Buying crepe myrtle trees

Pruning Crape Myrtles: How to Keep Your Crape Healthy

It’s spooky season! And the scariest thing we’ve seen this Halloween? Crape Murder. Don’t be a victim of this unnecessary practice of lopping off the tops of your Crape Myrtles (also called Crepe Myrtles) and leaving them bare. Pruning Crape Myrtles doesn’t have to be complicated!

It’s spooky season! And the scariest thing we’ve seen this Halloween? Crape Murder. Don’t be a victim of this unnecessary practice of Crape Murder: Lopping off the tops of your Crape Myrtles (also called Crepe Myrtles) and leaving them bare.Many aredaunted by proper pruning, but they shouldn’t be. Pruning Crape Myrtlesdoesn’t have to be complicated!

Sure, lopped-off Crapes usually bounce back, but notwith the best blooms possible. In fact, these Crape Myrtles would often be better off unpruned than cut completely. If you want to upgrade your Crape game, check out our tips below…you’ll be well on your way to the best yard on the block!

Pruning Crape Myrtles: The Basics

Crape Myrtle Trees are summer bloomers and only have blooms on their new growth. Once they break dormancy, this new growth will rapidly emerge. Therefore, it’s good to remove a few of the older branches to make way for the new growth.

Also, pruning Crape Myrtles in the late winter or early spring is good in order to keep them neatly shaped.

Somegardenersremovedead wood and cut branches from theirMyrtleslate in the fall, before the first frost and after the last of the blooms have faded.Only do thisif you live in the mildest areas ofyour tree’s hardiness zones! Generally, Crape Myrtles in the fall should be left to grow. A rule of green thumb: The ideal time to prune will be late winter, February or March.

If you do want to heavilyprune your tree, wait until late winterandcut it back by half. Most people do this when their trees get too large, especially when they’re planted under power lines, or extremely close to their homes. Crape Myrtles are extremely tough trees, and often survive heavy pruning, but we don’t recommend cutting them back past half their size.

How Do I Prune Crape Myrtles?

Before we discuss the benefits of pruning Crape Myrtles (and how to take on pruning properly), we’re going to tell you how not to prune them!

1.Don’t prune your Crape Myrtle trees in the summer or fall. This could stress the trees out. The summer heat will be too hot and stressful for new growth.

2.Don’t deadhead them! Although deadheading is common for a few different shrubs, you’ll hurt your chances for blooms by deadheading crapes. Small branches will grow from the stubbed trunks, and they might be too weak to support blooms.

3.Don’t use dirty or old pruners. Make sure that your tools are clean and sterile to make good clean cuts. If it takes a few tries to cut through a branch, and the cut is jagged, then itmay get infected.

4.Don’t feel bad if you don’t prune your trees. It isn’t necessary to prune Crape Myrtles, even if it can improve bloom production. These tough trees will grow fine in their natural form and natural shape.

PruningTools for Crape Myrtles

1.Hand Pruners:Asmall pair of pruners generally used to prune small branches and shrubs with stems no larger than half an inch wide.

2.Loppers:A larger pair of pruners with long handles. These are used to prune branches that are about half an inch to 1.5 inches wide.

3.A pole saw:A small saw on a pole. They’re generally used to prune branches over 1 to 1.5 inches thick.

4.Chainsaw:In some cases, when people want to seriously prune Crape Myrtles, a chainsaw may be preferred in order to prune thick branches and trunks. We only recommend the use of chainsaws to trained professionals.

Proper Pruning of Crape Myrtles

When you’re pruning Crape Myrtles in dormancy and want to know which branches to trim, look for any damaged, dead or broken branches.

This will prevent the trees from getting infected or spreading disease. To check if branches are dead, gently rub the bark with a coin or your fingernail. If the flesh under the bark is a light color like green, yellow, or white, the branch is still alive and healthy. If the color under the bark is brown or black, the branch is dead and needs to be cut back.

