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Pruning Your Crape Myrtle

Crape Myrtle Image CCO

Crape Myrtle at Sunset

Pruning your Crape Myrtle

One of the attractive  flowering trees in the landscape is the Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia sp.  Their shape, bark color, and flowers are a highlight of the summer landscape in Florida.  As is more easy to see over the winter months, however, many landscapers and homeowners top crape myrtles.  This pruning practice creates an unattractive plant with large limbs and branch stubs exposed.  While seen widely both in Florida and in other states, this practice leads to multiple weak branches growing out of a single cut limb.  It also can result in many suckers coming up from the base of the plant.  Topping, or pollarding (cutting back to the same place each year) leads to less flowers being produced in the summer.

Correct Pruning of Crape Myrtles

Selecting the right crape myrtle planted in the right place results in little or no pruning needed.  However, there are reasons for prune crape myrtles.  Pruning correctly leads to a plant with a better plant structure and appearance, and to the production of more flowers.  While it is best to prune just before the dormant season ends in late winter to early spring, you should remove dead, diseased and dying limbs at any time.

Remove limbs that prevent the movement of people or vehicles, or are safety hazards. Prune vigorous limbs that grow quickly out of the middle of your crape myrtle. Branches that are crossing or rubbing should also be pruned .  Trim the smaller branches after flowering or fruiting at any time without risk of excessive buds breaking.  Correctly pruning your crape myrtle will provide you with an attractive flowering plant during the summer months in your Florida landscape.

For information on Crape Myrtles, read about Crape Myrtle Pruning, the New Red-Flowered Crape Myrtles, and Crape Myrtle in Florida, which provides a great list of crape myrtle sizes, colors and disease resistance.

5 Comments on “Pruning Your Crape Myrtle

  1. We’re new to FL and crepe Myrtle trees. Do I prune heavy branches where it appears little flowers or berries are brown. They look dried up. How far back do you prune?
    Thank you

    • Hi Gail,

      You can prune dead, diseased or crossing limbs at any time, but its best to do pruning during the dormant season. You may notice some people have their crape myrtles topped which is an undesirable method of pruning. It can result in excessive sprouts from the base and a plant that takes longer to flower. Topping results in many sprouts emerging out of the cut limbs. Often crape myrtles don’t need any pruning but you can remove the seed clusters. Crape myrtles may flower from perhaps late spring/early summer to late summer depending on the cultivar. They will not flower again until next year, and the leaves should drop so the structure of the crape myrtle should be more apparent. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. I have a small crepe Myrtle tree and all the tiny branches look dead. It has dead looking berries on the top also. Should I cut that off? It’s here in California months of early March.

  3. I too am new to the area and was told by my neighbor that the huge tree in the yard is a white crape myrtle. There are many thin branches coming up from the base. Are they considered to be suckers -and should they be removed?
    Thank you

    • Hi Sylvia,

      Yes, suckers that are coming from the base of a crape myrtle can be removed. Sometimes they may come up due to topping the crape myrtle in the fall, and some varieties that are shrub-like tend to try to return to their previous growth habit.

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