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How to Prune Crape Myrtles

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Crape myrtles are deciduous plants that are used in landscapes just about anywhere in the south, where there are mild winters and warm, humid summers. These plants grow as bushes but are pruned in landscapes to grow as brilliant specimen trees. These trees are known for their beautiful exfoliating bark and the brilliant flower show that they put on every summer for 2 to 3 months.


When Do I Prune Crape Myrtles?


Pruning crape myrtles is very much like pruning roses in the fact that you can prune them however and they will forgive you for it. February 1st is upon us and that is the perfect time for pruning our roses and Crape Myrtles. Why February 1st you ask? Pruning needs to take place before the plant starts to break bud, or right before you see the tree start getting leaf buds on it. If you miss February 1st date don’t worry, you can still prune up into early march usually, given that there is not a warm spell.



Crape Myrtles, when left to their own devices will grow as a bush. It is only when we start pruning them that we train them to grow in the shape that we want them. Crape myrtles come in many different colors and many different sizes. There are regular sized crape myrtles, semi-dwarf and dwarf versions. Regular crapes are the best for tree forming, making better specimen trees, where the dwarf and semi-dwarf are better bushes for privacy hedges. Regular crape myrtles grow over 20 foot, semi-dwarf’s grow to 12 foot and dwarf about 8 foot tall. They come in several pinks, lavenders, reds and white.


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How Heavy Should I Trim My Crape Myrtle?


Because a crape myrtle is so forgiving whenever you butcher it or lightly prune it, some say that you can prune it however you see fit. The truth is, that if you prune it too heavily, it will shoot up more branches just below each cut making it very bushy, giving it a disfigured, unnatural look. Truth is that whenever you prune too heavily and it flushes out all this thick, new growth, you are setting it up to get diseases like powdery mildew or sooty mold due to the shading of inside branches and poor air circulation. When this tree goes dormant it will also look like a hot mess with hands with 20 fingers each.


Don’t prune down low where there are 5 branches to cut, out of convenience. Prune higher up in the tree where it forks out a couple times where you are pruning 20 or 30 branches. This will allow the tree to disperse nutrients to more places, lessening the chaos to each branch, giving it a natural look.


Also prune off all the suckers that are growing by the ground at the base of the tree. These will pop up all throughout the year and you can snip them off any time. Remove any of the little suckers that are growing in the smooth, tree formed area anytime. In the area with branches and leaves, prune out any branches growing sideways and any branches that are just congesting the middle of the tree. Ideally you want the branches to be growing outwards helping to add to the vase shape of the tree.


I have loppers with extendable handles that I use for pruning my crapes with. I also prune carefully from a ladder. These loppers give extra leverage and reach when pruning, which comes in handy for crapes, as this is a very dense, hard wood. If for whatever reason you need to take off a branch in the spring or summer, this will not be a problem, as crape myrtles are tough, resilient trees.

 Other related articles:

How and When to Prune Roses

Pruning Azaleas: Advice from a Garden Expert

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Posted 2015-01-04T16:44:43+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL