What is a Crape Myrtle Tree?
There are over 50 types of Crape Myrtle, they are varieties that are evergreen and some that loose their leaves, they range in height from small shrubs to 100 foot tall trees, the trunk and stems are flutes and they loose their bark all year long. The flowers range from white to purple and are delicate and crape like, giving the tree its’ name.
The crape myrtle tree is one of the fastest growing flowering trees currently growing in the US and is quite common in the gardening and landscaping in the more temperate climates.
When do I Prune Crape Myrtle Trees?
Well, it is easier to tell you when not to prune a crepe myrtle, DO NOT PRUNE IN NOVEMBER OR DECEMBER. If you prune too late in the year and then get a warm spell the tree will start to bud, then winter comes and the tree has wasted precious strength it should have been reserving for the spring.
In fact, if you are at all unsure at all don’t prune at all. The most common problem in pruning crape myrtle trees is over pruning. If you over prune you will end up with overly long branches that will not be able to support the growth of new leaves and it severely reduces the amount of blooms.
The best times to prune crape myrtle trees is in the early spring just before the tree starts to show life.
How do I Prune Crape Myrtle Trees?
Crape Myrtle Trees are very predictable in their growth, making it easy to know how to prune the tree.
First, we need to look for where the tree was last trimmed. To do this find the seed pods (if the tree bloomed the previous year) or follow the limb in from its tip. You are looking for the first symmetrical branching off the main limbs. If the tree has been pruned correctly in the past you will find a main branch extending out of the trunk with two mostly symmetrical branches forming a “Y” few inches below the first pruning. As you follow each “Y” you will find the process repeated, with another pruning and a few inches below that two branches forming a “Y”, then repeating again until you reach the outer layer of the tree where the seed pods are. When the tree is barren in early spring it should look something like a dandelion fluff.
Second, if you are still following me, we follow the seed pod down to last years pruning and then measure about 6 inches back up the branch and cut. Another way to tell where to prune is by gently bending the branch with your fingers and the cutting the crape myrtle where branch gets firm and doesn’t bend as easily.
Things to Remember:
- Be sure to do any major pruning in the early spring.
- If there is damage to the crape myrtle tree during a different time of the year, just prune the affected area.
- Always use clean, disinfected tools.
- Hand held pruning clippers will work for most young trees and branches, if you have to do any corrective trimming on branches larger than a half inch it is best to use a saw blade, we suggest our T-Rex ExtremeTM pruning saw blade for fast easy cutting, but any clean pruning saw blade will do.
- Don’t over prune, the idea is to make sure the pruned branches will be strong enough to hold the new years growth.
- Make a day of it and prune roses at the same time.