Dig crape myrtle roots to get rid of plant

By Gerry Lewis | Published Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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Dear Neil: I had a crape myrtle cut down and the stump ground several years ago. Many sprouts have come up. I’ve sprayed them repeatedly with Round Up, but they’re still there. What can I do?

Anyone who ever moves or removes a crape myrtle has had this experience (me included on several occasions). These are obviously sprouts that were tethered to the mother plant through their roots. Those roots that were left outside the grinding zone are relatively large, and they’ll keep producing new sprouts for some period of time. Added to that the fact that some forms of the Round Up brand aren’t intended to kill broadleafed plants like crape myrtles, and those are probably the reasons you’re not having stellar results. I usually just dedicate a few minutes a month for the first year or two to digging them out by hand with a sharpshooter spade. They’re not difficult to remove.

Dear Neil: We have a giant oak in our yard. This August it started dropping leaves by the hundreds. They’re covered with bumps and spots. A neighbor had to have a tree with similar issues removed a year or two ago. What is happening, and what can I do?

Your photo of the one leaf is rather low-resolution, but I can see that the bumps are actually insect galls (harmless). The spotting and discoloration is another thing. However, I am not sure if it’s a problem within the leaves themselves, but more likely something going on with the trunk or roots. It could be nothing more than old age. There are too many possibilities to speculate without seeing the tree on site. I really would suggest hiring a forester or certified arborist for a home visit soon.

Dear Neil: I planted a 4-inch pot of passionvine a few years ago, and now it is everywhere! I believe it would cover me up if I stood still. How can I control this rampant climber?

It can be trimmed at any time, although of course, you’d be taking away flowers. That’s probably not a big issue for you if you can’t open your doors. If you absolutely must eliminate it in some areas, it’s a broadleafed plant, so herbicides containing 2,4-D could be applied very carefully to it. They will damage or kill other non-grassy plants, however, so if it’s shrouding shrubs, you’ll have to resort only to the pruning.

Dear Neil: Attached are photos of what I was told is a very old and rare swirly bark elm. The electric company had to remove the center out of the tree, but I would like to save it. What is my best approach?

You would have to groom it and be sure that the wound heals properly. Being somewhat horizontal, the cut surface is going to try to hold water following rains. You probably would want to have a certified arborist look after the tree. He or she won’t be willing to work near the power lines, but care of the cut should be within their realm. For what it’s worth, this is a lacebark elm, Ulmus parvifolia. It’s a large species that should never have been planted near power lines decades ago. It’s being used fairly commonly in commercial landscaping today, although it does have issues with trunk strength and straightness and susceptibility to cotton root rot in those areas with alkaline soils.

Dear Neil: For the second year in a row my St. Augustine has had a yellowish color. What causes that?

It sounds like gray leaf spot, the summertime fungal disease that has been rampant the past couple of years. It’s especially bad in lawns that have had excessive levels of nitrogen, which is why I recommend not applying nitrogen to St. Augustine between the June 15 and early September. Our natural reaction when we see yellowed grass is to add nitrogen, and that ends up being the worst thing we can do. You can apply a fungicide labeled for turf diseases, but stay away from the nitrogen in hot weather.

Dear Neil: My wife is determined to lay bermuda sod beneath our trees to aid in erosion control. I’m afraid the sod will suffocate the trees. Is there a way to lay sod around trees and not hurt the trees?

Oh, we need to talk! Sod won’t kill or even injure trees. It doesn’t have enough soil with it to do any harm. That assumes you don’t start spreading topsoil before you plant it. That is what would do harm to the trees. But far more important than that: bermuda cannot handle the shade. St. Augustine is our more shade-tolerant turfgrass. But even St. Augustine has its limits, and if the shade is so heavy that you can’t get St. Augustine to grow, then adding sod in those bare areas will just be a waste of money. It’s time to switch over to a shade-tolerant groundcover like mondograss, liriope, English ivy or even purple wintercreeper euonymus. Mondograss is my preference, because it has no runners and it’s easy to blow leaves out of it in the fall.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of the Wise County Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Decatur, TX 76234 or email him at Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

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