How to cut crepe myrtle trees

How to Prune Crapemyrtles Correctly

This article covers the topic of pruning Crapemyrtles (also spelled Crepemyrtle, Crepe Myrtle or Crape Myrtle). Quick note; this is a great time to inspect your crepes for a serious pest called Crapemyrtle Bark Scale (CMBS).  Here is our complete blog post on this pest, including how to identify and treat it.

When to Prune?

If you do choose to prune your crepe myrtles, pruning should take place in mid-February to avoid winter injury. Pruning should be done only to shape the tree; not to severely control plant height.

Pruning is also not necessary for blooming. The seed heads from last year can remain on the plant all year, and you will still get good blooming in the current year.


What is the correct method?

First of all, pruning crapemyrtles is optional; if the plant is in the correct place and can grow to its mature size, let it grow!

If you need to prune your crapemyrtle tree or shrub, thinning branches to limb up the crapemyrtle is the correct method. Remove lower limbs that are thinner than a pencil diameter.

While the plant is young, it is acceptable to prune the top of the branches. When it gets older, this is unacceptable.

As a bonus, pruning correctly is much less work than incorrectly pruning!

What is the incorrect method?

This is a well debated issue and one that plays out differently all over town.  Some of us even call the severe pruning of crapemyrtles ‘crape murder’!  Crape murder weakens the plant making it more susceptible to disease and insect infestations.

If the plant is improperly placed and gets too large for its current position, consider transplanting it before a severe pruning. Crapemyrtles transplant very well!

A severe pruning will result in a ‘knee’ and will result in many smaller weak limbs shooting out from the knee.  If cut in the same place each year, the plants develop a knob on the end which is particularly unsightly in the winter.  Pruning lower limbs that are less than a pencils’ width in diameter is completely acceptable since this will not leave any scars.

There is one exception to this rule; harsh pruning of dwarf crapemyrtles is acceptable and will not result in ‘knees’.

If you are going to prune, prune correctly!

So, in conclusion, crapemyrtles trees are usually grown as small trees with 3 to 5 trunks that are kept free of small limbs up on the lower part of the tree (up to 2/3 of the height). Thinning of limbs every few years will encourage new growth and blooming but remember to prune only limbs that are less than a pencils’ width in diameter.  While the trees are young, the tips of the small limbs can be pruned off (again only those a pencil width diameter or less).  As the tree grows, it become difficult and even dangerous to prune the top and it’s not necessary anyway.  Here are a few images of correct and incorrect pruning.

And if you are in the market for a crepe myrtle, remember that they come in all sizes and bloom colors. Come see us and we will help you find the one that works best in your space so you can avoid crape murder!

Bad crapemyrtle pruning:









Good crapemyrtle pruning:









This is the correct way to prune a crapemyrtle!  Notice that the horticulturist is taking off only low limbs that are small in diameter, while leaving the large trunks in place.

Here are some images of tree crapemyrtles after both correct and incorrect pruning:

Growth after incorrect crapemyrtle pruning:









Growth after correct crapemyrtle pruning.  Isn’t that a beautiful tree?!








Posted on February 4, 2020 by Jennifer Gibson - Featured, Videos

​Trim your Crape Myrtles like a pro. Don't make these 4 mistakes.

You might be wondering.. How should I prune my Crape Myrtles like the pros do. 

No worries, this is a common question we get and by the end of this article you'll understand how to prune your crepe myrtle trees without making the same mistakes you've seen your neighbors make.

First things first

You need to decide what look you would like for your tree to have

  • Single Trunk
  • Multi Stem
  • Natural Look

Now the good news is that Crape Myrtles are one darn tough plant. So the bottom line is if you make a mistake most likely your tree will recover in a few seasons.

Most people don't know this

The reason you should prune your Crape Myrtles is because of one reason… blooms.

Only the new growth each year is what produces those lovely blooms that you admire each spring and summer.

So with that being said, it pays to prune your Crape Myrtles in the winter months as soon as November at as late at March when they are dormant.

The good news is most Crape Myrtles can be pruned with hand held shears or long handles loppers. If yours are way out of control, then a chainsaw might be necessary in the most extreme cases.

