It's not too late to trim your Crape Myrtle
Usually, we trim Crape Myrtles throughout winter but it's not too late!
No worries, this is a common question we get and by the end of this article, you'll understand how to prune your crepe myrtle trees without making the same mistakes you've seen your neighbors make.
First things first
You need to decide what look you would like for your tree to have
Now the good news is that Crape Myrtles are one tough plant. So the bottom line is if you make a mistake most likely your tree will recover in a few seasons.
The reason you should prune your Crape Myrtles is because of one reason… blooms.
Only the new growth each year is what produces those lovely blooms that you admire each spring and summer.
So with that being said, it pays to prune your Crape Myrtles in the winter months as soon as November at as late at March when they are dormant. The good news is most Crape Myrtles can be pruned with handheld shears or long handled loppers. If yours are way out of control, then a chainsaw might be necessary in the most extreme cases.
When you prune your Crape Myrtle the proper way it will will maximize blooms, promote new growth and give your plant a great shape.
The good news is that super aggressive pruning that you might have seen around town is not actually needed to get a beautiful, healthy plant. But that's just part of the story.
You need to know about “Crape Murder"
"Crape Murder" is what the pros say to describe the butchering of Crape Myrtles.
What's more… When Crape Murder is committed it can literally appear that half, or more, of the plant has been removed.
On the one hand... This technique is used by some professional landscapers and homeowners because it's quick, fairly easy, the plant almost always recovers...Fair enough, BUT This technique is NOT recommended as it may damage your plant.
Now…these are your Crape Myrtle’s… So it's up to you how you would like for them to look. But it helps to identify which pruning style meets your ideal look, so keep reading to find out more about the three main pruning styles.
The Single Trunk
In my opinion, the single trunk Crape Myrtle is one of the more beautiful shapes the tree can take on with proper pruning, however, will require the most investment in pruning each year. Why is the case? First, you'll need to remove any extra stems protruding from the ground, as well as any suckers.
Next, you what all of the trees branching to happen at the top quarter of your tree. That said, you’ll need to pick a dominant single trunk for the tree, and prune away others at the base. If you choose the single trunk method its best to start while the Crape Myrtle tree is younger as more established trees most likely can not be retroactively pruned to this style and shape.
The multi trunk look for Crape Myrtles is probably the most common professional trimming approach. It is relied upon by lawn care services all over the country to establish beautiful Crape Myrtle bushes full of blooms each spring and summer for their clients.
So to make a point… to achieve the multi-stem look, allow your Crape Myrtle to branch along the length of the stem and follow these steps
Try to prune later in winter, February is ideal.
Cut off suckers from the bottom, rubbing and cross growing branches and branches growing inward.
Gradually cut off all side branches from the main base as the tree gets taller.
Never leave lone or clustered stubs.
Be sure to remove unwanted branches before they get too thick (thickness of a pencil).
Finally… The Natural Look
So you might not know this but allowing your Crape Myrtle to grow into its natural shape has been the trend in recent years. So the good news is you can tell that to your neighbors and even better this approach requires little to no pruning.
It's easy.. Just allow your plant to branch and spread naturally. Your Crape Myrtle will still bloom and be beautiful so long as it's watered and fertilized properly.
The bottom line is….
Crape Myrtles are one of the most resilient and prune-able plants I have ever seen. So its really just a matter of your preference how much time and effort you are willing to invest into heir pruning and care. There's really no "wrong" way to do it, so experiment and have fun!