How and Why to Stop Butchering Your Crape Myrtles in a process called Crape Murder.
For one of the toughest plants out there, people seem to have no problem, what can only be described as, murdering these beautiful blooms. Crape Myrtles are one of the most adaptable, pest-free, low maintenance and aesthetically pleasing shrubs that can grow in our hot Florida and southern living landscapes. Their exfoliating bark, unique branching and exquisite blooms are just a few of their perks.
And yet, crepe murder crimes are committed daily. So put down your pruning gear and settle in for some tips that could very well save the life of your beloved Crape Myrtles.
Consideration for your lilacs of the south:
STOP hacking away or “topping” your Crape Myrtles!
While the upcoming blooms may be larger, they will be fewer in number. However, even if you do get larger blooms from this method of crape myrtle “pruning,” they will end up drooping after rain, which is not pretty.
The ONLY pruning a crape myrtle needs is the thinning out of the trunk’s branches on younger trees. Let these beautiful flowering trees grow to their natural shape!
Remove in the following order:
- Any new suckers growing from the ground of the main trunk
- Multi stem side branches that have grown up to a height of 4 ft. or more
- Higher branches growing inward towards the center
- Crossing branches, dead branches, or rubbing branches
- Larger branches that have grown in odd angles that take away from the crape’s appearance. You should be able to see through the center of the tree
- You can remove the crape’s seed heads that may appear on the ends of the branches, but this is completely optional and typically only done for aesthetic appeal. Removing them will neither increase the bloom amount or speed.
- Prune the stumps all the way to the single trunk
- If you have multiple trunks, try to make it look as neat as possible while still trimming away the suckers
The best time to prune your Crape Myrtle is in the late winter/early spring when it is leafless and the branches are fully visible. This way you can see what you are (properly) hacking, and the trimming will not prohibit any blooming. A properly pruned crape myrtle is a happy and beautiful crape myrtle.
Some crape myrtles bloom on new growth so be sure to check what variety you have and its flowering habits.
Appropriate tools for pruning a Crape Myrtle include hand pruners for twigs and small branches, loppers for medium-thick branches and pole pruners for the larger bunch. Details below:
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.
If your main concern is that the Crape Myrtle will grow to be too big, stop right there. There are a multitude of crepe myrtle cultivars with heights ranging anywhere from 3 to 30 feet tall such as the dwarf Black Diamond Crape Myrtle series. We offer 3 colors of this variety.
Investigate before you invest! You’ll save yourself a lot of heart and headache with the right sized crape myrtle tree.
You can also check out our Crape Myrtle Grow Guide.