Spring is right around the corner, and right now is the absolute perfect time to prune your Crepe Myrtle trees. Late winter and early spring is the ideal time because there are no leaves and all the branches are not only clear to see, but easily accessible to trim. Crepe myrtles bloom on new growth and are summer bloomers, so don’t wait too late to get started.
The habit of Crepe Myrtles is to produce multiple trunks, which can cause the plant to get crowded as it matures. A healthy, well-structured Crepe Myrtle will have only a few main trunks. Good pruning while crape myrtles are young will mean less maintenance when the trees are older.
Tools Needed to Prune Crepe Myrtles:
- Loppers: These are a large pair of pruners with long handles. These are helpful when cutting thicker branches, about ½ to 1 inch thick.
- Hand Pruners: These are a small pair of pruners used to prune smaller branches and shrubs with stems no larger than ½ inch thick.
- Pole Saw: This is a saw on the end of a pole, used to prune branches thicker than 1 ½ inches.
- A chain saw is only needed when you want to majorly prune your crepe myrtle back to half its size, and should only be used by a professional.
Pruning your Crepe Myrtle:
- First, you want to prune small sprouts that grow at the bottom of the tree; these are called “suckers.” Use your hand pruners to cut the suckers off, or you can pull them out right when they first sprout. You want to leave any large, thick trunks.
- Next, you want to continue working from the bottom up and cut any side branches growing out of the trunk. Do this about halfway up the trunk. This step is called “limbing-up” and this helps your tree maintain an attractive figure.
- Then, you want to begin pruning branches that are growing toward the inside of the tree or horizontally. In addition, you want to prune out dead limbs and limbs growing at an angle that doesn’t fit with the shape of tree you desire, including crossing and rubbing branches.
- Lastly, cut off any long or arching branches to no bigger than ½ inch in diameter. Thin branches will still bloom, however, they will not be able to withstand the weight of the blossoms, causing the limbs to droop or break. Always cut back to a larger branch of the trunk, leaving it flush with the trunk. Don’t leave stumps.
Remember, don’t over cut your crepe myrtle because you can always go back and trim more if needed. Also, you want to trim branches in the crown to allow for sunlight to reach down into the center of the plant. This allows for a strong, healthy crepe myrtle all summer long.