We bought 8 crape myrtle trees 3 years ago. They grew about 2 feet during the first summer. Then the next summer they grew about 2 feet from the bottom, leaving the top old growth dead. Now again this year, we have about 2 feet of growth from the bottom and nothing above. How do we get them to grow into trees? We live in New Jersey where the type we got are suppose to be ok. We love the look of the established trees and ours aren't.
Crape Myrtle Trees
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
In the area you live in, crape myrtles are tricky. If they survive the first few winters well, they grow into fine trees. But, if you plant them during a year when you have a bad winter, they are doomed to be more shrubs than trees. Trees are most vulnerable to winter cold the first year they are planted. Once well established (normally after the first year) they can handle more cold and temperature fluctuations. We have had some bad winters for the past few years and it sounds like your crape myrtles died back to the ground and regrew from the roots. You will not be able to get your crape myrtles to grow into trees now. You will need to replace them if a tree shape is your desire.
If you decide to replace them, make sure that the first year, you protect them will from the winter cold. In the late fall, you should wrap them in burlap and straw to insulated them and mulch the roots heavily to keep the soil temperature constant. This only needs to be done the first year, maybe 2 if you want to be on the safe side.