It’s that time of year once again. The leaves have fallen, the trees are barren, and your once beautiful summer-time Crape Myrtles seem to be just a mess of sticks and dead flowers. Not to worry – you can easily prune your Crape Myrtles to give them a clean look and set them up for success come Spring time. But not so fast! There are a few rules that apply.
This may seem counter-intuitive because you will probably start to see some of your friends, neighbors, or even landscape companies out there pruning these trees as soon as the leaves fall off. However common, that is not the proper time. The best time to prune these trees is in late Winter/ Early Spring. Anytime before that and you risk frost damage. Moisture inside of the limbs can freeze and split the ends, which is detrimental to growth and invites disease! Also, if we have a warm spell during the Winter the tree could begin to produce new growth which will be deadened when colder weather moves in. Trimming it anytime too far into the warm season could result in heat related stress and severely reduce new growth. The good news is that Crape Myrtles are incredibly tough and can take quite the beating! So if you’ve pruned your tree outside of this time frame, it’s not the end of the world; but, if you want a healthy, well-formed tree – it’s best to wait it out.
2. Steer clear of “Crape Murder.”
It is highly likely that you’ve seen some form of Crape Murder as you’ve glanced upon others’ properties. It is an all too common practice where the tree is cut down to big blocky nubs. This technique is not only an issue of aesthetics, but also of the long term health of the tree. Instead of “topping” or “lopping”, try to stick with the general form of the tree as it is – aiming to only cut into branches that are about 1″ in diameter (particularly for small to medium varieties). For the larger species it is ok to cut into branches larger than 1″, but use your best judgement and try not to go overboard.
3. Set the tree up for success.
Pruning a Crape Myrtle has many advantages for the tree when done properly. Your tree will produce more blooms and thicker growth. On top of that, it will create that signature Crape Myrtle canopy look over time. When pruning, remove all horizontal limbs crossing over one another. These are the smaller branches you see in the tree. They are what provided the foliage and blooms from last years growth. Cut these branches where they meet the larger limbs of the tree. A lot of times, they are so small that you can basically just “knock” them off. After those are gone, the tree has plenty of room for new growth. Next, take a look at the tree and picture what cuts you can make to shape the tree as well as possible. A good shape to aim for is an ice cream cone, as Walter Reeves suggests. Keep your main branches in tact and allow them to branch outwards towards the top. The end result will be a clean, well formed tree primed for new growth in the Spring.
If you have any further questions on how to prune your Crape Myrtles, feel free to give us a call or send us an email through our contact page. Also if you are interested in having our team take care of your Crape Myrtles for you this winter, we would be thrilled to help! We service Cumming, Alpharetta, Milton, Roswell, and other counties in the North Metro Atlanta area.