So now on to the good stuff.

Click on image to view larger

When you prune your Crape Myrtle the proper way it will will maximize blooms, promote new growth and give your plant a great shape.

That said.. Your pruning is done in winter when the Crape Myrtle is dormant, between the months of December and February.

The good news is that super aggressive pruning that you might have seen around town is not actually needed to get a beautiful, healthy plant. Picture Picture Picture

But that's just part of the story.

You need to know about “Crape Murder"

"Crape Murder" is what the pros say describe the butchering of Crape Myrtles.

What's more… When Crape Murder is committed it can literally appear that half, or more, of the plant has been removed.

On the one hand... This technique is used by some no professional landscapers and homeowners because it's quick, fairly easy, the plant almost always recovers.. Fair enough , BUT This technique is NOT recommended as it may damage you plant. OK… that's fine you say… but meanwhile you might be wondering "What are Suckers?"

Simply put .. the "Suckers" are the new growth that comes from the base of the trunk.

Most professional lawn care services and homeowners who know what they are doing will prune these off.

Now with that being said , if you want your Crape Myrtle to have a more "natural" look or would maybe would even prefer for it to grow multiple trunks, then the good news is you can leave some of the suckers to grow up. The best part? Blooms will appear on new growth suckers.

Now…these are your Crape Myrtle’s… So it's up to you how you would like for them to look. But it helps to identify which pruning style meets your ideal look, so keep reading to find out more about the three main pruning styles.

The Single Trunk

In my opinion , the single trunk Crape Myrtle is one of the more beautiful shapes the tree can take on with proper pruning, however, will require the most investment in pruning each year. 

Why is the case? First you'll need to remove any extra stems protruding from the ground, as well as any suckers. 

Next you what all of the tree’s branching to happen at the top quarter of your tree. That said, you’ll need to pick a dominant single trunk for the tree, and prune away another others at the base.

If you choose the single trunk method its best to start while the Crape Myrtle tree is younger as more established trees most likely can not be retroactively pruned to this style and shape.


The multi trunk look for Crape Myrtles is probably the most common professional trimming approach. It is relied upon by lawn care services all over the country to establish beautiful Crape Myrtle bushes full of blooms each spring and summer for their clients.

So to make a point… to achieve the multi stem look, allow your Crape Myrtle to branch along the length of the stem and follow these steps
  1. Try to prune later in winter, February is ideal.
  2. Cut off suckers from the bottom, rubbing and cross growing branches and branches growing inward.
  3. Gradually cut off all side branches from the main base as the tree gets taller.
  4. Never leave lone or clustered stubs.
  5. Be sure to remove unwanted branches before they get too thick (thickness of a pencil).

Finally… The Natural Look

So you might not know this but allowing your Crape Myrtle to grow into its natural shape has been the trend in recent years. So the good news is you can tell that to your neighbors and even better this approach requires little to no pruning.

It's easy.. Just allow your plant to branch and spread naturally. Your Crape Myrtle will still bloom and be beautiful so long as it's watered and fertilized properly

The bottom line is….

Crape Myrtles are one of the most resilient and prune-able plants I have ever seen. So its really just a matter of your preference how much time and effort you are willing to invest into heir pruning and care. There's really no "wrong" way to do it, so experiment and have fun!

Meanwhile… I'll leave you with a helpful how to video on pruning your Crape Myrtles.

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When do crepe myrtles bloom? Caring for your fairy flowers

Crepe myrtles are very popular flowering shrubs and trees known for their vibrant and long-lasting flowers.

Muskogee crepe myrtles make beautiful hedges or property borders. Crepe myrtle blooms around late spring, usually early summer, between mid-May and early June.

Amazingly beautiful flowering lasts up to 90-120 days depending on environmental conditions and various other factors, including variety of shrubs or trees. The crepe myrtle leaf has vibrant autumn colors. This leaf is used for decorative purposes.

