Crape Myrtle Pruning

By Christina Howard

Across the southeast, there seems to be a continuation of improper crape myrtle pruning occurring. Many horticulturists and home gardeners refer to the unwarranted topping of the trees to reduce height as “crape murder”. Unfortunately, there are more crape myrtles being pruned incorrectly than crape myrtles being pruned correctly. Although this practice does not kill the tree, it can result in trees declining in health after years of improper pruning. To avoid a crape myrtle becoming too large for certain locations, make sure to properly select the size at full maturity.

Crape Myrtle Pruning

When we prune crape myrtles, we make sure that the plant is thinned and not topped. We remove all branches that rub against each other and prune out branches that cross each other or are in competition with each other. We also remove branches that do not contribute to the overall growth direction, shape that you desire for the tree and eliminate suckers at the base of the tree and watersprouts (vigorous upright growth) in the tree canopy. During the late fall through late winter is our ideal time to prune crape myrtles.

Properly pruned crape myrtles will have:

  • Strong Branches
  • Stunning Flowers
  • More Pollinating Insects
  • Contained Upright Growth
  • Fewer Suckers
  • Less Fungal Decay in Wood
  • Fewer Insects
  • More Canopy Air Circulation

Note: It is always best to follow the recommended horticultural practices to improve long term plant health.