Crape Myrtle Pruning: When and How?
When to trim a Crape Myrtle in Gainesville?
Many think that the right time to trim a crape is in the fall, once it loses its leaves. The smaller suckers and young growth may look unsightly and a neat, trim appearance while the tree is bare can be desired. In our climate we see cold snaps followed by days and weeks that are warm, and a freshly pruned tree is primed to deliver new growth. That new growth is incredibly tender and when another frost or freeze comes around, it could cause stunting and damage to the health of the tree.
In Gainesville, the best time to trim crapes in is just before spring, once the risk of freezing temperatures passes and just before new growth emerges.
What is Crape Murder?
A common phrase you’ll hear when it comes to trimming crapes is “crape murder” and what this means is that the tree has been trimmed in a way that will result in a less aesthetically appealing structure. These are very resilient trees and this type of pruning is not likely to kill it, but it is incredibly difficult, often impossible, to get the tree back to the graceful form it is intended to have.
For the health of the tree and for the long term blooms, it is actually better to leave them untrimmed than to prune them improperly.
Correct Procedures for Gainesville Crape Myrtle Pruning
The arrow that says '6" stub' indicates where to make cuts when pruning your crape myrtle tree. The rule of thumb is to trace down from the top of a stem (from the seedpods if the tree bloomed), to where that stem meets a branch. Using a pair of sharp bypass or lopper pruners make a cut about 8 to 12 inches or so above the intersection - never below the branching point.
Alternatively, you can grab the tip of stem and bend it over, making your cut right at the point where the stem starts to bend. The remaining branch should be strong enough to support the new branches that emerge just below your cut. Repeat this process until all stems have been cut as is shown on the right side of this diagram.
By using this method of pruning you will be promoting a fuller canopy and an increase in the number of blooms. For a nice and tidy appearance you can prune suckers (small branches) that grew from the trunk base, and any twiggy growth that emerged up and along the main trunks.
The Right Tree in the Right Place
One of the most common reasons that we see crape murder occur is because the wrong variety of crape was planted too close to a home, structure, or other existing trees. It’s important to know that crapes range in mature size from diminutive dwarf varieties no larger than a shrub, to large trees 20-30 feet tall. If you are planning on installing a new crape in Gainesville, make sure to select a variety that will be the size appropriate to its location when full grown. This is minimize the amount of pruning needed as time passes, and ensure that a beautiful tree does not have to be removed for being too close to your home.
If pruned the right way and right time, you'll enjoy one of the most beautiful trees in Gainesville landscaping for years to come!