You might be wondering.. How should I prune my Crape Myrtles like the pros do.
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
- Single Trunk
- Multi Stem
- Natural Look
Now the good news is that Crape Myrtles are one darn tough plant. So the bottom line is if you make a mistake most likely your tree will recover in a few seasons.
Most people don't know this
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 hand held shears or long handles loppers. If yours are way out of control, then a chainsaw might be necessary in the most extreme cases.
So now on to the good stuff.
When you prune your Crape Myrtle the proper way it will will maximize blooms, promote new growth and give your plant a great shape.
That said.. Your pruning is done in winter when the Crape Myrtle is dormant, between the months of December and February.
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. Picture Picture Picture
But that's just part of the story.
You need to know about “Crape Murder"
"Crape Murder" is what the pros say 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 no 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 you plant. OK… that's fine you say… but meanwhile you might be wondering "What are Suckers?"
Simply put .. the "Suckers" are the new growth that comes from the base of the trunk.
Most professional lawn care services and homeowners who know what they are doing will prune these off.
Now with that being said , if you want your Crape Myrtle to have a more "natural" look or would maybe would even prefer for it to grow multiple trunks, then the good news is you can leave some of the suckers to grow up. The best part? Blooms will appear on new growth suckers.
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 tree’s 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 another 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 their pruning and care. There's really no "wrong" way to do it, so experiment and have fun!
Meanwhile… I'll leave you with a helpful how to video on pruning your Crape Myrtles.
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