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What Are the Best Tips for Pruning Crepe Myrtle?

A.E. Freeman
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Timing is almost everything when it comes to pruning crepe myrtle trees. A gardener shouldn't prune too early or too late in the season. Removing the right growth is also important when pruning crepe myrtle, as is using the proper pruning tools, such as a hand pruner for narrow twigs and a pruning saw for thick branches. It is also possible to over-prune a crepe myrtle, which can make it difficult for the tree to grow back to the right shape.

In most areas, the best time for pruning crepe myrtle is in late winter or very early spring. Pruning a crepe myrtle tree early in the winter, for example in December or even November, may encourage the tree to produce new growth and even bloom in winter if the weather warms up for a spell. If the tree produces growth in the freezing months, however, it can lead to damage to the tree, as the tree should not be active when the weather is cold.

Waiting until the middle of spring to prune crepe myrtle isn't a good idea either. As the weather warms, the tree will grow leaves, which can make pruning crepe myrtle difficult, as the gardener won't be able to see where to cut. A gardener should prune before the tree begins to produce new growth.

When pruning crepe myrtle, the suckers on the bottom of the tree trunk should be cut off first. The suckers pull energy away from the rest of the tree, potentially causing it to not bloom and grow fully on the top. If there are any low branches coming off of the main trunk, they should be cut away next.

A gardener needs to use the proper tools when pruning crepe myrtle. Hand pruners are perfect for branches and stems less than 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) thick, while a pruning saw should be used on very thick stems, those more than 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide. Loppers are suitable for branches in between.

It is possible to cut back a crepe myrtle too much, which will damage its growth in the coming year. Ideally, a gardener won't cut the stems to a length shorter than 6 inches (15 cm) and won't cut stems that have another stem growing out of them unless the entire branch is dead. At each cut, two new stems will grow. As it can become crowded in the center of the tree, a gardener may prune branches that grow toward the center a bit more than branches on the outside of the tree.

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A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and retention. With a background in the arts, she combines her writing prowess with best practices to deliver compelling content across various domains and effectively connect with target audiences.
Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Jun 05, 2012
@SarahSon - I think the climate where you live does make a difference in when you prune your myrtle tree. If you live in a warmer climate, you might be better off pruning it later in the fall.

I have also discovered how important it is to remove the suckers at the bottom. This is important not just for myrtle trees, but any kind of tree or shrub you are trimming.

By keeping the suckers off the bottom, you will not only have a healthier tree, but it will stay shaped a lot nicer too. It is much easier to do this when they are small than to wait until they are huge.

By SarahSon — On Jun 05, 2012

Knowing when to prune something like a crepe myrtle tree has always been confusing to me. I know that pruning encourages growth, so I will usually do my pruning in the spring instead of the fall.

I live in an area that has extremely cold winters, so if I pruned this tree in the fall, I don't think it would be the best timing.

The trick is to get out there early enough in the spring before there is much growth on it. It is also a little bit easier to keep it shaped properly before the new growth appears.

By julies — On Jun 04, 2012

There really seems to be a fine line between pruning a crepe myrtle tree back far enough, yet not pruning it too much.

It seems like these trees can easily get overgrown if they are not pruned and maintained on a regular basis. One year I thought I would make less work for myself by pruning the tree way back.

I almost ruined the tree as it was very slow at coming back in the spring. It eventually came out of it, but I learned my lesson and make sure I don't prune back too much anymore.

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and...
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