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My Neighbors Are Pruning Their Crepe Myrtles. Is It Time to Prune Them?

A properly pruned Crepe Myrtle is generally pruned the same way a shade tree is pruned.
A properly pruned Crepe Myrtle is generally pruned the same way a shade tree is pruned. Photo by NC State University Onslow County Cooperative Extension.

Published March 1, 2010 By BEN THOMAS

 

As the leaves drop, and the dormant season begins, it is the optimal time to prune Crepe Myrtles.

Many varieties of Crepe Myrtles planted in our local landscapes become small trees, growing to a mature height exceeding 15 feet. When it comes to pruning these trees, do so for the same reasons you prune other species of trees. Remove deadwood or the occasional broken limb, remove crossing limbs that create wounds, raise the canopy for sidewalk or driveway clearance, or improving roof and building clearance.

Frequently, Crepe Myrtles are improperly pruned in a method referred to as topping. Many avid tree lovers call the method Crepe Murder. Topping is the removal of all limbs to the previous year's pruning scars. The scars are sometimes called knuckles. It is not clear when or where this pruning practice began, but knuckling i both harmful and ugly. Knucklers claim topping helps produce more blooms the following summer. However, research has debunked that statement. What it does cause is rapid unhealthy growth that is more susceptible to insect attack, and branching which is structurally inferior.

The seedpods that remain on the plant after the leaves drop are occasionally an aesthetic thorn in the side of some Crepe Myrtle owners. These may be removed, but it is not necessary. These pods will drop from the plant as the new spring growth emerges.

Like other trees, Crepe Myrtles may be pruned at anytime of the year if need be. However, remeber that they bloom on current year's growth, and removal of current year's growth will likely reduce the volume of flowers. For more information on pruning Crepe Myrtles, see two resources below or call Arborilogical Services, Inc.® toll free at 866-55-ARBOR.

 

RESOURCES REGARDING CREPE MYRTLE PRUNING:

  1. Crepe Myrtle Pruning By STEVE HOUSER
  2. Pruning Mature Trees: http://www.treesaregood.org/portals/0/docs/treecare/Pruning_MatureTrees.pdf

About the author

Mr. Ben Thomas

Mr. Thomas is a proud Eagle Scout, a degreed urban and community forester, and member of the certified arborist team at Arborilogical Services, "The Experts Your Trees Deserve."®

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