Trimming Crepe Myrtles In Texas
Texas is home to a broad variety of plant life due to its climatic diversity, yet one shrub you’ll easily find state wide is the lovely crepe myrtle. While its blooming season may change from one region to the next based on weather patterns, late winter or early spring is the best time to trim them.
Here in North Texas, mid-February is often warm enough to begin. Doing the job properly without going overboard is critical to maintaining the plant’s health and beauty.
Avoid Topping Your Crepe Myrtle
“Topping” is the practice of removing a significant amount of height from the crepe myrtle’s branches, typically for aesthetic purposes. Cultivated as both shrubs and trees, these plants can grow quite tall. Topping is fairly common among both homeowners and landscapers, as a way to trim back a tree when they think it has outgrown its allotted space.
In regions where the “crape” spelling with an A is more common, this harmful practice is commonly known as “crape murder.”
Overpruning your crepe myrtle goes against its natural structure as a plant, which can alter its regrowth patterns in a detrimental way. Cutting back branches all the way to the trunk results in delicate new growth that isn’t yet strong enough to support mature blossoms. Additionally, when the tree’s canopy is drastically pruned, a hazardous amount of bark and cut limbs are left exposed to diseases and pests.
So how DO you safely trim your crepe myrtle trees without overdoing it?
Prune Early, Prune Young
As mentioned above, late winter or early spring is prime time for pruning, preferably right when the weather begins to warm up. Fall trimming removes attractive branches from a still-thriving plant, leaving the cut limbs vulnerable to winter damage.
Proper trimming while the trees are young will result in less landscape maintenance when the trees are older. A healthy, well-structured crepe myrtle will have only a few main trunks, and it’s best to remove the smaller unnecessary ones early on. Doing so reducing the chance of crowding as the tree matures, and decreases the overall amount of pruning needed from one season to the next.
Framework Your Crepe Myrtles
To avoid crowding, it is recommended to keep your crepe myrtle’s base at 3 to 7 main trunks. This practice of “frameworking” the plant allows for strong, ample growth.
Additional frameworking concepts include:
- Trimming suckers and any additional trunks as close to the soil line as possible.
- This will avoid leaving a dead stub, which is unsightly and a potential entry for insects and diseases.
- Remove low branches – It is recommended branching to begin 6 to 8 feet off the ground. Prune unwanted low branches all the way back to the main trunk.
Cutting Weak Growth
Trimming the final cuts includes pruning out any branches or stems that are smaller in diameter than a pencil. As mentioned before, stems that small can result in weak new growth that will struggle to support blooming flowers.
Be sure to get those cuts in before active growth begins in the spring. TLC Landscapes offers a variety of landscape services, including trimming your crepe myrtles and any other trees that may need seasonal pruning. Click here for a free service quote!
Finish At The Top
Thinning the crown of your crepe myrtle is a far more conservative method than the “topping” we warned against earlier. Lightly pruning the top can even out the branch growth, and should be done with the intention of improving its looks and health rather than decreasing the actual height of the tree.
The upper branches look best if they spread in different directions, so remove any that are growing into an area already occupied by another branch.
A few pointers:
- Make your cuts slightly above a bud that faces the direction in which you want your new branch to grow.
- Remove limbs that cross back through the plant or rub against each other. Wind movement and growth can cause these branches to wind around each other, which risks the loss of one or both.
Trimming to this method allows better air circulation and sunlight penetration. You will keep the crepe myrtles healthy and reduce the possibility for diseases like powdery mildew.
- When is the Best Time to Trim Crape Myrtles?
- Pruning Crape Myrtles for a Repeat Bloom
- Crape Myrtle Bark Scale
- Crape Myrtle Care
Published on February 6th, 2018
Updated on January 27th, 2020
I’ve been researching and sharing lawn care and gardening info since 2010. I’m no expert, but my neighbors think I am