The crape myrtle tree, Lagerstroemia indica also referred to as: “The Lilac of the South” is a native of China
and arguably one of the most popular flowering trees in the south. Unfortunately, landscape crews in Texas
have made a horrible practice of butchering them every year under the disguise of “pruning” (also commonly
called Crape Murder). Why do they do it? Pure and simple, a lack of horticulture education is to blame. While
topping the tree does produce larger blooms, you will receive fewer blooms and unfortunately, the new shoots
tend to be unable to support the weight of these blooms causing them to droop. In addition, and more notably,
these “pruning” practices produce ugly scars on the tree (known as “knuckles’). Lastly, your tree may be more
susceptible to disease and insect infestations.
The first step is to visit one of Warren’s Garden Centers and speak to one of our gardeners so you know what to
expect from your crape myrtle tree and what your crape myrtle tree expects from you. There are many varieties
of crape myrtles and each have varying growth habit, maturity size, and even flowering color. Knowing your
variety will help determine the proper space it’ll need to grow. The old saying of measure twice, cut once
comes to mind. If you’ve ever had to relocate or remove a crape myrtle, then you fully understand this wisdom.
Currently have a crape myrtle that you prune to keep its size down to your desired height, or is currently hitting
your roof or rubbing your house? Consider transplanting instead of pruning. Unfortunately, for our area many
crape myrtles were planted in areas that just don’t fit their growth habit so the tree will not be the specimen
mother nature intended it to be.
Now, we aren’t saying you should never prune your crape myrtle tree as they are fast growers and require some
cleaning up; however, if you choose to prune, it should take place in mid-February and should mostly be to
shape the tree. Thinning your tree to leave just 3-7 trucks is usually required. It’s best to remove any lower
limbs that are thinner than a pencil in diameter (this will not leave scars) and while not necessary, removing last
years bloom heads is acceptable. Please note, pruning or removing spent blooms is NOT necessary for future
blooming. If your crape myrtle tree is planted in an area that fits its growth habit, has adequate sunlight, is
fertilized properly and you keep your pruning simple, mother nature will reward you with long periods of
vibrant blooms all summer long.
Need help with a crape myrtle you currently have or looking for the perfect one to add striking color to your
landscape this summer? Come see us at Warren’s and our knowledgeable garden team will be happy assist you.