Here in the Southern States, late January and early February is the time of year where you may notice your neighbors and other landscape companies starting to prune crape myrtles and were wondering if you should prune back yours. We're almost certain you've seen others cutting back the crape myrtles back to ugly stumps, also known to some as "crape murder".

When a crape myrtle is cut back this way, it has 2 effects:

  1. Cuts back the amount of healthy flowers it will produce in the summer months. Crape myrtles are very hardy, so they are very forgiving during periods of neglect or over pruning, but imagine the display of flowers your plant will give you with the proper care!
  2. Newer branches won't be able to hold the weight of the blooms due to growing too long and weak especially when wet. These long branches bend over and can break off during heavier rainfalls.

When a crape myrtle is pruned properly, it has 2 positive affects: 

  1. Produces double the amount of branches and blooms as the year before.
  2. New healthy branches can now support the new blooms.

New studies from leading horticulture schools at Texas A&M and Clemson University indicate that a more strategic and careful approach to pruning decreases the risk of damage and produces a better looking tree. Usually, only minor pruning and cleanup is all that’s needed, depending on the size of the tree.

In most cases, the best thing for the plant is to strip off the seed pods and remove lower branches and suckers that grow from the base of the trunk. Remove any branches that appear to be duplicates or nothing bigger than the size of your thumb. This will help manage the plant and keep it from growing out of control.

For larger trees, especially for those that have been neglected, more care is often required. Pruning within five feet off the ground is not always the best practice. When branches are cut back significantly, heavier flower clusters result and usually bend branches to the ground. If a tree is overloaded, trimming should be done to alleviate weight so the tree doesn’t droop, especially after rains.


Dee said:

How to maintain a bush like crape myrtle instead of a tall one? I only want them to grow up to 6-7ft.
Can you instruct me on how to do this! We bought 10 for border control so neighbors are out of sight.

Thank you for any help.

Wayne Weston said:

My crepes have grown too high & are now in contact w/overhead wiring. Either I meticulously lower or contractors of the electrical company will butcher. What should I do?

Jerry Spangler said:

Question: I have sever crape myrtles which volunteered to grow a on my lot.
One grows in late spring and yellow leaves. During growing season most leaves turn green with yellow leaves at the end of branches. What is it? Leaves are same as other crape myrtles I have. Others bloom lavender and lavender pink.

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