Furthermore, look for any branches that cross or rub. It will be good to remove them before they break.

It’s best to remove a few branches from the center of the tree to allow more sunlight to hit lower branches and create better airflow. This sunlight will provide more blooms and growth, as well as dry out branches and prevent mold.

Ensure that you remove any branches that take away from the shape that you desire for your trees, like branches growing at odd angles.

How to Prune Your Crape

Before you begin pruning Crape Myrtles, study them and get a game plan for what you wantto remove. You can always go back and prune later, but you never want to over prune your tree or thin it out too much!

When pruning branches, make your cuts back to about a third of their size. Make the cuts at 45-degree angles, facing upwards, to promote new growth. If you don’t want a particular branch to grow back, cut it back to about an inch away from the trunk. Make the cut straight across the branch.

If you see new growth at ground level, around the trunks of your trees, remove these. Pull upwards on them in a twisting motion to remove these ‘suckers’, which generally steal nutrients from the rest of the tree.

The wooden pods that remain don’t need to be removed. They will naturallydropto make way for new blooms. However, to get faster blooms after each blooming cycle, you can remove them by picking them off by hand.

Avoiding Crape Murder

Crepe murder or crape murder: Avoid at all costs! Crape Murder commonly results in knobby stems and bunchy growths, making them more easily susceptible to disease and pests. Remember that only a light pruning of your Crape Myrtle is needed to encourage plenty of blooms. Shape to your desired size and height, but leave your tree intact.

How to choose the right crape myrtle

Originally from East Asia, crape myrtles have become much more widely planted in recent decades thanks to the development of varieties that are hardier and more disease-resistant.

Their appeal is obvious: Crape myrtles are one of the few woody plants to bloom with gusto during hot, humid summer months. They have good fall leaf color, and in types where the bark is exposed, the trunks can be spectacular and provide display year-round. Many of these new varieties were developed at the U.S. National Arboretum. In addition to having space to grow, crape myrtles prefer a sunny location and free-draining soil.

If you don’t have room for the popular large tree forms that grow between 20 and 30 feet high, such as Natchez, Miami and Choctaw, choose smaller hybrids that typically reach to between 12 and 15 feet. Thus, you won’t have to resort to crape murder. These include Yuma (lavender), Sioux (dark pink); Acoma (white) or Lipan (near-white bark).

If you have room for a tree to reach 20 feet in maturity, consider Tuskegee (dark rose) Potomac (medium pink) or Catawba (purple).

Young crape myrtles are raised in containers with several discrete stems. After planting, they benefit from pruning to clean up congested and crossing branches and to bring out the trunk structure. Alternatively, you can get a single-stemmed plant that will develop into a main trunk with branching — these are typically harder to find. Even if you are getting someone else to plant them for you, it is worth going to a garden center or retail nursery to pick out individual specimens to get the form you want.

Wait a growing season or two before grooming and shaping tree forms to allow them to get established and build reserves.

Crape myrtles also grow as medium to large shrubs, and although they are deciduous these varieties work well for screening, for informal hedges or as a single accent plant in small urban gardens. The arboretum has released a number of such hybrids tested in the Washington area, including Cheyenne (red), Hopi (pink), Tonto (fuchsia) and Zuni (lavender).

Dwarf varieties grow between two and five feet and can be used as edging plants for paths and patios, or mixed with sun-loving perennials and grasses for a summer garden. These include the miniature, pink-flowering Pocomoke; Berry Dazzle (magenta) and Cherry Dazzle (red).

Many plant retailers have a limited selection of crape myrtles; ask about their inventory before you set out.

See photos of some of the varieties here: Caddo
(Courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum) Acoma
(Courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum) Cheyenne
(Courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum) Hopi
(Courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum) Tonto
(Courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum) Zuni
(Courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum)

Crape Myrtle Trees

A rainbow of colors on a classic growth habit.

