How to Prune Crepe Myrtle? The Steps You Need To Follow

So are you familiar with crepe myrtles? These are small trees and shrubs which produce large flowers during summer. So, don’t you want such a nice view? Crepe myrtles are distinguished by the multiple trunks as well as peeling and mottled bark. They bloom from new growth and so pruning is definitely essential. But, the same with the grass in the garden, it is believed that crepe myrtles perform best with natural and light pruning. So, how to prune crepe myrtle the right way?

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More about Crepe Myrtle

Pretty-view-of-crepe-myrtle-blooms-how-to-prune-crepe-myrtle

Pretty view of crepe myrtle blooms

Crepe myrtles or crape myrtles are a terrific and low-maintenance choice for prolific blooms during humid and hot summers. These days, numbers of varieties are hybrids which maximize the colorful blooms of the common crape myrtle and the cold hardiness, distinctive bark and the disease-resistance of the Japanese crape myrtle.

Also, crape myrtles bloom in the mid-summer having colors like purple, white, lavender, magenta, red and pink. And after blooming, they also develop distinctive seed heads, and the leaves would tend to fall toward the end of the autumn, therefore, leaving the exfoliating and colorful bark for the winter.

When and What to Cut?

So, when is the right time to cut or prune the crepe myrtle? Would you consider doing so when is it too late to prune crape myrtles? I hope so not! Late winter is considered as the best time that you prune a crepe myrtle since it is leafless and so you could see all the branches quickly.

​Besides, it blooms on new growth, so pruning during the said time will not reduce blooming, rather it could increase flowering.

And of course, you need to know what to cut. You have to remove branches following this order:

  • Suckers that​ come up from the base.
  • All the side branches which grow from the main trunks up to the height of at least 4 feet.
  • The higher branches that grow inward towards the tree center.
  • All the rubbing, dead and crossing branches.
  • Those branches that grow at awkward angles which detract the appearance of the tree.You should be guided by this order to avoid being confused whether how much can you prune a crape myrtle.

How to Prune Crepe Myrtle? Here’s What You Need to Do

Before the idea of knowing how to prune crape myrtles, you should take a look at the said tree and ask if you really need to prune it at all. It is indeed good to prune crepe myrtles for it to maintain the tree-shaped, but it might not always be good when it comes to the health of the tree.

However, if you wish to shape the said tree or once you find the branches too close to one another, then you have to prune the crepe myrtles. And, now we will discuss how to do the pruning the right way.

Things Needed: Pruning Tools

In order to prune the crepe myrtle, you might need some of the following tools:

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    Hand pruners for clipping twigs and branches with less than 1/2 inch thick.
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    Loppers for cutting branches with ½ to 1 ½ inches thick.
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    Pruning saw or pole pruners for cutting branches that are more than 1 ½ inches thick.

Steps to Follow

Throughout the process, there are three stages you will undergo. First is the preparation stage, then the pruning proper and of course the assessment stage. Just follow the steps and be guided on how to prune crepe myrtle properly.

Preparing to Prune the Tree

Set-of-hand-tools-how-to-prune-crepe-myrtle

Set of hand tools

1

Gather the needed pruning materials.

Of course, you would need different pruning tools to prune a crepe myrtle. I have mentioned the pruning tools needed above.

2

Begin to prune in the early spring or late winter.

Since crepe myrtles bloom on new growth, it is best that you prune them in the late winter or during early spring just before they come out of dormancy and send out the new branches and leaves.


But, some gardeners might prune in the fall. However, this could remove the new growth as the buffer against the winter damage.

3

Identify the size and shape you want as the outcome.

For the said tree to be beautiful and healthy, you ought to prune with an eye toward opening up to the middle of the tree as for allowing the air to flow through easily.


You must not over prune by lopping the trunks that are close to the ground.

Pruning the Tree

1

Stand back then observe how the tree is growing.

Brutal knobbing might produce a lot of blooms however it comes at the expense of the shape of the tree. This might be because crepe myrtles would skin over and would repair any place where a branch has been removed.


So, imagine that after you prune, the leaves that are left behind would grow larger in both length and circumference each year.

2

Prune the small sprouts at the bottom of the tree.

These are referred as the suckers. Once left untrimmed, the suckers would give the crepe myrtle this bushy appearance and might compete with the main trunks for resources. And these suckers could be pulled out once the tree first sprout or you can trim them with the use of a hand pruner.


Just leave the large, thick and healthy trunks to keep growing stronger and taller.

3

Cut the side branches.

Limbing up is the process of pruning branches that come out of the side of the trunk up to almost halfway up the trunk. This helps the crepe myrtle to retain its attractive shape.


If you want to know how to prune small crepe myrtle, prune the small limbs right from the ground up and so leaving only at least strongest 3 to 5 limbs. You should remove the smaller branches which are growing toward to inside of the tree or horizontally.

