Full sunshine is needed to bring forth full flowering on a crape myrtle. PHOTO CREDIT: Walter Reeves

Crape myrtle in heavy shade should be replaced

Q: My 30-foot tall crape myrtles were planted 17 years ago but are now 75 percent shaded by nearby oaks and sweet gum. Would topping them at fifteen feet and fertilizing increase the anemic flowering? Robert Crain, Waleska

A: It’s understandable that the flowering is anemic if your crape myrtle only gets 25 percent of full sunshine. Trimming it and fertilizing it won’t make it flower. Plants need sunshine for the energy they use to make carbohydrates that initiate buds and blooms. Without sunshine, the flowers will always be sparse. Consider planting a shade-tolerant tree like ‘Bright n Tight’ cherry laurel.

Q: My ten-year old Chinese fringe tree was severely damaged by snow load. What should be done now? Eve Respess, email

A: First, make clean cuts where any limbs broke from the tree. If all you have is a stub attached to the trunk, make your cut at the outer edge of the swollen bark ridge where the limb emerged. If the break is toward the end of a branch, make your cut a half-inch away from a healthy side branch. Second, use a razor knife to trim off any bark that has been pulled away or which has tattered edges. No tree wound dressing is needed. Depending on how much sun reaches the cut places, new sprouts may appear in spring. Make a calendar note to look at the tree in June to decide if a few sprouts should be removed to decrease crowding.

Q: Our HOA is consulting with an arborist to see if any pine trees that were severely bent over by snow can be saved. What is the tallest tree for which straightening can be attempted? Karen P., East Cobb

A: I wouldn’t bother with any fallen pine that’s more than six feet tall. For taller pines, the possibility of it establishing new anchor roots in a reasonable time frame are low. If the root ball is heaved out of the ground, there is a great likelihood the roots underneath are kinked or snapped. These larger trees might look good for a while but even the slightest drought stress will send them into decline. I have tips on how to straighten small trees at bit.ly/treestrate.

Q: We have had three Bradford pear trees removed and the stumps ground. What is the best route to take to have grass for 2018? Toni Roberts, email

A: Assuming your plot is now in full sun, you can choose between bermuda grass, zoysia grass or centipede grass. All prosper in full sun and can be installed by seeding or sodding. The best time to plant them is late spring. If your lawn is bare now while it’s cold, rake thoroughly and scatter eight pounds of annual ryegrass seed per 1,000 square feet. Cover lightly with wheat straw and irrigate for thirty minutes. The grass will germinate slowly but it will eventually cover the soil until time to plant your permanent lawn in May.