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Pruning Crepe Myrtles: A How-To Guide

Known both as crepe myrtles and crape myrtles, this beautiful flowering southern tree thrives year round, offering spectators a visual treat no matter the season. Boasting eye-catching blooms and attractive bark, this flowering tree blooms on new wood. That means pruning is essential to the success of this tree. Winter and early spring are ideal times to get out the pruners because they are leafless, which makes it easier to spot the branches. But don’t just hack away. There is a method to the madness! Here are some tips:

  • Have a plan before you start cutting. You can always go back to cut more, but you can’t add what you’ve already cut! Less is more in this case, at least until you can take a step back and assess the job you did.
  • Gather your tools: Hand pruners for small twigs, loppers for thicker branches and pole pruners or saws for very thick branches.
  • On large shrubs and trees, remove basal suckers, twiggy growth, crossing branches, and branches that grow to the center of the plant, advises Southern Living.
  • Gradually remove side branches growing up to four or five feet, which will expose the trunk’s bark.
  • When in growing season, trim dead flowers so a second, lighter bloom is encouraged to grow.
  • Prune dwarf forms regularly throughout the growing season, clipping dead spent blossoms and thinning out small twigs.
  • Always cut back to a larger branch of the trunk without leaving stubs.
  • Remove seedheads on the ends of the branches if you want, but it won’t affect the blooming.
  • Remove lower branches as the tree grows taller.

How To Trim A Crepe Myrtle

How To Trim A Crepe Myrtle

Don’t Get Carried Away

You’ve probably done this with your hedges before… kept trimming and trimming until only branches and a stump remain. It’s almost addictive once you get going. Refrain from doing this — especially with your crepe myrtles. You’ll end up committing “crepe murder,” resulting in the death of your precious trees. The practice of chopping off the tops of the trees is called “topping,” which is bad for these reasons:

  • It can turn beautiful trees into unattractive stumps.
  • It can prevent the appearance of beautiful mottled bark on trunks that are still growing.
  • It will encourage the growth of skinny, whip-like shoots that sprout out from each stump’s end. They’re too weak to support the blooms and will just bend down toward the ground.

Killing your crepe myrtle is a shame, especially since this plant is so easy to grow and maintain in this area. Crepe myrtles love the heat and humidity, and tolerate drought extremely well. There’s not much you can do to kill off your myrtle, except prune it way too much. Good pruning practices now when your crepe myrtle is young will translate to less maintenance when the tree gets more mature. Do it the right way now and you’ll enjoy vibrant summer colors later.

Need more tips? Want professional guidance? Call Twelve Oaks Landscape Co. today at 256-997-9005 or request a quote online from us.

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