Crepe Murder 2014 — Stumped Again!

March 20, 2014 | By | Comments (2)
Crepe Murder 2014

Photo: Tom Walker

Why do people do this? It truly stumps the Grump. Folks take a beautiful crepe myrtle with wonderful, chestnut-brown brown bark and in less than an hour transform it into a multiple amputee.

Look at the other two trees in the photo. One looks like a rose-of-Sharon. The other one is a maple. How come these were spared and the crepe myrtle wasn’t? It is a great mystery of life. Some people think that if they don’t butcher their crepe myrtle like this every year, it won’t bloom. NOT TRUE. I never prune mine and they bloom beautifully every summer.

But there is some good that can come from a horror like this. It provides Grumpy with a teachable moment. Many readers ask me if a butchered crepe myrtle can be reclaimed and, if so, how to do it. The answer is YES. And here’s how.

1. Each amputated stub will send out a forest of shoots from the cut end in spring. Select one of these that is growing up and out to remain. Cut off all of the others.

2. As these new shoots grow the first year, cut off any side branches that grow from them.

3. Do not cut back these limbs again. They will become new trunks.

4. In a few years, the new trunks above will be nearly as thick as they are below and no one but you will know what happened.

For sending me this photo, Tom Walker wins a lavender ‘Early Bird’ dwarf crepe myrtle that never needs pruning from our Southern Living Plant Collection. Check back here this Sunday for the final winner in Crepe Murder 2014! Thanks to all who entered and helped educate an ignorant neighbor.


  1. Steve Bender

    The type of pruning you describing, pollarding, is quite popular in Europe where people have smaller gardens. I guess it’s a matter of taste, but I don’t like it, especially when it’s done to large crepe myrtles. To me, a crepe myrtle has much more than blooms to offer. Its sculptural form and beautiful bark should not be sacrificed.

    March 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm
  2. Craig Harris

    Have you seen the Crepe Myrtles at Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, NC.? This is I perform what others call Crepe Murder… it isn’t murder to me. I prune tightly to the same place every year and the pruning eventually heals over to form knobs. It gives the trees an striking winter architectural componet as well. Yes, it takes a while to get there, but the results are worth it. The blooms come on first year growth and the more vigorous the growth, the larger and more beautiful the blooms. Large Crepes have their place but many of them get to the point where the blooms are almost insignificant and the tree has no landscape appeal. Just my opinion.

    March 27, 2014 at 11:06 am

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