Crape Myrtles are a beautiful addition to any garden or landscape. To ensure they grow to their full potential, it’s essential to prune them the correct way. Here are some tips to help you properly prune your Crape Myrtles and maintain their health and beauty.
Do’s and Don’ts of Crape Myrtle Pruning
- Don’t prune off the tops of the tree:
- While Crape Myrtles may look tempting to prune from the top, it’s not recommended. This practice, called topping, can lead to weak growth, a shorter lifespan, and a less healthy tree. Yes, you will see some homeowners and some landscapers still doing this. Please refrain from committing what we call “crape murder”.
- Do prune small branches:
- Any limb smaller than the diameter of a pencil can be pruned without harming the tree. This practice promotes new growth and keeps the tree looking healthy.
- Do prune crossing or rubbing limbs:
- Any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other should be pruned. This will help prevent damage to the tree, reduce the risk of the tree becoming diseased or inviting pests, and it will promote healthy growth.
- Do prune limbs growing toward the center of the tree:
- Some of the limbs growing towards the center of the tree can be pruned to open up for more air circulation. This will also help prevent disease and promote new growth.
- Do prune suckers coming up from the ground:
- Suckers are small shoots that come up from the tree’s base. They should be pruned to keep the tree healthy and looking its best. Cut these back right at the ground.
- Do leave an odd number of trunks:
- When pruning Crape Myrtles, they look best when you leave an odd number of trunks, such as 3, 5, or 7. This practice promotes healthy growth with less competition of trunks and also creates a pleasing shape.
- Do prune any broken or damaged limbs:
- Any broken or damaged limbs should be pruned to prevent further damage to the tree.
- Do make cuts close to the collar:
- When pruning, make cuts close to the collar, where the branch meets the trunk. This will help the tree heal faster and prevent damage to the remaining bark. Take care not to cut so deep that you cut into the remaining bark and damage it. .
Offer your crape myrtles sunshine, fertilizer (we like Nelson’s 10-15-9), and regular water (especially through drought periods). All this combined with the pruning advice above should have you enjoying a bounty of colorful crape myrtle blooms.
After flowering, if you desire (and if you can reach them), you can snip off the distal ends of the dried blooms but this is not a required pruning step. By following these simple guidelines, you can keep your Crape Myrtles healthy and looking beautiful for years to come.
~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy