Pruning Crepe Myrtle Trees

Large Flowering Crepe Myrtle Tree
Image by Gary Fink

In the Southern garden, crepe myrtle trees are beautiful and almost necessary feature in the landscape. In the spring, crepe myrtle trees are covered with lovely blossoms. As with most trees and shrubs, one of the most questions is “How to prune a crepe myrtle?”

Is Pruning Crepe Myrtle Trees Needed?

Before going into how to prune crepe myrtle trees, we need to look at if you need to prune you crepe myrtle at all. While pruning crepe myrtle trees is good for helping to keep the tree shaped like you would like it to be, it is not normally necessary to the health of the tree.

Prune crepe myrtle trees when you wish to shape them or if you find the branches are too close together for your taste, but for the most part, you do not need to prune crepe myrtle trees.

How to Prune a Crepe Myrtle

There are two schools of thought when it comes to pruning crepe myrtle trees. One is a natural style and the other is a formal style.

Natural style

crepe myrtle natural pruningA natural style of pruning will mostly address the limbs within the tree that may be keeping your crepe myrtle tree from putting on the best show it can.

Things like inward growing branches, damaged branches, branches that are too close together or rubbing against each other and other minor issues that could affect the canopy of the tree. Smaller inside branches may also be removed to open up the space inside the tree. With a natural style of pruning crepe myrtle trees, main branches will be left alone to promote thick sturdy trunks.

crepe myrtle formal pruning

Formal Style

With a formal style, when you prune crepe myrtle trees, you are pruning for outward shape rather than inner openness. Formal style pruning is also thought to encourage additional blooming since it forces the tree to grow more new wood, which is where blossoms are formed.

In a formal style, the decision on how to prune a crepe myrtle tree is based on how high and how wide you would like the tree to be. All branches outside the chosen dimension is cut off, much like you would trim a hedge. This style of pruning can keep crepe myrtle trees in the same landscape setting uniform in size and shape and lends a more formal look to them.

Working with Landscapers Pruning Crepe Myrtle Trees

If you are having someone prune crepe myrtle trees for you, ask what their thoughts are on how to prune crepe myrtle trees and make sure you specify which style you would like. The two styles are drastically different and if your landscaper’s preferred method of pruning crepe myrtle trees is not what you had in mind, you will be disappointed.

If your landscaper pruned your crepe myrtle trees not to your liking, you have two options. One is to simply let the tree grow out. It will eventually recover. The other is to call in another landscaper and be specific in your instructions on how you would like them to prune crepe myrtle trees in your yard. They may be able to prune the tree so that the damage will be reversed more quickly.

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