How To Grow

When To Prune Crepe Myrtle Tree

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Crepe Myrtle plants are colorful gems that add charm and beauty to your garden. It's important to know the best time to prune them to keep them healthy and looking their best. In this guide, we will make it easy for both experienced and new gardeners to know when the perfect time is to prune this beautiful plant.

Trimming your myrtle plants not only makes them stronger but also helps them grow more beautiful flowers. By cutting away excess branches, you are giving them the strength to withstand windy days, while also letting in more sunlight for lots of colorful blooms.

Facts About Crepe Myrtle

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The beautiful plant crepe myrtle is originally from Asia. Perfect for warm places and a sunny climate, this plant is well-loved for its pretty flowers that look like crepe paper. Its vibrant flowers, in shades of pink, purple, red, or white, show up in the summer, making your garden look amazing.

Crepe Myrtles are easy to care for and don't get sick easily. They are like little bursts of joy in your garden, making it a lovely and happy place. So, if you want a low-maintenance garden, this plant can be a great choice.

  • Scientific Name: Lagerstroemia spp
  • Habitat: Native to Southeast Asia
  • Plant Size: 3 to 30 feet
  • Flower Colors: Pink, purple, red, and white

Why To Prune Crepe Myrtle?

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Pruning your crepe myrtle keeps it looking nice and healthy. When you trim it, you help the tree maintain its natural shape and grow strong branches that can support the pretty flowers. Trimming also uncovers the smooth, colorful bark on the older parts of the tree.

However, cutting it back too much each year can make it look weird, turning it into something less pretty. If you trim carefully, you can maintain a good-looking tree with well-spaced branches and let sunlight and air reach the tree's center.

When to Prune Crepe Myrtle

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The best time to prune this plant is in late winter when the tree doesn't have any leaves. This makes it easier to see all the branches. As these flowers grow on new branches, cutting them back in winter won't stop them from blooming. In fact, it helps them produce even more flowers. 

Moreover, February is a good time to trim because it's winter, and the tree is taking a break. Giving it a neat trim during this time not only helps keep it healthy but also makes it look tidy. So, if you are thinking about trimming your crepe myrtle, the month of February is the right time to do it.

The Right Way to Prune a Crepe Myrtle

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Trimming your crepe myrtle the right way keeps it healthy, but doing it wrong can cause problems. If you just chop off the top to make it shorter, you will end up with ugly stumps. Plus, it won't grow that cool spotted bark on the trunk. This mistake leads to a bunch of weak, skinny branches growing from each ugly stump. These branches can't hold up the flowers, so the main branches end up bending down to the ground.

To cut them the right way, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Keep it simple by trimming the tree down to three to five main branches. Cut them close to the ground without leaving any stubs.
  • Step 2: Remove any small growths, known as suckers, around the base of your crepe myrtle tree. These can grow into new trees if left untouched. Clearing them away now will maintain the neatness of your plant and prevent it from becoming overly dense.
  • Step 3: Trim branches below 5 feet to give your crepe myrtle a tree-like appearance. Adjust the starting point based on tree size, but always evaluate before cutting.
  • Step 4: Trim the upper branches that grow inward towards the tree's center by cutting back to another branch just above an outward-facing bud or to the enlarged branch collar where it joins the trunk. Avoid leaving stubs, and remove any existing stubs before they become thicker.

How To Grow Crepe Myrtle

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Light

Select a sunny spot that receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight every day. Allow ample room for them to grow tall without obstructions, and avoid shady areas, as insufficient sunlight may hinder bloom. Also, confirm that they receive an adequate amount of sunlight, as they don't grow in just a little sunshine.

Soil And Water

The key to crepe myrtle success begins with moist, well-draining soil. Crepe myrtles thrive in partly acidic soil, so test the soil to determine its pH. If the pH is above 6.5, use garden sulfur to lower it. In the first year, water crepe myrtles regularly to help establish roots. Once established, water every two weeks to prevent overwatering, as they are drought-resistant.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants grow in temperatures between 60-80°F and exhibit excellent tolerance to humidity. Selecting varieties like 'Natchez' and 'Tuscarora' for colder regions, known for their cold resistance, and 'Dynamite' and 'Muskogee' for hotter climates aligns your chosen variety with the local climate, guaranteeing resilience to winters and promoting flourishing growth during warmer seasons.

Fertilizer

If you have planted your crepe myrtles in sandy or poor soil, provide liquid fertilizer every two weeks in the summer. However, once they have grown for a year, use fertilizer once annually, typically in spring before new growth starts. Remember not to overdo it with fertilizers, as they can thrive in less nutrient-rich soil. Give them the right nutrients when they are young.

Mulching

Choose an acidic mulch, such as pine bark or oak leaves, and spread it around the plant's base to create a protective layer. This mulch not only helps retain soil moisture but also regulates temperature and suppresses weeds, fostering optimal conditions for your plant's growth.

Pruning

As we have mentioned earlier, prune your plants in late winter or early spring to promote robust branching and blooming. Remove any dead or diseased branches during this time, ensuring your plants stay healthy.

Transplanting

If your tree is growing too big for its space, you can move it to a new spot. It's not hard to do, and you only need a small bundle of roots to make it work. The best time to move it is in late fall or winter when it doesn't have leaves and is resting.

Overwintering

In colder climates, it is important to provide winter protection for young plants, especially during the first few years. Shield them from harsh weather by implementing measures such as mulching around the base and wrapping the lower trunk with protective fabric.