Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > November 2017 > IN THE GARDEN with DOUG - HOW AND WHEN TO PRUNE CRAPE MYRTLE TREES

IN THE GARDEN with DOUG - HOW AND WHEN TO PRUNE CRAPE MYRTLE TREES

How many of you know what I mean by crape murder?  If not, when you are driving around just look at all the crape myrtles and how they have been cut back.  It is an unfortunate tragedy that these majestic trees have been abused by how they have been pruned over the years.
Lagerstroemia indica is the botanical name for crape myrtle trees.  Without a doubt this flowering tree is the most popular flowering tree in Virginia and all of the other southern states.  This is why it is referred to as the “Lilac of the South”.  Because of their majestic, wide branching structure, interesting bark, and beautiful, long-lasting blooms from mid-summer to fall make crape myrtles a must tree in any landscape.  Because of its popularity with homeowners, business parks, and landscapers, a crape myrtle tree is tucked and stuffed into the landscape wherever possible.  The reason is that crape myrtles are among the toughest, most durable, and showiest trees that we can grow in Virginia. 
Recently, I have had quite a few customers asking when they can prune their crape myrtle trees.  My first response is a question “why do you want to prune”?  The most common answer to my question is “ it has gotten too big”.  Well…it is all about “RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT LOCATION”.   If the crape myrtle is planted with adequate space then it needs very little, if any, pruning.  Unfortunately, for some reason, the majority of maintenance crews and homeowners in Virginia have made it a ritual to butcher them back to where they look like deer antlers.
Crape myrtle trees bloom off of their new growth the come out in the spring.  During the winter months, after the leaves have dropped, is the right time to prune, if necessary.  Most of the time I only recommend cutting off the seed pod heads that hang at the end of the branches.  During the winter, if needed, you can thin out some of the interior branches.  The fewer interior branches you have, the more you can admire their shape and smooth texture.  Each year around early spring, all you need to do is remove any new sucker growth that appear from the ground.  Never let this sucker growth develop.  All they are doing is taking energy away from the main plant and creating a “bushy” looking tree. 
So, in a nutshell, do very little pruning on a crape myrtle tree.  Let it grow freely and naturally with all its graceful, weeping branches. A crape myrtle tree will bloom profusely every year and look gorgeous for years to come.
                                                                                Happy Gardening !!!
Posted: 11/21/2017 by Doug Hensel | with 0 comment(s)
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