The flowering period may vary from place to place depending on climatic and ecological conditions. But the results that follow are just worth the wait. During the flowering period, the trees are covered with beautiful flowers of different shades of pink, solid pink, lilac or red. These brightly hypnotic flowers delight the eye. Fine and long lasting flowers make these trees attractive to plant lovers and green fingers. But the main problem here is not late flowering. Not at all, the main problem occurs when the growing season comes and the plant does not bloom as expected. After reading all about crepe myrtle in your garden, you will also want to know how often orchids bloom and

when the tulips are in bloom.

Why aren't my crepe myrtles blooming?

When you take care of your plants with all your heart all year long and still don't get satisfactory results, the experience is downright daunting. While getting these plants to bloom is not a tough nut to crack, it can still seem like a daunting task sometimes when you don't get the results you were looking for.

Basically, there could be several reasons why your myrtles didn't bloom as expected. Although they usually bloom late, as they bloom by the time all other flowering shrubs have already faded. They bloom last among shrubs and flowering trees. In addition, there may be other reasons causing the flowering problem, such as aphids.

The cause can be related to many different problems. The aphids living in them could be one of many reasons. It can be environmental or cultural factors, poor pruning in dark and cold winters, lack of fertilizer, or maybe too much!

Late pruning: When crepe myrtle plants are pruned late in the season, new wood may be erroneously removed, which can affect flower bud development.

Lack of sunlight: Another important reason may be lack of sunlight. These flowering plants require a significant amount of sunlight, about six hours a day, so a location with poor access to sunlight can affect their flowering cycles.

Need for fertilizer: Sometimes, when everything seems to be in order, the problem may be in the soil. It should be regularly checked for the absence of phosphorus, as this minor cause can affect the growth of greenery.

Too much nitrogen: Too much nitrogen can also affect the growth of crepe myrtle flowers. Too much nitrogen promotes leaf health but does not help flowers.

Do crepe myrtles bloom at different times?

Crepe myrtles are very well known for their bright and long lasting flowers that usually appear in summer. The flowering period usually starts from mid-May to early June. This continues for 13-20 weeks. In which the trees bloom in different colorful colors, available in white, pink and a light shade of purple or red. It's also interesting to know that these shrubs or trees usually bloom later than any other flowering plant you might find in your garden. In autumn, the foliage takes on a light shade from pale yellow to deep red.

The flowering process also depends on many factors, including environmental conditions, availability of sunlight and water, timing of pruning and, most importantly, the variety of plants you have. Depending on the variety you have, the flowering process can vary between 6-8 weeks.

While some varieties bloom in May, others may have to wait until July or even later.

The number of flowers also depends on the availability of proper sunlight, so direct sunlight also plays an important role in the flowering process. Similarly, another factor is proper and timely pruning. Heavily pruned plants will bloom longer. In addition, the use of a slow-release, high-phosphorus fertilizer in early spring promotes more colorful and abundant blooms.

What happens if you don't trim the crepe myrtle?

Crepemirts need little or no pruning. If the crepe myrtle has been planted in an area with enough sunlight and room to grow, you can get a rounded canopy without pruning. In many cases, the crown grows so large that pruning is useless. If you don't choose the right place to plant, branches can reach the sidewalks or roadsides, demanding attention. Crepe myrtles are known to produce many flowers if left untrimmed. Flowering of crepe myrtle decreases with increased pruning. What's more, crepemyrt blooms tend to be greater in circumcised crepemyrts than in uncircumcised crepemyrts. But you should avoid the unattractive pruning known as "crepe killing" as it destroys the beauty of the crepe myrtle tree.

Tips for pruning crepe myrtle

Pruning crepe myrtle is very important if you are expecting extravagant blooms during the flowering season, so it is highly recommended. But pruning must be done better to achieve the desired results of abundant flowering in summer. Dwarf varieties grow to about 3–5 feet (0.9–1.52 m), while non-dwarf myrtle varieties can reach a height of 20 feet (6 m), several feet taller than other such trees.

Professional gardeners often aggressively prune large stems and bulky branches to limit and control growth. size, because the branches take up too much space and lift up the production of more blooming and abundant summer bloom; which is commonly known as "Pancake Murder". Maybe because after processing only a bare trunk remained, for the winter and flowering in early spring. You are advised to prune myrtles at the end of winter and not at the beginning of winter and early spring. In late winter or spring, it is important to prune the crepe myrtle to avoid cutting off the buds that will lead to new growth. It is always recommended not to prune aggressively during the winter. Pruning should be done at the right time and should be avoided at the end of the winter or spring season.

Although pruning helps crepe myrtles with new growth and fresh wood. It is always recommended to avoid this. Excessive pruning generally results in less flowering. Due to over pruning, trees lose a lot of branches, and in the flowering season, instead of more flowers and flowers, trees have to share food to grow new branches and branches, which leads to less flowering.

Crepe Myrtle Care

When you show your care and affection for anything, be it your pet dog or beautiful flowering myrtle, the results are more positive than you might expect. This not only allows the tree to bloom and bloom more beautifully, but also increases the lifespan of the plant to a greater extent.

There are a few simple steps you can take to take care of your crepe myrtle. You need to make sure you have enough space for your trees or shrubs. You need to make sure that your plant is in a place where it gets enough sunlight. Sunlight is an important requirement for shrubs or crepe myrtle trees with a minimum of six hours of sun exposure. In addition, he must receive enough water and fertilizer as required. While less can be fatal, excess water or fertilizer will cause foliage to overgrow and these foliage will be costly to produce flowers. Proper pruning is also very important for proper plant growth. For best results, pruning should be done carefully and avoided before it has flowered.

You should regularly prune dried and dead tree branches. This step will allow comparatively more sunlight and air to reach the tree than before. Also, don't just focus on shrinking or downsizing by pruning the tree more often. You must also carefully enhance the appearance of the tree.

How long do crepe myrtles live?

The fact that crepe myrtle has been around for over a thousand years is certainly very surprising. These popular plants have been part of our lives for so long and are still very popular with plant lovers and people who share a love of ornamental plants.

The lifespan of crepe myrtle shrubs in general varies depending on their location in the environment and the climatic conditions in which they are planted. In addition, crepe myrtle also depends on the care you provide. Caring for a shrub increases its lifespan. If you take good care of the shrub, crepe myrtle can last a long time. The same rule applies here as well. Basically, with well-drained soil and enough sun, these trees survive a little longer. It all depends on the type of care you provide, good care for crepe myrtles gives them a moderate to long lifespan.

Here at Kidadl we have carefully prepared a lot of interesting family facts for everyone! If you liked our suggestions for when myrtle flowers bloom, why not take a look at which flowers are safe for cats or when acorns fall?

Myrtle tree

We have already told about what a wonderful home plant myrtle is on the pages of our Encyclopedia. Here we will talk about how to grow myrtle from cuttings to an adult tree.

Myrtle tolerates pruning and pinching well at any time of the year, with the difference that in an adult wintering plant in the dormant stage, without signs of growth, one branch can be painlessly cut to the stalk, well, if you really need - two, no more. And in a vegetative myrtle that continues to grow, you can safely drastically cut off the crown. The best time for cutting myrtle twigs for rooting is spring, the end of winter. If you cut branches from a "sleeping" myrtle, they must be immediately transferred to conditions suitable for vegetation: warm (20-25 ° C), air humidity not lower than 50% and light (if necessary, additional lighting) - several hours of direct sun in the morning or evening.

For rooting, you can use twigs from 7 to 15 cm, the optimal length is measured not in centimeters, but in a piece of the stem - rooting occurs in the semi-lignified tip of the cutting. It is clear that a 5 cm twig still has a green stem, it will simply fade. At the cut cutting, you need to cut off the lower leaves and put on rooting in water or wet vermiculite.

As you can see, in the first variant, there is one handle in the cup, it is supported by the circle of a polyethylene foam cup cut to the diameter and cut to the center. It not only supports the cutting, but also prevents the water from evaporating too quickly. You can cut out such a circle from foam rubber.

In the second version, many cuttings are rooted in one jar. Not all of them will give roots.