Horizontal-row-of-bare-or-pruned-crape-myrtle-how-to-prune-crepe-myrtle

Horizontal row of bare or pruned crape myrtle

4

Prune out the dead and the crossing beaches.

With the use of hand pruners, you have to prune the small and thin branches which you can reach. But, for branches that are more than 12 mm thick, the use of loppers is advisable. For taller and thicker branches, the use of pole pruner might be considered.


You also need to cut branches which are growing at an angle or those that detract the shape you want to achieve.

5

Cut those arching or long branches back to where they are no more than half an inch diameter.

Those branches that are too thin would still bloom but they might not be able to bear the weight of the blooms so will break or droop eventually. With that, you need to cut flush along with the trunk rather than leaving the stub.


You might use loppers for the lower branches or the pole pruners for the tall ones that are out of reach. It is not required that you cut off the seed pods as it won’t affect the blooming of crepe myrtle.

Assessing the Tree

1

Consider the color of the flower.

Known to have dozens of varieties, each crepe myrtle also has various growing patterns which might impact the way how you prune it. And one way to determine the said tree is to look at the color of the blossoms.


This might not tell you the type of plant alone, but it could assist you concerning narrowing down the search.

2

Check the color of the bark

Aside from the color of the flower, you also need to check the color of the bark to help you figure out the kind of tree you have. The bark might range in color from gray to brown and might be vibrant or muted.


You can compare both the flower and bark color to help you in identifying the crepe myrtle that you have.

3

Assess the growing pattern too

Crepe myrtles do have this ability to grown in different ways, and so the nature of their growth might impact the way you trim them. Some of the varieties might grow like small trees, and the others might be compact and small shrubs.


There are others that would grow spreading and large shrubs. To know how to prune crepe myrtles appropriately, you need to look at how the tree grows.

Bark-of-a-crepe-myrtle-how-to-prune-crepe-myrtle

Bark of a crepe myrtle

If you are interested in other storage tips, refer here: Pruning

  • Here’s a how to prune crepe myrtle video that might help you:

Pruning Tips and Warnings

After providing the steps on pruning crepe myrtles, I would also provide some tips and warnings as you prune the said tree. Consider the following:

  • In almost all cases, natural and light pruning is required.
  • To create a tall canopy, you might limb up higher branches as they are obstructing the view from your window.
  • You don’t need to prune heavily as for keeping the size down once you prefer a variety which fits best with your space and landscape.
  • Try other methods of natural pruning prior to resorting to severe pruning once you have an old myrtle which is outgrowing the space. Just create a canopy by limbing-up the low growing branches.
  • As soon as a problem occurs, immediately prune any defective or diseased branches.
  • Crepe murder or severe pruning could weaken the tree and could lead to disease and damage. It would also create unsightly knobs in the crepe myrtle tree which has thin, spindly branches which couldn’t support the weight of the flowers.

You should be aware of these tips and warnings once planning to prune your crepe myrtle tree.

Poor Pruning: What’s the result?

Bare-crepe-myrtle-trees-how-to-prune-crepe-myrtle

Bare crepe myrtle trees

If it happens that you aren’t ideal for the right way on how to prune crepe myrtle, it might lead to poor pruning. And so, what do you think is the result of poor pruning? Here are the results that you don’t want to achieve:

  • Fewer Blooms. If you will allow too many trunks and cut the plants back too far would lead to a shrubby one whose densely packed foliage producing fewer and later blooms. It might also be more susceptible to powdery mildew.
  • Weak Branches. Indeed, severe pruning would lead to rapid new growth along with large flower heads. But, unfortunately, these new branches are weak and long wherein they couldn’t support the weight of the flowers. And sometimes, these branches snap off under the weight.
  • Unremarkable Bark. If you sheared crape myrtles, it would prevent the trunks from the idea of maturing enough to develop the outstanding peeling and also the colored bark that many varieties do have. And this coming of age for the tree would provide much interest in the winter landscape like how the flowers do during summer.

If you don’t like to achieve such results, then making sure that you prune the crepe myrtles correctly should be considered along with the use of the right pruning tools.

Conclusion

Blooming-purple-crepe-myrtle-how-to-prune-crepe-myrtle

Blooming purple crepe myrtle

At first, you might think that pruning the said tree is a hard task. Nevertheless, if you are guided through the right steps along with the right pruning tools, everything will be done with ease. That’s why I have provided the things needed, the steps to follow and the relevant facts associated with pruning crepe myrtle. I hope it helps you a lot on how to prune crepe myrtle.

Though you can also opt the help of a professional to prune the said tree for you, it is still best that you have an idea on how to do it yourself. And aside from pruning, you should also learn how to care for crepe myrtle trees. 

  • Watch this video for help:

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