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  Pruning Crape Myrtles

Over-pruning - We've all seen over-pruning - or "Crape Myrtle Murder" as we like to call it. People chop back crape myrtles below the knuckles each and every year. When a crape myrtle is pruned back too far it has two effects:

  1. Reduces the number of blooms that will be produced during summer.
  2. New branches will grow far too long and therefore not be able to support the weight of heavy blooms - particularly when wet. These long branches weep over and often break off during heavy rains.

When a crape myrtle is pruned properly:

  • it will produce twice the number of blooms as it did during the previous year.
  • the new branches will be strong enough to support blooms.


The time to prune crape myrtles - Wrong-season pruning would mean November and December. Don't let "peer pressure" by neighbors and commercial gardening crews get to you. The reason is simple: we usually don't have much of a winter in the South. If you trim the crapes in the last two months of the year, and we get a warming trend in January or February, the trees might actually start putting on new growth. And that new growth will be incredibly susceptible to freezing weather should it come on the heals of a warm spell. New growth will also tend to draw the cold right into the plant, causing needless damage to a tree that should be resting in dormancy. So, the best time to trim crape myrtles growing in the south is February. For years, we've suggested this as a great time to trim them, because at that time we're also trimming back our roses and many other plants and trees.

How much to trim - The diagram below comes from our parent company: Wilson Bros. Nursery, and it shows how to properly prune a Crape Myrtle. The rule of thumb is to trace down the outer stems, from the dried seed pods to where the stem meets a branch, and make a cut about 4-6" up from the intersection. Then prune away all horizontal twiggy growth along all main branches. If suckers have grown from the base of the trunk prune these away too. Make all cuts as close to branches as possible. By using this method of pruning you will be promoting twice as many branches every season which means twice as many blooms!

To print diagram below right click on diagram and select "Print" or "Print Picture" from the drop-down menu
  < This is how a Crape Myrtle should NOT look after pruning!


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Since 1984, Wilson Bros Landscape has specialized in residential and commercial landscape design and installation services.
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