Crape myrtles are a favorite tree along the Gulf Coast. It seems that every yard has at least one tree and landscapers frequently rely on these flowering trees for street plantings and commercial properties.
Crape myrtles are low maintenance plants that reward us with colorful flowers throughout the warmer months. Flowers are not the only virtue of this tree. Many varieties have beautiful bark and growth habits that can be enjoyed all year if trees are not heavily pruned. Newer selections even have attractive dark red-purple foliage.
Unfortunately, many crape myrtles receive unnecessary pruning every winter in the form of topping or hat-racking. The practice of topping trees is so common that many people believe it to be needed in order for the tree to flower heavily. This is not the case. Crape myrtles bloom on new growth which will occur without any pruning. Trees will continue to flower without topping and we all can then enjoy the natural shape and shade that the trees provide. Less pruning also saves the need to dispose of all the trimmings and may reduce your need for chemicals to manage unsightly powdery mildew or sooty mold. If you are pruning because your tree is too large for the location, consider removing it and planting a tree or shrub that fits that spot.
There is a crape myrtle for any sunny spot. Crape myrtles cultivars range in size from 1 foot to over 20 feet tall. Shop carefully so that you purchase a suitable plant for your landscape. Visit UF IFAS Extension Escambia County Demonstration Gardens to see many selections of crape myrtles.