How to Prune Crape Myrtle Trees

Find out how to prune your crape myrtle trees in this step-by-step guide.

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Why prune crape myrtle trees?

Pruning crape myrtle trees is a common landscaping practice, but it’s important to understand why and how to prune them properly. Crape myrtles are generally low-maintenance and can tolerate a range of pruning techniques, but improper pruning can damage the tree or encourage excessive regrowth.

There are several reasons why you might prune a crape myrtle tree:

-To encourage new growth
-To shape the tree
-To remove damaged or diseased branches
-To thin out the canopy to improve air circulation

When pruning, always use clean, sharp tools to prevent infection and damage to the tree. Make sure to remove any suckers (new shoots) that sprout from the base of the trunk, as these can compete with the main canopy for resources. It’s best to prune crape myrtles in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

When to prune crape myrtle trees?

Pruning crape myrtles is an important part of keeping these trees healthy and maintaining their shape and size. But when is the best time to prune them?

Spring:
The ideal time to prune crape myrtles is in late spring, after the trees have flowered but before new growth begins. This will give the trees time to heal before they need to put out new growth.

Summer:
You can also prune crape myrtles in summer, but be aware that this will remove some of the tree’s flowers. If you do decide to prune in summer, wait until after the trees have flowered and wait until new growth has stopped.

How to prune crape myrtle trees?

According to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, the best time to prune crape myrtle trees is in late winter before new growth begins. You will want to prune your crape myrtle tree when it is dormant.

Decide on a pruning method

Before pruning your crape myrtle, you need to decide on a pruning method. There are three main methods for pruning crape myrtles:
-Topping: This involves cutting off the top of the tree to create a flat-topped look. Topping can damage the tree and stimulate growth that is weak and prone to breaking.
-Heading back: This involves cutting back all the lateral branches (side branches) to stubs that are 6-12 inches long. Heading back stimulates new shoot growth from the stubs, which results in a fuller tree.
-Thinning out: This involves removing selected lateral branches throughout the tree to thin it out and allow more light and air circulation. Thinning out is the best option for maintaining the health of your crape myrtle.

Sanitize your pruning tools

Craparound Beaufort, South Carolina, is the perfect time to prune crape myrtle trees. August and September is when these trees are actively growing, so they can heal quickly from any wounds inflicted during the pruning process. But before you break out the pruning shears, it’s important to properly sanitize your tools.

Pruning tools can spread disease from one plant to another. To sanitize your pruning shears, dip them in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. You can also use rubbing alcohol. Let the tools soak for a few minutes, then rinse them off with clean water.

Sanitizing your tools is especially important if you’re pruning crape myrtles that are infected with powdery mildew or other diseases.

Prune away dead or diseased wood

To keep your crape myrtle healthy and looking its best, start by pruning away any dead or diseased wood. This will help encourage new growth and prevent the spread of disease. You can also prune away any suckers that are growing from the base of the tree.

Next, thin out the canopy to allow light and air to reach the inner branches. This will help prevent itself from being too dense and susceptible to pests and diseases. To do this, prune away any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.

Finally, shape the tree by pruning away any branches that are growing outside of the desired shape. This will help give your crape myrtle a neat and tidy appearance.

Prune to shape the tree

To ensure a compact, well-shaped crape myrtle, prune away suckers and water sprouts as soon as you see them. You can also selectively remove crossing or rubbing branches throughout the growing season. However, avoid pruning in late summer or early fall, as this can stimulate new growth that won’t have time to harden off before winter. When pruning, make cuts just above where a bud is pointing in the direction you want the new growth to occur.

Prune to encourage flowering

To promote an abundance of flowering next season, prune your crape myrtles in late winter or early spring. Selected from among the many varieties of crape myrtles for their heavy bloom production, the following cultivars are better choices for a floral display:

‘Hopi’ has dense clusters of fuchsia flowers and grows to be about 20 feet tall.

‘Natchez’ has large, pure white flowers and grows to be about 30 feet tall.

‘Sioux’ has deep pink flowers and grows to be about 15 feet tall.

After you prune

It’s important to prune your crape myrtle trees in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This will prevent damage to the plant and allow it to heal quickly. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to prune your crape myrtle trees.

Apply mulch

Applying a layer of mulch will help to keep weeds from growing and will also help to hold in moisture. A 2- to 4-inch layer of chips or bark will do the trick. Be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the tree trunk to prevent rot.

Water the tree

After you have pruned your crape myrtle, it is important to water the tree. This will help the tree recover from the pruning and will also help prevent any further stress to the tree. When watering the tree, be sure to water at the base of the tree and not at the top.

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