Crape Myrtle…To Prune or Not to Prune?

The crape myrtle tree, Lagerstroemia indica also referred to as: “The Lilac of the South” is a
native of China and arguably one of the most popular flowering trees in the south. Unfortunately,
landscape crews in Texas have made a horrible practice of butchering them every year under the
disguise of “pruning” (also commonly called Crape Murder). Why do they do it? Pure and simple, a
lack of horticulture education is to blame. While topping the tree does produce larger blooms, you
will receive fewer blooms and unfortunately, the new shoots tend to be unable to support the weight
of these blooms causing them to droop. In addition, and more notably, these “pruning” practices
produce ugly scars on the tree (known as “knuckles’). Lastly, your tree may be more susceptible to
disease and insect infestations.

The first step is to visit one of Warren’s Garden Centers and speak to one of our gardeners so you
know what to expect from your crape myrtle tree and what your crape myrtle tree expects from you.
There are many varieties of crape myrtles and each have varying growth habit, maturity size, and
even flowering color. Knowing your variety will help determine the proper space it’ll need to grow.
The old saying of measure twice, cut once comes to mind. If you’ve ever had to relocate or remove a
crape myrtle, then you fully understand this wisdom. Currently have a crape myrtle that you prune
to keep its size down to your desired height, or is currently hitting your roof or rubbing your
house? Consider transplanting instead of pruning. Unfortunately, for our area many crape myrtles
were planted in areas that just don’t fit their growth habit so the tree will not be the specimen
mother nature intended it to be.

Now, we aren’t saying you should never prune your crape myrtle tree as they are fast growers and
require some cleaning up; however, if you choose to prune, it should take place in mid-February and
should mostly be to shape the tree. Thinning your tree to leave just 3-7 trucks is usually
required. It’s best to remove any lower limbs that are thinner than a pencil in diameter (this will
not leave scars) and while not necessary, removing last years bloom heads is acceptable. Please
note, pruning or removing spent blooms is NOT necessary for future blooming. If your crape myrtle
tree is planted in an area that fits its growth habit, has adequate sunlight, is fertilized
properly and you keep your pruning simple, mother nature will reward you with long periods of
vibrant blooms all summer long.

Need help with a crape myrtle you currently have or looking for the perfect one to add striking
color to your landscape this summer? Come see us at Warren’s and our knowledgeable garden team will
be happy to assist you.