What is the difference and how best to root? The fact is that if you got one single cutting, you must do as shown in the first photo. Moreover, the water must be very clean, boiled. Carefully observe the first two days - if the water remains clear, everything is fine, it just remains to wait until the roots appear. If the water turns cloudy, replace it with fresh water and add the secret ingredient to it. There is such a drug in the pharmacy Polyphepan (Polyphepan) - this is an adsorbent (black powder looks like dry earth), which will not allow water to deteriorate, prevent the development of bacteria, but does not interfere with the rooting of cuttings. It needs to be added half a teaspoon to half a glass of water.

Yury Aleksandrovich Markin (YUM) shares his many years of experience: If everything is in order with water and the viability of the cutting, the roots are formed quite quickly - in the first week a callus is formed (white bumps on the tip of the stem), and good roots grow in 2-3 weeks. When they reach at least 5 cm, and more, it's time to transplant the cutting into the ground.

In the photo you can see strong roots and the beginning of vegetation in a rooted cutting of myrtle, but you need to plant it carefully so as to minimally injure the delicate root shoots. Therefore, Yuri Alexandrovich ties the stalk to a peg. A peg stuck into the ground securely holds the cutting without deepening the root collar.

If myrtle roots are strong, they take root immediately, and in high humidity conditions they grow very quickly. Thickened plantings in a common container require good ventilation of the room and timely seating in separate pots. Perhaps it is more correct to immediately plant the myrtle cuttings in separate containers, depending on the desired shape of an adult plant. If you plan to grow a dense bush, you can plant 2-4 cuttings together, if the myrtle is planned to be grown as a bole or as a potensay, then each cutting is a separate pot. Another option is the fusion of trunks, it also involves planting several cuttings in one container, but it requires some skill and preparation.

Is it possible to prune myrtle roots when transplanting rooted cuttings?

Yes, you can, if the root system is well developed, has many lateral roots of the upper part, then you can painlessly trim the elongated roots. After cutting the roots, they should be sprinkled with a crushed activated charcoal tablet or ground cinnamon.

Pot dimensions for transplanting myrtle

How you choose the right pot for planting the cutting depends on its health, growth rate and appearance. Many tend to take pots with a large margin, but if the pot is large, after watering the earth will dry for a very long time, as a result, a salt effusion forms on the surface - a whitish or red coating of calcium and magnesium salts. The acidity of the soil in this case shifts to the alkaline side, in such an environment some nutrients are poorly absorbed and there is a high probability of root rotting. In a pot that is too small, especially when planting in pure peat, on the contrary, the root system of the plant can be very dry.

Here is an example, planting a rooted twig (stem thickness initially 2 mm), which has long grown, and the height has reached 75 cm from the ground.

Myrtle grew in a glass (200 g) for about two years. The thickness of the trunk at the root neck reached 6 mm. The earthen ball is almost completely mastered by the roots. If the roots of your cutting have grown only in the lower part, have formed a "beard", or crawled out of the drainage holes, and the upper part of the pot has not been mastered by the roots, it makes sense when transplanting to cut off those roots that stick out of the holes of the pot, or those that curled on spiral bottom, displacing all the soil. After that, you need to transplant the young myrtle again into the old pot. It can be transplanted into a new one only when the roots fill the entire space of the pot.

The formation of myrtle

The formation of the myrtle tree is a constant process. Trimming the ends of the shoots can be carried out repeatedly during the spring-summer season. You can grow a myrtle tree in a completely free style, shaggy bush. You can form a stem or another style. But first you need to imagine the image you want to strive for.

A myrtle tree blooming with pink buds (on the right in the photo, Pavel Karpenkov) is so beautiful not because of extreme unpretentiousness, but because it is grown in ideal conditions for it: it stands in an area where the illumination is close to sunny, the humidity is under 90% and temperature 24°C. It is watered every 2-3 days (does not dry out and is not flooded). Planted in soil with a mixture of akadama and sand and some soil for seedlings. Drainage is high - myrtles do not like waterlogged roots. Spray it every day.

Important: when wintering in cool and especially cold conditions, spraying is not required, and watering is scarce.

With the help of a wire, you can pull the branches in the right direction, they are quite flexible even in adulthood. But old branches covered with brown bark can be bent gradually, smoothly, over several months.

Please note, while the myrtle tree is gaining thickness of the trunk, it does not need to be planted in a bonsai pot, the pot space is needed for the plant to disperse the trunk.

