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Pruning Crape Myrtles

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February 14, 2021

A common crime against horticulture is the crape myrtle pruning practice called crape murder. Now I’ve started using the term crapmyrtilation since the tree doesn’t actually die. Let me demonstrate how to correctly prune a crape myrtle. You need sharp pruning tools whose use will depend on the diameter of the branches and limbs. I like using my bypass pruners to easily cut back branches up to 3/4 inch. Bigger branches, up to 1 ¾ inch diameter require that I use my robust set of loppers. And for larger branches a pruning saw with its razor-sharp teeth work well for these branches and the main trunks. The best-looking crape myrtles are multi-trunked and well-structured. Maintaining an odd number of trunks, such as three or five, look great and preserve enough space for the tree to produce strong growth. Now’s the time to remove any unwanted trunks. Cut them as close to the ground as you can Chose the height where you want the branching to start and remove lower branches back to the main trunk. Remove any branches that are growing into the center of tree canopy and any that are crossing or rubbing against each other. This will create space and open the canopy reducing the chance of diseases. Finish with the removal of small thin branches. I use my index finger as a size guide. Also, at the base of the tree, prune away any suckers close to the soil line without leaving a stub. If you use these pruning tips your crape myrtle will be happy and healthy. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman and I’ll see you next time on Southern Gardening.

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