How to Prune a Crape Myrtle Properly

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The crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) is a diverse genus of plants that range in height from 18 inches to 40 feet. Crape myrtles are generally grown for their showy flowers that bloom red, purple, pink or white in the summer. The plant's form is variety-dependent as well, from shrubby to spreading to tree-like. Prune crape myrtles during the dormant season, the winter, so you can better see the plant's structure as you prune.

Things You'll Need

  • Bypass hand pruners
  • Long-handled pole pruner
  • Cut branches flush with their points of origin, or to the branch collar if you cut to the main trunk. The branch collar is the swollen area on the trunk from where the branch grows. Don't cut into the collar; cut the branch flush with it. This method applies to all cuts made on the crape myrtle.

  • Create new shoots when you prune by cutting 1/2 inch above an outward-facing bud or stem. The plant will produce a new growth below that cut.

  • Prune mature crepe myrtle, whether grown as a shrub or a standard, to remove excess growth in the interior. This helps avoid powdery mildew by allowing for better air circulation within the plant. Remove dead and broken branches and those that rub against others. Use the pole pruner for branches that you can't reach with the pruning shears.

  • Shape the exterior of the plant to your taste. Stand back periodically and check your work to make sure the crape myrtle isn't lopsided.

  • Remove sprouts from the lower part of the trunk on tree-grown crape myrtles -- standard or multi-trunked. The shrub continues to revert to form, so removal of new growth below the canopy is an annual chore.

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