Rescuing Crape Myrtles from Over Pruning

crape myrtle in bloomAs beautiful plants burst into bloom around us, it becomes clear which trees have suffered improper pruning over the winter. Nothing displays poor pruning better (or worse) than crape myrtles. These slim-limbed, graceful, brightly flowering trees grow rampant in the South . . . and so does their mistreatment. In fact, it’s difficult to go anywhere in the spring without coming face to face with the stubby, stunted shapes of badly pruned crape myrtle trees. If you or a friend has murdered your crape myrtles, it’s time to fess up and fix the problem.

A Problem for Your Plants

Homeowners, municipal gardeners, and even professional landscapers fall prey to the “chop and run” method when pruning crape myrtles. Many gardeners over-prune their summer ornamentals because they don’t know any better. Others cave to peer pressure when they see their friends and neighbors happily hacking at their summer beauties. While stunting your crape myrtles does give them bigger, brighter blooms, it leaves the spindly new limbs too weak to support them. Healthy crape myrtles may hold their blooms for up to three months; if you murder your crape myrtle, it may be closer to three weeks.

Fixing a Crape Myrtle Pruning Disaster

When pruning crape myrtles, the goal is to keep the lofty, elegant structure of the plant intact. But if your yard is already spotted with over-pruned crape myrtles, there’s still hope on the horizon. How to fix your crape myrtle:

  • Make the most of your summer blooms this year
  • Plan your pruning carefully next winter
  • In January or February, prune off the side branches jutting out from the trunk
  • Prune all but one shoot growing from each trunk stub
  • Over the next several years, train the branches to grow up and out

If you’ve spent years pruning down your crape myrtle because it grows too large, you’ve probably planted the wrong ornamental tree for the space. Crape myrtles come in a variety of sizes and species. Call 3am Growers and find a summer blooming tree that suits the needs of your landscape.