Available in pink, purple and even red hues, our Crape Myrtle Trees offer classic growth and an iconic silhouette you’ll love for your landscape. Even better? The easy-growing benefits that come with planting a Crape Myrtle of your own.

How to Plant Crape Myrtles

Though specific planting directions will depend on the variety you choose, most like full to partial sun (4 to 8 hours of sun per day) and well-drained soil. And of course, the correct growing zone is important.

Where to Plant Crape Myrtle Trees

Anywhere, provided there’s sunlight! And the planting process is simple. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate your tree’s root ball (with some room to grow), place your Crape and backfill the soil. Finally, water the surrounding soil to settle roots and mulch to conserve moisture.

How to Care for Crape Myrtle Trees

First, establish a solid watering schedule. Generally, we recommend watering about once or twice weekly. If you’re not sure when to water, however, simply check your surrounding soil about 2 inches down. If the soil is dry here, it’s time to water your Crape Myrtles.

Fertilizing is simple, too. Fertilize in early spring, before blooming, with a general-purpose blend and follow label instructions for best results.

How Do You Prune Crape Myrtle Trees?

It’s a point of contention, but the process is simple. For pruning, simply remove dead, damaged or diseased areas. You can also prune for shaping during the dormant season, after blooms have faded, but you can let your Crape Myrtles grow naturally.

Guide to Planting Crepe Myrtle

Crepe myrtle is a fast-growing deciduous tree or shrub that is particularly popular in the South and Southeast regions and hardy in zones 6 through 10. Due to its multi-stemmed appearance, the tree is commonly grown in yards and public areas for an addition of color and interest. Dwarf crepe myrtle is perfect for containers and as an accent shrub in flower beds.

About the Crepe Myrtle

The crepe myrtle grows in 3 different ways:

Tree – About 15 to 20 feet tall

Shrub – 5 to 7 feet tall

Dwarf – 12 to 24 inches tall

In Southern climates, the crepe myrtle begins to flower mid-spring, and in northern areas, it blooms in the summer. Flowering in all regions continues until the fall. The flowers grow in 6 to 12-inch long clusters that are 3 to 5 inches wide, and clusters from the dwarf varieties are smaller.

Crepe myrtle trees are available in a range of flower colors, including purple, lavender, white, pink, and red. Some types of crepe myrtle have bicolor flowers. The bark on the plant peels off in the summer, exposing a new layer.

The crepe myrtle enters a dormant state starting in the late fall and lasting throughout the winter. During this time, the leaves fall off, but the roots keep growing.

Step 1— Plant at the Proper Time

Plant crepe myrtles in the cool season, when the tree is still dormant.

Step 2 —Pick the Right Planting Location

Choose an area that receives full sun. Plenty of light ensures that the crepe myrtle will have abundant flowers, and shade diminishes the likelihood of flowers and color.

Step 3 — Establish the Soil Requirements

The crepe myrtle prefers well-draining clay, loam, or sandy soils. The pH level of the soil should be 5.5 to 7.5. Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer in the spring as soon as the leaves appear and again in two months.

Step 4 — Plant the Tree or Shrub

Dig a hole the same depth as the nursery pot and twice as wide. Remove the tree from the container by placing it on its side and carefully sliding it out. Always handle a crepe myrtle tree by the root ball without holding onto the trunk.

Pack native soil around the roots to eliminate air pockets. Fill in the hole with the rest of the soil.

Step 5 — Water

Water the newly planted tree 1 to 3 times a week. A young crepe myrtle tree needs water during dry periods after the first growing season. If you are unable to provide young trees with consistent water, use a water ring. Once your tree reaches maturity, it will be naturally drought-resistant.

Step 6— Mulch

Add a layer of mulch around the tree to keep away grass and weeds and to help retain moisture. Mulch also provides good protection for the roots throughout the winter. Do not allow mulch to touch the tree trunk.

How to Prune Crepe Myrtle Trees

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