pink crepe myrtle blooms

Pruning Crepe Myrtle 101: All You Need to Know

If you’re thinking of planting crepe myrtles in your garden or backyard, you should know that these shrubs require pruning in order to develop. If you take care of them properly, they will grow multiple trunks, and their bark will peel. Pruning is an extremely important step in the process of caring for crepe myrtles mostly because this type of shrub blooms from new growths. While there isn’t a lot you have to worry about when it comes to this process, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. That’s why we’ve devised a guide to pruning crepe myrtle that includes everything you need to know.

Pruning Crepe Myrtle: Full Guide

1. Gather the Equipment You Need

Especially if you don’t own any other plants that require pruning, you might need to purchase some of the equipment you need for pruning crepe myrtle. Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of things for this process. The first and most important tool you’re going to need is a hand pruner. You’re going to use this to prune the thinner branches and the small twigs. We recommend the Hardened Steel Gardening Hand Pruner right here. The next thing you’ll need is a looper like this one here, which you’re going to use to cut branches that are thicker and that you can’t reach that easily.

For even thicker branches, an Extendable Pole Saw and Tree Pruner is everything you need. Finally, you should also consider getting a pruning saw, which is the ultimate tool in what concerns cutting extremely thick branches. We recommend the Heavy Duty Pruning Saw from Tarvol that you can order here.

2. Decide When to Do the Pruning

The first thing you need to know about pruning crepe myrtle is that you can’t do it whenever you want. If you want your plants to bloom beautifully, you have two options. You either prune it in late winter, or you do it in early spring. If the tree contains a lot of branches and is extremely thick (which is usually the case), we advise you to prune before the leaves sprout. That way, you’ll be able to see better which branches you need to cut and which ones are perfect as they are. There’s also something you can do in the summer in order to ensure you provide your crepe myrtle with the best of care which is removing the faded flowers. If you’re wondering how this helps, it can actually help a second bloom.

3. Think About How You Want Your Crepe Myrtle to Look

Before pruning crepe myrtle, you have to come up with a plan of how you want it to look. Never start pruning before you do this. That’s because you might end up with a tree or bush shaped nothing like what you expected and desired. When creating the plan, you should keep in mind personal preference, as well as what helps the crepe myrtle look its best. For instance, if you prune more in the middle of the tree, the crepe myrtle is going to grow to be healthier and more beautiful. That’s because this opening allows the air to circulate freely. Another piece of advice we have for you is not to prune too heavily, especially not at the bottom of the trunk.

row of heavily pruned crepe myrtle trees

Keeping that in mind, you should decide how you want the crepe myrtle to look after you prune it. The great thing about pruning this tree is that you get to decide both its shape and size. In terms of size, most crepe myrtles don’t grow higher than 6 feet. Keep in mind that they tend to grow around 1 to 2 feet each season. So depending on the height you want the crepe myrtle to have, prune back 1 or 2 feet. The shape is also completely up to you, so don’t be afraid to be creative. If you have other types of trees in your garden, you might want to prune the crepe myrtle so that it complements them.

4. Go Through an In-Depth Pruning

There are two main ways of pruning crepe myrtle. The first one goes more in-depth, while the second one is a bit gentler. Today, we’re going to detail both of them, starting with the in-depth one.

The first thing you have to do is look at the bottom of the tree and prune those small sprouts. If you fail to do so, your crepe myrtle will look extremely bushy, which is something you want to avoid. If you happen to notice these sprouts when they’ve barely started growing, you can simply use your hands to pull them out. Doing it when they’ve already grown a bit means using the hand pruner to trim them. Be careful not to damage the large trunks when you do this.

Then, the side branches are next. These are the branches that grow on the sides of the trunk. You don’t have to cut all of them, just the ones that grow on the bottom half of the trunk. This process (called limbing-up) helps you shape the crepe myrtle in a more attractive way. Remember that if you’re pruning a young crepe myrtle tree, you should cut the tiny limbs growing at the bottom of the trunk, and only leave about 5 of them, more precisely those which are the strongest. While you’re there, also remove branches that you notice growing either towards the center of the crepe myrtle tree or horizontally.

One of the most important steps of pruning crepe myrtle involves getting rid of any dead or damaged branches. For this step, you might need all of the tools we mentioned above. The hand pruner is perfect for branches that are quite small and that you can reach with a short handle. For thicker and hard to reach branches, use the looper. For taller and even thicker ones, the pole pruner is your safest bet. It’s important to remove dead branches because of two main reasons. The first is purely aesthetic because no tree looks good with dead branches clouding the healthy ones. The second relates more to the health of your crepe myrtle tree. Dead or diseased branches can affect the healthy ones if left next to them for too long.

man pruning crepe myrtle

Apart from removing dead branches, you should also remove crossing ones. They spoil the look of the tree as well. If you notice them forming unusual angles or not fitting in the shape you chose for your tree, don’t hesitate to cut them off.

Finally, you should also know that if some branches are too long and thin, they won’t be able to sustain the weight of the blooms later on. Which means you’re going to have to cut them to a more decent size. This ensures they won’t bend under the weight of the flowers that are about to grow on them. As a couple of last tips, if you want to remove entire branches, make sure you leave no stub behind, and if you were thinking of cutting off the seed pods, it isn’t necessary since it won’t mess with the blooming process.

5. Try a Gentler Pruning

The second method of pruning crepe myrtle is gentler than the first, and it also takes less time to complete. The reason why some people prefer this option is because the one above, even though great for producing plenty of blooms, takes a toll on the shape of the crepe myrtle. The more branches you remove, the more the tree is going to try to replace them. This means that in about a year, the branches you left behind will grow even larger than before.

Crepe myrtles tend to look better when you prune them more gently. What does that imply, you ask? Well, you could cut the branches making sure that none of them start under 3 feet. Moreover, you can attempt a V shape at the end of each branch, as well as remove all of the small branches at the bottom of the trunk.

Summing Everything Up

Crepe myrtles are some of the most beautiful and sturdy trees you could grow. If you have any experience with them, you can corroborate that. If you’ve never grown such a tree before, we advise you not to hesitate any longer. It can spruce up the look of your garden or backyard in no time. One of the main attractions of the crepe myrtle is its gorgeous flowers. They come in multiple colors, each more beautiful than the next.

However, if you want the flowers to look their best, and your tree to be healthy, you’re going to have to be diligent when it comes to pruning it. We hope you found today’s article to be everything you were looking for in a pruning crepe myrtle guide. As long as you follow the instructions above, you’ll provide your plants with a proper pruning.

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Bonnie Enos

I spend my time in my garden trying to create the greatest outdoor space possible. My garden is my happy place and where you will always find me on a nice day. I take my experience and share it here for you to read!

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