Crepe Murder Redux — I Told You Not to Do This!

July 14, 2013 | By | Comments (5)
Crepe Murder

Bad pruning takes only a minute, but its scars can last a lifetime. Photo by Steve Bender.

Remember back in winter and spring when Grumpy told you not to butcher your crepe myrtle? Well, it’s summer now and the chickens have come home to roost. Guess what you get when you ignore Grumpy’s advice. This.

Isn’t this crepe myrtle bee-YOO-ti-ful? I photographed it on the sly yesterday in my own neighborhood while I was headed to Wal-Mart to buy nuclear centrifuges and cat food. (The centrifuges were on sale! Woo-hoo!)

As you can see, chopping back your crepe myrtle just because your neighbors, the Pootwaters, do it will earn you ridicule every time. And rightly so. For not only do you reduce a living sculpture to gross, ugly stumps, but when the plant blooms in summer, the long, whiplike branches that sprout from those stumps are too flimsy to hold up the flower clusters. So after a rain, your crepe myrtle displays all grace of plus-size undies hanging on a line.

How to Fix This Awful Thing You Did
You feel sad and humiliated now. This is understandable. The good news is that even you can be rehabilitated and your mutilated crepe myrtle restored. Follow these steps.

1. Don’t do anything now. You might as well enjoy the flowers. Although since they look so much like cemetery flowers, erecting a headstone next to them would not be unreasonable.

2. This winter, prune off all of the arching side branches growing from the base.

3. Next, remove all but one shoot growing from the end of each stub. Train it to grow up and out. Remove any flowers as soon as they fade, so that shoot won’t hang down.

4. Do this for the next couple of years. The shoots you left will become the new main trunks.

5. Quit your job, sell your belongings, move to a cave in Greece, and meditate.

The Right Way to Prune
For those of you not wishing to be embarrassed on this page in the future, I suggest you review the finest article on crepe myrtle pruning ever written — Crepe Myrtle Pruning Step-By-Step. Don’t recall who wrote it, but he’s a genius.


  1. Steve Bender

    Debbie, you can move and prune your crepe myrtles this fall.

    August 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm
  2. Katrina

    As a landscaper, pruning crepes is a given but I have to share that most clients don’t care about the proper way to prune or not prune theirs. Most clients don’t want to hear that they’ve chosen the wrong Crepe Myrtle for its’ location and let us move it & replace with one of more appropriate height expectations. That costs more than pruning & if we don’t do it, one of a hundred other companies will- they say this! So, Grumpy, I agree with you that if this is what they choose they have to live with the embarrassment. Poor Myrtle~

    July 25, 2013 at 9:47 am
  3. Debbie Thompson

    I have two crepes (not sure what kind, they came with the place) that we moved out of the way of construction equipment when building our house 6 years ago. This fall I want to bring them back ‘home’. I have not pruned or messed with them at all since the move. Would it hurt to prune AND move at the same time? …or should we just move this year and wait until spring to prune? (North Central Arkansas)

    July 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm
  4. Shelley DuPont

    I was researching how to transplant a crepe myrtle and found your site. Hilarious! Which is proof you can give important information with attitude.

    July 20, 2013 at 6:52 am
  5. Arthur in the Garden!

    Just awful! I have seen too many landscapers do this, too!

    July 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm

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