Prune Crepe Myrtle Like Your Dogwood

June 25, 2015 | By | Comments (22)
Prune crepe myrtle

Photo: Steve Bender

A reader writes asking a familiar question: “My crepe myrtle grows so huge on the top and blooms like crazy, but the bottom doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the top. It really looks top-heavy. Am I doing something wrong? What should I do?”

I’ll respond to that with the best answer I’ve ever heard. It comes from Mobile nurseryman Bobby Green: “Prune your crepe myrtle just like you prune your dogwood.”

Whaaat?

Most crepe myrtles grow as trees. Ever seen a tree? Its trunk is bare and the foliage (and flowers) are on top. This is normal.

So my advice is to leave your crepe myrtle alone. If you do any pruning at all, prune off all of the side branches up to a height of 4 feet or so, so you can enjoy the beautiful, flaking bark of the trunks. If you want your crepe myrtle to stay under 10 feet tall, plant a semi-dwarf one (you’ll find a great list in the New Southern Living Garden Book) that grows this tall without any pruning.

So to recap:

“Prune your crepe myrtle the same way your prune your dogwood.”

“But I don’t ever prune my dogwood.”

Exactly. 

 

COMMENTS

  1. Jackie Zeigler

    I have 3 crepe myrtles that have never been pruned. They are about as tall as our house. The leaves are green and healthy but almost zero blooms. What is needed?

    June 27, 2016 at 8:11 pm
  2. Mary

    I came home from work and my husband has chopped my crepe myrtle. It looks terrible. He took off all the flowers and it looks like a group of sticks. Will it ever come back? We live in Central Florida and I have always wanted this tree.

    August 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm
  3. muriel bainbridge

    how will black diamond crepe myrtle do in shade<

    July 5, 2015 at 1:07 pm
  4. Susan

    Another tip, the top braches cut can be rooted, put root hormone on the cut area, then plant in soil.

    July 2, 2015 at 3:58 pm
  5. Susan

    I love all the various colors of Crepe Myrtles. They certainly put on show when in bloom. My problem is the mess they make as the flower petals fall. They are still much better than the Bradford Pears, which also are messy but worst of all the Bradfords smell like horse manure.

    July 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm
  6. Jay

    Ive cared for many different varieties of crape myrtles for years. It really seems like anything you do to them doesnt really negatively bother them. They are very hardy in Oklahoma. I trim them in the late summer and the new blooms multiply. A friend didnt believe me yet she ate her words about 3-4 weeks later and sent me a photo. See, we trimmed back two of the three crapes in her front yard. We left one alone. The pictures I took were evident. The trimmed shrubs increased its bloom production by 10 fold. She took pictures, ate her words about my skill and now wants the other shrub cut back. I think we all need to be trimmed from time to time to ensure our faith. We often are trimmed down to display the goodness in our lives. Plants are living like we are. Of course they get excited about new places ro form a bud. I get it.

    July 2, 2015 at 11:12 am
  7. Phyllis

    I have about 20 that I never prune and they’re lovely trees. However, I prune 3 others and they bloom beautifully. The others don’t. Do blooms only flourish on the new growth?

    July 2, 2015 at 10:30 am
  8. nancy douglas

    color is not true changed from when i planted changed to different pinks what is wrong?

    June 30, 2015 at 8:28 am
  9. itrmph2

    Encouraging. 5b huh? I’m in 5a… do you cover it with leaves or do anything special to winter it? It’s like just one letter colder up here, right?. I’ve had mine for ten years so I really hate to loose it but hauling it up out of the ground every fall and carrying it into the basement for the winter is getting old.

    June 30, 2015 at 6:48 am
  10. Ellen

    I live in New Jersey. I planted crepe myrtle two years ago. It grows up from the base of the plant every summer. How do I care for this? It has all its tree trunk branches and it grow up the center of it. Never really gets to talk, and not many blooms. Help?

    June 30, 2015 at 4:49 am
  11. cindy

    These are beautiful can they be grown in mid north Indiana?

    June 29, 2015 at 4:30 pm
  12. Leslie

    Trimming crepe myrtle trees back to nubs is called “crepe murder.” These plants are georgous trees. Don’t trim thin into spindly budget. Look around you at this time of year and notice the beautiful crepe myrtle trees. That’s how they’re supposed to be!

    June 29, 2015 at 4:28 pm
  13. Michelle

    I typically do not prune my crape myrtle and it gets top heavy and breaks. What am I suposed to do with that?

    June 29, 2015 at 1:07 pm
  14. Wynn

    But I actually have a dogwood that has several dead limbs due to that blight that went thru a couple years ago. This tree was wild when I brought it from the woods to my yard. It is about 15 to 20 years old . Should I trim these limbs and if so when.I really don’t want lose this tree.

    June 29, 2015 at 10:37 am
  15. itrmph2

    I’m struggling to keep my myrtle alive up here in zone 5a. Every fall I bring it inside and then back out in the spring but that’s getting old along with me. I was thinking of burying it in leaves to help in winter. Any one ever try this?

    June 29, 2015 at 8:29 am
  16. Pamela Barrett

    Taking care of a crepe myrtle is very easy. You can change the direction it grows by the slant of the cut. When you cut on the slant it will sprout new growth out on the lower end of the slant, so you can control the direction of growth. Also every couple of years you can prune it heavy by cutting out the knots to get a pretty bush or tree. Also if you would like a second blooming after the blooms are finished snip the dead blooms off and you will get a second go around in a few weeks. Learned this from a gentlemen that had a tree farm and 90% of his trees were crepe myrtles.

    June 29, 2015 at 8:16 am
  17. Nichole Lankford

    If you trim all of the branches off of your tree in the spring while it is still dormant, it will grow every summer without over taking your house and the neighbors.

    June 29, 2015 at 8:14 am
  18. Marjory

    My crepe myrtles are about 5 years old, have grown well and look great, only problem is they have never bloomed. What is wrong with them?

    June 29, 2015 at 6:49 am
  19. Tony Nguyen

    i really impressed

    June 29, 2015 at 4:50 am
  20. Lynda Cox

    The crepe myrtle at my house was planted very close to the house. And it is just slightly taller than the roof. It does spread out though and lays on the roof and on the other side grows out and reaches over to my neighbor’s home. So not pruning it doesn’t really seem to be an option. So what do I do to contain it?

    June 29, 2015 at 1:07 am
  21. Lauren umstott

    My crepe myrtle died an ugly frozen zone 6 death. I don’t know if I have it in me to try again

    June 25, 2015 at 1:40 pm
  22. Kylee Baumle

    Since I now am growing a crape myrtle that survived our horrendous Zone 5b winter last year (even after planting it in OCTOBER!), this is my plan. Of course, it will die to the ground each year and never reach this size, but still. No pruning!

    June 25, 2015 at 10:31 am

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