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Best Time to Trim Back a Crepe Myrtle January 18, 2019

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While these shrub-like trees are not native to the South, they thrive in this warm region and have quickly become a staple in southern landscaping. Providing beautiful blooms of color in the warmer season and vibrant changes in color during the fall.

The biggest question surrounding this plant is to prune or not to prune?

It all depends on the variety and your personal preference. Certain varieties are naturally small and shrub-like while others are grown up to 30 feet; they all have multiple stems that come from the base of the plant. It is important to pick the variety that suits your landscaping needs; you do not want to force a big plant to be a little plant.

Common Varieties

20 feet +

  • ‘Natchez’ - white blooms
  • ‘Muskogee’ - lavender blooms

12 to 20 feet

  • ‘Catawba’ - purple blooms
  • ‘Osage’ - light pink blooms

5-12 feet

  • ‘Acoma’ - white blooms
  • ‘Tonto’ - bright pink blooms

Less than 5 feet

  • ‘Chickasaw’ - light pink blooms
  • ‘Centennial’ - bright lavender blooms

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Pruning Tips

Do not to commit “crepe murder”

The term refers to crape myrtles that have been cut back too much, causing the plant to look like a stump. Pruning too much makes it hard for it to recover. The new shoots won’t have support, causing the branches to bend toward the ground.

If you desire the plant to have a more natural look of a tree, you will need to prune any suckers away from the base of the plant.

Again, make sure to pick the appropriate size variety for your landscape needs. Over-pruning leads to scarring and can ruin the plant. Always prune in middle to late winter, after the leaves have shed.

A newly planted crepe myrtle will need more pruning at the beginning of the plant's life to achieve the desired shape. Once the plant is matured to the desired shape, pruning should be limited to branches thinner than a pencil, deadwood and seed pods to maintain the desired shape. Removing the thin branches encourages air flow and can help prevents powdery mildew, a common problem found in these plants.

Flowering tips

After your Crepe Myrtles first bloom, the flowers will grow seed pods. Once the seed pods turn brown and crack open, prune back to the bud. Doing so will increase the chances of future blooms and prevent branches from sagging due to excess weight.

Finally, be sure to fertilize the soil annually in the springtime with a high nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer. Crepe Myrtles prefer a somewhat acidic soil pH that is generally between 5.0 and 6.5.

Water & Moisture Control

Watering is a necessity for your tree to survive. However, there are two bad habits to refrain from when watering.

  • Overhead watering is when you spray water directly on the blooming portion of the tree. This encourages fungus to grow and spread throughout the blooms and foliage.
  • Stagnant water is when you allow water to puddle up around the base of the tree for long periods of time. If the soil is soggy, we recommend establishing a plan to encourage proper drainage around the tree. If left unattended, a fungus can severely damage your Crepe Myrtle.

Landscaping can be therapeutic for some, but stressful for others. If you find yourself frustrated or limited on time, give our Waynes Landscape team a call. Our professionals are happy to create and maintain the perfect look for your home! 1-866-WAYNES-1.

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