Crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, is one the very best species for bonsai.  They take to pot culture very well, root like gangbusters and flower freely in captivity.

In the world of bonsai, you’ll encounter Crape myrtles of many varieties, sizes and stages of development.  For example, here’s a tree that has been in training for over 25 years.

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I’ve been posting on this tree over the past several months because it had reached a point where it was overgrown and had to be “rebuilt.”  It got a hard-pruning and repotting, and has responded with renewed vigor.  Now it’s on to building ramification.  It’s about to bloom also, and I plan to let it do so (it’s a classic purple).  The tree is strong.

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A couple of weeks ago I included this Crape in a post about trees I’m working on for sale (this one has white flowers).  Even though it’s not a large specimen, the design is classic Crape myrtle.  And the key, as with most bonsai, is in the proportions.  The branch spread that I’ve established must be maintained in order for the tree to look larger than it is.  Now, shoots are going to shoot and that’s a good thing.  But my job will be to chase all of that growth I’m going to get back in toward the proper silhouette.

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And wouldn’t you know, in just a couple of weeks this Crape is really going at it.  There are new shoots all over the tree, including two near the base.  Do you know what that means?  That means I have a way to induce trunk thickening by encouraging sacrifice branches near the base.  I’ll most likely put a little wire on each of them, in a week or two, in order to gently guide them into a growing space that allows them to ultimately run free and long.  By later in this growing season, I’d predict they’ll be two to three feet long.  And everything below them will get thicker as a result.

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This specimen is a bit larger than the one above, and the design is going to be different, but the plan is the same.  Within a couple of weeks I should have buds all over the tree, including some near the base.  I’ll encourage those to grow, as in the tree above, which will allow me to thicken the trunk base of this tree through the use of sacrifice branches.

It’s important to remember that regardless of the size pot you grow your trees in, basal thickening will be a slower prospect than if the tree were grown in the ground.  If you do limit yourself to container growing, however, there are techniques that can help you somewhat overcome the limitations.

Stay tuned for progress reports on these Crape myrtle bonsai-to-be.