Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are a popular fixture in many landscapes. Grown as trees or shrubs, they are primarily known for their bright colorful flowers that bloom during the warmer summer months. In the fall, leaves change to shades of red and orange, continuing to provide a burst of color to yards and outdoor living spaces.
While you may think the best time to prune a crape myrtle is right after the final leaf falls away, it’s actually better to wait until late winter. If you are considering pruning your crape myrtle, choose either late February or early March to “do the deed.”
Either month is fine, but it is important to remember to prune your crape myrtle before the new growth appears in the spring because it is this growth which produces the flower buds that will bloom during the upcoming summer.
When it comes to the art of pruning a crape myrtle, sadly, many people are not quite up to the task. They think more pruning is better and will lop the top of a crape myrtle completely off, leaving only a few branches of the tree left. This practice is sometimes referred to as ‘crape murder.’
The idea behind this is that pruning a crape myrtle this way promotes more blooms, but this is not actually the case. Instead, this type of pruning destroys the natural shape of the plant and affects its growth. Branches that grow after a severe pruning are usually not as strong and are more susceptible to damage from wind and ice. They also may not have the ability to hold up the flowers once they appear in the summer, causing branches to sag under the weight of the flowers.
A better “rule of thumb” is to perform a light pruning. Do this by selecting three to five strong healthy trunks, then remove the other trunks around them and any sprouts you see growing up from the ground. As the crape myrtle becomes taller, you can remove its lower branches to fill out the shape of the tree.
If you’re interested in learning more about crape myrtles or want to add them to your landscape, Chambersville Tree Farms can help. Contact us today to talk to a sales representative. Delivery, pickup, and planting services are available. Call us today for more information!