The method for pruning a lower growing, dwarf, shrub-form crape myrtle is much different than for pruning taller crape myrtle trees.
Plant breeders are continuing to improve and introduce new smaller growing crape myrtles which are useful for planting in smaller garden spaces or for growing in containers. There are several new dwarf series to consider, such as the Cherry Dazzle Dwarf Crape Myrtle (pictured right), Dixie Series, Fleming Filligrees Series, Little Chief Series and Petite Series crapemyrtles. Hardy to zones 6-9, all the varieties in these groups of dwarf plants hold attributes that make them easy to grow for home gardeners. They also look great just about anywhere: as a border, mass planting or part of a perennial garden, as well as in containers with annuals and perennials. They even work well in bonsai combinations, thanks to their small leaves, mature trunk and twisted branches.
How To Prune A Dwarf Crape Myrtle
The methods of pruning dwarf crape myrtle range from easy to not at all. For starters, the plants really don’t require pruning - they have a slow growth rate and a good natural form all on their own.
If your plants are full and dense, I'd suggest leaving them alone, or maybe just use hand pruners to snip off the old flower/seed heads from the previous season.
If your dwarf crape myrtle are young and sparsely branched, with maybe just a few widely spaced stems/branches, you might want to give them a pruning to make them more dense. If so, cut these branches back by one-third to half their height. Cut all stems in a way that the plant will form a nice, even, mounded or rounded shape when it fills out with foliage. Keep in mind when you are prune a crape myrtle that wherever you make your cut two or more new branches will emerge from just beneath where you make your cuts. So, the next year you'll want to prune 3 or 4 inches or so above where the previous years cuuts were made. This pruning method will double the number of branches every year. After a few years of pruning like this you shouldn't have to prune anymore - the plant will keep a nice, dense form all on its own.
When to Prune A Dwarf Crape Myrtle
Late Winter - You'll want to prune dwarf crape myrtle in late winter or early spring, before new leaves begin to emerge. That being said, broken or stray branches that spoil the shape of the crape myrtle can be removed any time of year.
Summer - Deadheading (the removal of faded flowers) can be done during the flowering season to encourage reblooming from summer through fall. To remove a faded flower cluster, simply snip it off with a pair of hand pruners.
If you need more details don't hesistate to ask a question in the comments section below and I'll be happy to answer it for you.