How to Prune Crepe Myrtles

Crepe Myrtles are one of my favorite trees to include in landscaping around a house. We’ve had several over the years and currently have two beside our upper garage. They never disappoint, always producing spectacular blooms in the summer. But just like most other trees, crepe myrtles do require proper care and maintenance, especially when it comes to pruning. In this article, we’ll go over how to properly prune a crepe myrtle, as well as some other tips for keeping the tree healthy and looking its best.

Use the Right Tools

Before you start pruning, make sure you have the right tools. A sharp, clean pair of pruning shears are essential for making precise cuts. Don’t use dull or damaged tools, because these can cause tears and bruises on the branches, leading to disease. This might sound a bit overboard, but It’s also a good idea to sterilize your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol before and after use. This will prevent the spread of diseases that could potentially harm your crepe myrtle trees.

Remove Dead Branches

When it comes to pruning crepe myrtles, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to remove any dead or damaged branches, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. This will help to promote healthy growth and prevent disease.

Maintain Natural Shape

Next, it’s important to maintain the natural shape of the tree. Crepe myrtles tend to have a layered, vase-like shape, with branches growing in tiers. When pruning, try to maintain this shape and avoid cutting back all the branches to the same level. This will help the tree to retain its natural beauty.

Another important aspect of pruning crepe myrtles is timing. In general, it’s best to prune your crepe myrtles in the late winter or early spring, before the tree starts to bud. This will give you a good idea of the overall structure of the tree and make it easier to shape it. However, it’s also important to prune throughout the growing season, removing any dead or damaged branches as they occur.

Don’t Commit “Crepe Murder”

According to Southern Living, “Crepe Murder” is one of the south’s worst gardening crimes! It’s a clever term used to describe the overly aggressive pruning of crepe myrtles. But don’t worry, this heinous offense can easily be avoided. Don’t “top” the tree: “Topping” a crepe myrtle tree involves cutting the main branches back to stubs, which can ruin the tree’s natural shape and make it more susceptible to disease. Instead, prune the tree to maintain its natural shape and size.

More Ways to Care for Your Crepe Myrtles

In addition to regular pruning, crepe myrtles also benefit from proper watering and fertilization. During the summer, when the tree is actively growing, it’s important to water it regularly, making sure to provide enough moisture to reach the roots. In the winter, when the tree is dormant, you can reduce watering to once a month or so.

As for fertilization, crepe myrtles do best with a balanced fertilizer that provides a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Apply the fertilizer in the spring, when the tree is starting to bud, and again in the summer when the flowers are in bloom. This will help the tree to grow strong and healthy and produce more vibrant flowers.

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