How to Prune and Care for a Crape Myrtle

How to Prune and Care for a Crape Myrtle :-  You understand what we mean when we say that something is “crape murder” if you have ever seen crape myrtles that have unattractive stubs that resemble knuckles and have been slaughtered by aggressive and incorrect pruning.


How to Prune and Care for a Crape Myrtle

Not only does the habit of topping trees make the tree appear terrible, but it also makes the tree weaker and leads to difficulties in the future. The purpose of this blog is to teach you how to prune a crape myrtle tree. The labor paid for these blossoming trees is well worth it!


Crape Myrtle Myths

It’s possible that you’ve heard that in order to enhance blooming the following year, you should remove spent blooms or old seed heads from crape myrtles.

It’s true that crape myrtles flower on new growth, as you may have heard, thus removing old vegetation will enhance flowering and encourage new growth.


You might believe that the best approach to prevent the tree from becoming too large for its position is to hack it back. This is also untrue. As we’ll explain below, strategically placed “thinning cuts” can help minimize the growth of a crape myrtle.


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However, it’s possible that you choose a cultivar that grows too large for that spot or that you planted the tree in the incorrect spot. It is preferable to cut down the overly large tree and plant one of the several dwarf kinds that remain smaller by nature.


Ten distinct crape myrtle cultivars are available from Perfect Plants; mature heights for Tonto range from 8 to 15 feet, while Natchez grows to 25 to 30 feet. Dwarf Black Diamond Crape Myrtles grow to a maximum height of 8–10 feet and a width of 8 feet.


So, it’s time to prune crape myrtles correctly

To trim branches up to half an inch in diameter, you’ll need a good pair of hand pruners. For branches up to an inch and a half thick, loppers are utilized. For larger branches and trunks, a pruning saw can be required.

For branches that are too high to reach with loppers, you might require a pole pruner with long handles. The best tools for pruning a crepe myrtle are these ones. Try your best; you don’t need to use them all.


When most trees are leafless and their distinctive architecture is easily seen, late winter or early spring is the ideal time to prune them. This guideline also applies to crape myrtle.

Look at a tree, any tree will do. When a branch joins a larger branch, you may see the enlarged area there if you look closely. This is known as the “branch collar,” and it secretes hormones that aid in the healing of a cut branch’s wound.


Never leave a stub; instead, make your “thinning cuts” to just above the branch collar. Also, avoid flushing with the larger branch. Make “heading cuts” back to a side branch or bud that faces outward. Dressings for tree wounds are ineffective and may even accelerate decomposition.


Pruning a young crape myrtle tree:

During its first winter, you should begin training your new crape myrtle to the natural vase shape described above. Decide whether you want a single trunk or three to five evenly spaced trunks and remove all others at ground level.

This (these) will be the main trunk(s) to be kept free of branches for three to eight feet (you decide), so that the crape’s beautiful mottled bark is exposed.


Select a few outward growing side branches above the chosen height on each main trunk, and remove those that are lower, inward growing toward the center of the tree, and those that are growing at unsightly horizontal angles.

Side branches look best when they are growing up and out. Remember to cut back to the branch collar, and not flush with the larger branch, and don’t leave a stub. Cut off, or better yet, break off, all suckers that may be sprouting from the ground or base of the trunk(s). Cut out dead branches and the weaker of crossed branches.


How to fix a murdered crepe myrtle:

Years of crappy murder cannot be fully undone, but we can make the tree start to resemble the magnificent specimen that it was intended to be. How much pruning is possible for crape myrtles?

This initial action doesn’t need to wait till winter: Trim off those unsightly stubby knobs! From every stump we just made, many new shoots will emerge. The following winter, cut off all but two or three of each stump’s strongest upright shoots.


Each of the chosen shoots should be trimmed back to a length of two feet, stopping just above any outward-facing buds or side shoots that may be developing outward.

Cut any more main trunks to the ground if there are more than five. Three to five main stems that are three to eight feet above the ground and free of any side branches are what we are looking for.


Remove the weaker and inward-growing branches from any primary stems that are branched too low. (In general, we try not to remove more than 25% of a tree at once by pruning, but this is a significant surgery that deviates from the norm.)


How to Care for Crape Myrtle – Annual Maintenance

Any suckers that may be emerging from the ground or base of the trunk(s) should be chopped off, or better yet, broken off. This can be done throughout the year.


Remove any dead branches and the weaker branches that have crossed each winter. Remove any side branches that are growing too far outward or at an ugly angle on the horizontal, as well as any that are growing inward toward the core of the tree.

It looks best for side branches to point outward and upward. Recall not to leave a stub when cutting back to the branch collar, but rather to cut flush with the main branch.


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