Crape Myrtle Pruning Tips
To follow up on my post about winter pruning I thought I would share a few tips about pruning Crape Myrtles.
Crape Myrtles are extremely popular in commercial areas especially around parking lots. The distinctive bark and showy blooms make it a beautiful and fairly low maintenance plant. Unfortunately, they are one of the most incorrectly pruned shrubs in our area. Every year we are forced to gaze upon poorly pruned specimens that are no more than woody trunks sticking up out of the ground. The poor pruning results in weak, droopy growth and increases the plants susceptibility to breakage and disease. The practice of topping crape myrtles and leaving woody stubs has been donned “crape murder” by many in the landscaping field.
Before you prune your plants this year be sure that your equipment is clean and sharp and remember these few tips:
First, start at the bottom of the plant. Ideally you want either 3, 5, or 7 main trunks. If you need to remove a main trunk cut it as close to base of the plant as possible. Also, cut off any suckers from the base as close to ground level as possible.
Second, choose a height to start branching out. Most of the time this will be based on the height of the plant but you want it to be at least three feet from the ground. I prefer the 5 to 6 foot range which enables most people to walk under the plant.
Third: Remove any branches that are below your selected height. You want to cut these branches all the way back to the main trunk as well. Removing the lower branches and unwanted main trunks will help to thin the crown of the plant and make shaping the plant a little easier.
Forth: Begin to shape the crown by removing any interior branches that are growing too close together or rubbing together and causing damage to the trunk. Also, remove any smaller branches that are less than the size of a pencil growing from the interior of the plant.
Fifth: Continue shaping the crown by pruning the exterior branches. You want the branches to spread out in multiple directions but you do not want two branches to occupy the same area. Pay attention to the buds when you prune the exterior branches. Cut the branch slightly above any bud that is facing the direction you would like the branch to grow.
Following these steps will help you create a crape myrtle that is natural yet neat in appearance. Pruning correctly will give your plant the best chance to survive disease. Removing weaker branches will strengthen the plant against winter snow and ice and allow it support the weight of the summer blooms. Keep practicing and will become an experienced pruner helping in the fight against “crape murder.”
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask. Good luck and happy pruning.