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Pruning a Crepe Myrtle Tree

Question:

What month should you prune a crepe myrtle tree?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

LORRAINE from LINDENHURST

Answer:

Lorraine,

Flowers are produced on new growth, so it's best to prune in the late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant (February through April). Occasionally, Crepe Myrtle trees can also be encouraged to produce a second flush of flowers by lightly pruning them immediately after the first flowers fade. Keep in mind that heavy pruning isn't necessary to promote vigorous flowering. Light pruning is better. "Crepe Murder" is the amusing expression used to describe the wide spread, late winter mutilation of Crepe Myrtle trees commonly committed by well-intentioned gardeners each spring. Many gardeners and landscapers wait too long to prune. When vigorous growth results in heavy, yet weak (and broken) branches, they start to lop off the tree's limbs in an effort to control growth and fix its appearance. This practice of overzealous pruning almost always results in a proliferation of knobby stumps and crowds of sprouting suckers that over time, work to completely diminish the lovely flowing appearance of the tree.

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A regular regime of light pruning in various places will prevent this, while invigorating the tree and improving its overall strength. And while pruning isn't required for the health of your tree, a complete lack of pruning usually results in a weak spindly tree with fewer flowers. It's best to pick a variety that will grow to your desired height, and then prune it lightly to maintain its size. If necessary, remove limbs from inside the tree's canopy that cross or hang too low, by removing the entire branch so that it's flush with the tree's trunk. Remember that any stubs you leave while pruning will encourage new shoots.

Ellen Brown

More Answers:

Pruning a Crepe Myrtle Tree

Don't know about your area, but anytime the tree seems dormant especially, OR just after it blooms out in the Spring, remove all dead branches and old bloomed out stems. Caution: Do NOT cut in the middle of a branch. You will NOT be please with the results. Best to remove the entire branch if you need.

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Cut it flush with it's parent branch. If you are shaping into a tree, just remove the lower stems at the absolute base of connection to the trunk so the wound can heal over, and keep
enough branches on it, if a newer tree, to keep it growing. Each year you can remove a few more until.

Remember that the trees WILL produce other tree off-spring from the "saplings" nearby and underground roots. If you want them, let them live, otherwise be persistent in cutting them back. Do NOT plant Crepe Myrtles near foundations or concrete because they will lift and crack it. Give them about 10-12 feet from foundations/walks. I made this mistake and am suffering the consequences of a tilted walk. This actually goes for most ANY tree, especially if they are invasive and have tough large roots.

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I believe it would be prudent to paint any cut larger than 3" wide with pruning paint, but carefully, as the bark is light and the paint is black and ugly. It helps prevent unsightly dark grey healing. I know of no pests that attack Crepe Myrtles in Texas, zone 8. Good luck and God bless. (08/19/2006)

By Lynda

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