I dug up a new natchez variety crape myrtle that had only been planted about 3 months ago. It is fairly young. It was very difficult to dig up as it's root were pretty settled in the spot it was in, however I needed to move it to make way for a french drain I am putting in. I moved it about three feet away. When I replanted it the core/bulb was considerably smaller as I had to cut through a lot of roots to get it out of the ground (I know, dumb move). I really hope I haven't killed it and am wondering what I should be doing on a daily basis over the next several days/weeks/months (whatever) to save it's life. I was going to give it some seaweed extract but think that it may be in shock and don't want to shock it anymore. The leaves are already wilting on what just this morning was a healthy, vivacious Crape Myrtle. Any help would be EXTREMELY valued.

ANSWER:

While crepe myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica is not a North American native plant species and does not fall within our area of study, we can give you some general guidelines for transplanting and ameliorating the effects of transplant shock. Plant response to transplanting (transplant shock) is a complicated issue. Some of the factors involved may include the general health of the tree before transplanting, type of transplanting method used, size of the root ball relative to the size of the top of the tree, time of year transplanted, time of day of transplanting, weather conditions on, before and after transplanting, soil conditions before and after transplanting, pruning at time of transplanting, and after-transplanting care. This is by no means an exhaustive list, other factors can also play a role in transplantation success or failure.

It is tempting to water more in response to signs of transplant stress. However, that is often fatal for your plant. The better solution is almost always to remove foliage by pruning. In general, a newly tranplanted tree should have 1/3 to 1/2 of its foliage removed at the time of transplanting. This is usually accomplished by judicious pruning of branches.

Plants under stress should not be fed, so don't feed your crepe myrtle until it begins actively growing again; probably next spring. Prune back as much top as you feel comfortable removing -- crepe myrtle can actually stand very hard pruning with little ill-effect. Finally, keep a close eye on the rootball to make sure the soil is not staying too wet. If it is, stop watering altogether for a few days until the soil can dry out some.

 

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