From personal experience, Borya: My myrtle grows on the northwestern window, but it will not be possible to form a spherical crown without additional illumination. I use this technique: as the branches lengthen, I tilt the largest of them to the sides almost to a horizontal position, and fix them with wire. Then, along the entire length of the branch, new shoots begin to appear from sleeping buds (before that they were in the shade), and the entire branch turns out to be densely leafy.

The size of the pot should correspond to the size of the root system and increase as the earthen clod is braided. It all depends on how many roots the myrtle has. In my opinion, it is better to take a cramped dish than a spacious one, since in the second case, part of the earth may turn sour and become unusable even before the roots have time to penetrate into it.

I prefer to plant myrtles in a 1:1 mixture of some kind of peaty soil and coarse sand. Of the purchased ones, in my opinion, you can use the 'Cactus' mixture, as the most porous and suitable for most plants.

What should be done to give the myrtle the appearance of a tree from a cutting

From personal experience, Borya: You need to choose the largest, central, and, most importantly, nice branch of the bush and cut off all the rest. It is convenient to do this with small scissors for cutting nails. On it, you need to remove the leaves and side shoots from below to the height of the intended trunk. This will result in a smooth trunk, which will slowly thicken.

Since, when growing in a 'bush', the branches touch and, as it were, 'support' each other a little, then, 'left alone', this branch may for some reason bend (from accidental grazing, or as a result of tilting towards the light , for example). Therefore, a support in the form of a peg stuck nearby is desirable for her.

As a result, the growth of shoots on the upper leafy part begins. Those shoots that do not appear on the 'crown', but on the stem, must be removed (otherwise a bush will turn out again). When the stem reaches a thickness of about 0.5 cm, the support can be removed.

Bamboo skewers (3-4 mm thick and approx. 30 cm long) are very suitable for sticks. The peg should be located, in relation to the plant, from the side of the room or on the side, so as not to obscure.

Myrtle - bonsai

Many want to have a miniature myrtle tree in a bowl, but before the myrtle trunk gains thickness (from 1.5 cm or more), there is no question of transplanting into bonsai trees. And all the plant material that is being worked on is called potensai .

An example of such work from Yuri Aleksandrovich Markin:

Bonsai Sokan style

And this is Potensai - Sokan style "Twin Trunks". 2-3-year-old plants grown from rooted cuttings are used. Rearranged from wintering to prepare for the spring growing season - pruning and shaping to suit bonsai styles. The skeleton and stems of the first potensai are shaped in the Sokan style with ligatures and stretch marks. The height of the workpiece in the final form - 28 cm:

Formation work in progress. Myrtle has its own subtleties, says Yuri Alexandrovich - fragile wood and loose bark, although, when broken, it grows together remarkably.

Before all manipulations, I take a long shower to soak fabrics. When bending vertical and rather plump branches at an angle of 90 °, I sort of knead the near-stem area between my fingers - I crush it like a joint on a finger.

Next, I begin to ligature the trunk and put the wire on the branch to be bent. Then, the branch, together with the wire wrapped in two turns, I begin to slowly bend. Under the branch, you can substitute a screwdriver and create an emphasis at the bend. After bending the branch, more than 90 °, I rewind the ligature already with the branch fixed in the desired position.

It is also possible to perform a directional fracture, i. e. break a branch and wrap it around with raffia, and then apply a ligature (the main subtlety is not to break it completely when applying raffia and ligature, skill and a sensitive tactile sensation of the material are required).

Another method can be applied to thick branches. Make a crescent cut under the branch, in the place of the intended bend, to the middle or 2/3 of the thickness of the branch. The cut is made in thin sections with adjustment (bending and refining the position of the branch in the final form), if not enough, then another thin fragment is removed from both sides (such as slices).

Further according to the scheme - wrapping with raffia and applying a ligature. If it is difficult to bend a copper wire in insulation with a cross section of 2.5 mm, then you can apply two wires of 1.5 mm each or several wires of an even smaller cross section folded together - an example is the photo above (lower left corner), the coil of wire in the photo with myrtle.

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