Stop Crepe Myrtle Murder. At Home.

I have seen some sad-looking crepe myrtle plants on my morning walks with the dog. This fine flowering specimen of a tree is prized for its smooth trunk and air-kissed colorful petals that bloom from late Spring through the summer. I wanted to find out the right way to trim these beauties and searched for some ideas from the Grumpy Gardener. The objective with each pruning (do this like now!) is to maintain a well-spaced, main trunk with handsome bark and to thin out the center to permit easy penetration of sunlight and air. You can also trim back the tops of the plant no more than one-third. Heres what our Grumpy Gardener recommends:

Before you prune anything, it’s a good idea to know what you’re trying to accomplish. I always say if a bird can easily fly through the center of your crepe myrtle, the branches are spaced about right. If a bird can easily fly through the center of your house, you’re probably missing some windows.

Bad way to prune. And ugly result at that.

Bad way to prune. And ugly result at that.

To properly prune a mature crepe myrtle, you need 3 tools:

  • Hand pruners to clip twigs and branches less than 1/2-inch thick.
  • Loppers to cut branches 1/2-inch to 1-1/2 inches thick
  • Pole pruners or a pruning saw to cut branches more than 1-1/2 inches thick.

Remove branches in the following order:

  1. Suckers coming up from the base.
  2. All side branches growing from the main trunks up to a height of at least 4 feet.
  3. All higher branches growing inward towards the center of the tree.
  4. All crossing, rubbing, and dead branches.
  5. Branches growing at awkward angles that detract from the tree’s appearance.
Crape Myrtle After (could still use some thinning out of the inside however)

Crape Myrtle After (could still use some thinning out of the inside however)

Always cut back to a larger branch of the trunk. Don’t leave stubs. Removing seed heads on the end of branches is optional. Leaving them doesn’t reduce blooming. If you want to keep the height within a lower range, opt for a compact version.

Want a long-blooming and fast-growing crepe? Try one of these varieties:

  • ‘Natchez’ (white)
  • ‘Centennial Spirit’ (red)
  • ‘Miami’ (medium pink)
  • ‘Muskogee’ (lavender)
  • ‘Potomac’ (clear pink)
  • ‘Dynamite’ (red)
  • ‘Sioux’ (pink)
  • ‘Zuni’ (purple)

So get out your green thumb and make your yard beautiful again. And care for your Crepe!

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