We love crape myrtles. They’re a perfect tree for our region, with gorgeous flowers that last from June through the fall in fabulous shades of red, pink, white, and purple. For many of us, these heat-loving beauties evoke beach vacations with a sweet southern vibe. Because they’re attractive and easy to grow, crape myrtles continue to rise in popularity in the DMV. Their leaves stay beautiful even after flowers fade. Their unique peeling bark adds color and texture, keeping these deciduous trees interesting throughout the winter.
Crape Myrtles 101
Crape myrtles, officially known as Lagerstroemia, are named for their lovely, crinkly crepe-like texture. There are dozens of varieties of this regional favorite. Depending on the species, they can be multi-stemmed, with several slender trunks growing from the same root system, or single-trunked. Some crape myrtles are compact shrubs– miniature and dwarf varieties stay less than 5 feet tall. Others grow into trees as tall as 20 feet. Crape myrtles are beloved because of their low-maintenance reputation. However, they need annual pruning to keep trees healthy and flowers lush and beautiful.
When Should I Prune My Crape Myrtles?
Late winter or early spring is the ideal time to prune your crape myrtles. Catch them while the trees are dormant before new growth begins to prevent excessive new growth.
What Should I Keep In Mind When Pruning My Crape Myrtles?
Thoughtful pruning instead of an aggressive approach is the way to go. Tips for beautiful trees include the following:
- Take care when pruning for size: Crape myrtles can be growth monsters, so we may want to control their size. Selectively remove older branches from ground level instead of shearing the top to preserve your tree’s health and appearance.
- Deadheading: Remove aging or damaged flower heads to encourage the development of new blooms. Deadheading leads to more flowers and a healthier, more beautiful plant.
- Selective pruning: Remove dead, damaged, or diseased wood. Selectively prune crossing or rubbing branches. When two branches “conflict,” choose one to keep (usually the branch pointing toward the outside of the shrub) and remove the other.
- Thinning: Remove smaller interior branches to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration.
Consider your tree’s natural shape as you prune. Get to know your tree and its natural form and work to preserve it instead of making drastic changes.
- Care and artistry are vital when pruning a flowering tree or shrub, one more reason to choose a team of experienced landscape professionals.
What Should I Avoid When Pruning My Crape Myrtle?
Crape myrtles like a delicate touch instead of an overly aggressive approach. Some pruning no-nos include:
Don’t “top” your crape myrtles. Avoid shearing/indiscriminately cutting branches at a uniform height. It can lead to weak, unattractive growth. Instead, selective pruning is the way to go.
Avoid “hard” pruning. This high-stress process involves giving your plant a severe cut to stimulate growth and create a more beautiful tree. It works well for some shrubs. However, it can lead to weird shapes and unnatural growth if done wrong. Open wounds can open the door to pests and disease without proper care.
Choose a professional landscaping team to avoid damage to your investment and keep your landscape looking its best.
How Can I Care for My Crape Myrtle After Pruning?
After pruning, consider a balanced fertilizer to encourage new growth. Talk with your landscaping team about strategies for keeping your crape myrtles healthy year-round. These southern favorites are hardy, forgiving, and oh-so-easy on the eyes. They also demand a gentle, thoughtful touch. Aggressive, careless, or one-size-fits-all pruning can hurt your tree. Selective pruning is an art that can help you get the most out of your flowering beauties. The knowledgeable experts at Epling Landscaping and Lawn Service can help you select the perfect size and color for your landscape and keep your trees healthy and vibrant. Let’s set up a meeting soon for winter and spring pruning, planning, and planting.