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How to Prune Your Crape Myrtle

correct and incorrect image of pruning

While many homeowners start to prune their crape myrtles in early spring, many think it's prudent to “top” crape myrtles. Learn more about this practice, how it can damage your tree or shrub, and what you should be doing instead.

What Does It Mean To "Top" Your Crape Myrtle?

“Topping” crape myrtles refers to the removal of branches and trunks from the top down and trimming all material above a particular height or point on the plant. One might think this is the best way to maintain and prune your tree or shrub, because everyone is doing it, and it seems logical; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Why Do Some “Top” Crape Myrtles?  

Many people believe "top" their trees and bushes because they believe that the crape has outgrown its space, or that pruning them in such a manner will encourage them to bloom better during the growing season.  

On the contrary, “topping” your crapes, among other things, will: 

  • Ruin their natural form and balance.
  • Delay their first round of flowers by 6-8 weeks causing the first bloom to be up to two months late.
  • Increase the size of the heads they produce which will burden the small stems supporting them, causing drooping and bending to the point of breaking.
  • Cause the plant to have inadequate immune responses to fight off insects and diseases.

How Should You Be Pruning Your Crape Myrtle? 

Instead of “topping” your tree or shrub, we suggest only pruning back the dead or damaged branches. If you are tempted to “top” them because they have outgrown their space, you may consider moving them to another space, as “topping” does not stop the crape from growing back as big in that same spot.

What Should I Do If I Have Already “Topped” My Crapes?  

The best recourse at this point is to cut your crapes completely to the ground over the winter and only trim dead branches as necessary going forward. This will help the tree or shurb grow back healthy, and you will enjoy those beautiful blooms in no time! 

FAQ About Crape Myrtle Pruning

When Is the Best Time To Prune Your Crape Myrtle?

The best time to prune and trim back your crape myrtle is early spring. Many homeowners prune around mid-February to avoid winter injury.

Should You Trim Your Crape Myrtle Every Year?

Crape myrtle trees and shrubs need minimal pruning, so it is not necessary to trim them annually, though this can differ from plant to plant.

Can I Cut My Crape Myrtle to the Ground?

While crape myrtles can grow back if you cut them all the way down, it is not necessary to prune them to the ground—rather just cut back any dead or damaged branches.

Can Aggieland Green Help?  

While we do not offer trimming or pruning services, we can get you connected with local experts who can. What we can do for you is protect your beautiful crape myrtles from pest-related damage with our Systemic Insect Treatment, which helps them fight off the aphid and scale that cause black soot and white scales on your branches. Early in the year is the very best time to perform this service because it protects your crapes against damage, rather than reacting to damage after it has occurred.

Contact us today for more information!