Friday, August 9, 2013

Sorting the Crape Myrtle Muddle

Frequent outcries are made concerning the topping or pollarding of Crape Myrtle trees. Landscape crews cut tops off routinely and uninformed gardeners think it is necessary for good bloom. 'Crape Murder' is neither good practice nor a requirement for good bloom.

The only reason for cutting the upper limbs of a crape myrtle is to remove limbs that cross or to reshape trees that were planted in too tight a space. Lower limbs may be removed to form trees which is my preference. Crape myrtles in a tight space could be cut to the ground every year and grown as a shrub.
Better would be to buy a dwarf form to fit the space.

Lilacina Crape Myrtles in my front garden.

Pink Crape Myrtle planted where it has room to grow, 
the first consideration in choosing a tree. 

They come in colors from White to Purple and all shades of red and pink. 

Rarely do you see mention of fragrance. I've only noticed fragrance in the white.

Crape myrtles provide fall color,.

The colorful crape above is shown from the opposite direction in the pic below from the previous year. As Crape Myrtles grow, the lower limbs are pruned to show the sculptural forms of the trunk and reveal the exfoliating bark.  

I put Crape Myrtles at the ends of groups of 3 Loropetalum.

When Crape Myrtles are to grow as trees, from 1-7 trunks are left. There are specific instructions on many sites online on pruning for best form and how to recover a tree that has been pollarded leaving ugly knobs. The best information comes from University Extension sites. A landscape care business that I looked at said that the knuckles left when trees are topped over and over provide 'energy for new growth.' I don't think so.

My opinion is that cutting off the tops down to nubs causes the tree to expend energy from the roots to grow new branches before it can put on blooms.  

Natchez, never murdered.

In the summer when the first flush of bloom fades, I deadhead as high as I can reach for better rebloom. Cutting the old bloom heads and pruning away any suckering at the bottom is all the pruning necessary.
Joining the flower fest at Tootsie's Flaunt Your Flowers.


  1. That is a very interesting post! I have a couple of Crepe Myrtle volunteers in my yard that I have looked at and wondered just how to prune them. All the trees in Eufaula are cut way back by the professional gardening staff there. We return to the South too late usually to see them in bloom, and I've never trimmed mine - now I won't feel guilty about that!

  2. Your trees are beautiful and obviously well cared for. The Crape Myrtle is a tree I've coveted for years; however, I've resisted the urge to plant one out of fear that it would succumb to constant mildew due to the marine air. Do you know of a mildew resistant variety?

  3. Thanks Rosemary, for the kind comments.
    Kris, Some of the University Extemsion sites have recommendations for mildew resistant varieties. I just planted what I had and was given.

    Back in the spring when they first put on leaves, one of the Lilacinas had a bad case of mildew. Only one, so I thought, 'I'll just leave that one and cut it to the ground and let the Duranta planted too closely take that spot. Eventually the mildew disappeared and it has bloomed as well and has as glossy leaves as its neighbors during the month of rain we just had. I'm not inclined much to 'fix' things with chemicals.

  4. Yesterday, I cut off the seed pods...I am glad you wrote this. I, only cut below them. In an effort for them to rebloom assuming that they you wrote.

  5. watch for tender new growth, Janie, followed by new blooms.

  6. I inherited a crape myrtle when we moved into this house. Never had one before, because it is not a favorite of mine. But I am coming to appreciate their beauty.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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