Quick Tip: Why is everyone cutting their Crape Myrtles? Should I?

Many of our clients have witnessed their neighbors and other landscape companies out pruning Crape Myrtles the past couple months and wondered if we had forgotten about them. Some have even witnessed others reducing majestic Crape Myrtles to ugly stumps, known to some as committing "Crape Murder."

When a crape myrtle is pruned back like this, it has 2 effects:

  1. Reduces the number of blooms that will be produced during summer.
  2. New branches will grow far too long and therefore not be able to support the weight of heavy blooms - particularly when wet. These long branches weep over and often break off during heavy rains.

When a crape myrtle is pruned properly, it has 2 positive affects: 

  1. It will produce twice the number of branches and therefore twice the number blooms as it did during the previous year.
  2. The new branches will be strong enough to support blooms.

We thought it would be helpful for our readers to have some tips on when and how to prune Crape Myrtles in Gainesville Landscaping to promote the healthiest tree:

  • Prune late in winter, which February is ideal.
  • Remove suckers from the base, crubbing and crossing branches, and any growth going inward toward the center of the plant.
  • As the tree grows taller, gradually remove all side branches from the main trunks up to a height of 5 feet or so.
  • Cut back to another branch, to just above an outward-facing bud on a branch, or to the branch collar (a swollen area where the branch joins the trunk). Never leave lone or clustered stubs.
  • Try to remove unwanted branches before they get thicker than a pencil.
  • It's okay, but unnecessary, to cut off old seedheads.

The objectives of pruning a crepe myrtle are to maintain its natural form, produce strong branches that hold blooms upright, and open up its center to reveal the multi-toned bark that forms on their trunk.

Cutting it back to thick stubs each year makes these goals impossible. A graceful tree quickly becomes a fencepost or hat rack. Pretty bark never appears. Each beheaded trunk grows a Medusa-like tangle of spindly whips too weak to hold up flowers.

Restoring a Butchered Plant

If you've beheaded a big crape myrtle to within a few feet of the ground already, there's only one solution. Unfortunately you must cut the tree completely to the ground, and don't be surprised when it grows back VERY quickly. The next winter, select three to five well-spaced trunks, and cut off any others at ground level. Follow the instructions from "The Right Way To Prune" above, and you'll have an attractive tree within five years.

If you'd like help with Gainesville Tree Trimming and Crape Myrtle Pruning in the future, call us at (352) 378-5296 or email our office at info@themasterslawncare.com. We would love to help you out!