Pruning A Crape Myrtle Tree
When it comes to pruning crape myrtles, it would be better to leave them alone than to prune them improperly. We've all seen over-pruning, when each and every year people chop crape myrtles back too far, and what we call "knuckles" begin to form. These knuckles, or what I think actually look more like clenched fists, grow larger every year when folks cut last years knew growth back all the way to the knuckles. If you would like to create beautiful crape myrtle trees continue reading this article to find out the proper way to prune them so your trees don't end up with these ugly, deformities we call knuckles.
When a crape myrtle is pruned back too far it has two effects:
- Reduces the number of blooms that will be produced during summer.
- New branches will grow far too long and therefore not be able to support the weight of heavy blooms - particularly when wet. These long branches weep over and often break off during heavy rains.
When a crape myrtle is pruned properly:
- It will produce twice the number of branches and therefore twice the number blooms as it did during the previous year.
- The new branches will be strong enough to support blooms.
NOTE: When a crape myrtle has reached 5 to 8 years in age and/or has developed a nice, full canopy, I usually discontinue pruning them.
The Right Time to Prune A Crape Myrtle
Wrong-season pruning would mean November and December. Don't let "peer pressure" by neighbors and commercial gardening crews get to you. If you trim the crapes in the last two months of the year, and we get a warming trend in January or February, the trees might actually start putting on new growth. That new growth will be highly susceptible to freezing weather should it come on the heals of a warm spell. New growth will also tend to draw the cold right into the plant, causing needless damage to a tree that should be resting in dormancy.
So, the best time to trim crapes is in late winter or early spring - just prior to new growth emerging. For years, we've suggested this as a great time to trim them, because at that time we're also trimming back our roses and many other plants and trees.