Crepe Myrtle Tree
The Crepe (or Crape) Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), originating from China and Korea, was introduced circa 1790 to Charleston, South Carolina and is one of the most planted decorative trees in the United States. Also known as 'Southern Lilac', this fast-growing, deciduous tree does best in warm summer areas and their long bloom season is one reason for their attraction. The flower colors include pink, red, purple, and white, depending on the variety. Most grow 15 to 25 feet tall and wide, with some shorter varieties growing only 3 to 5 feet tall. Dwarf varieties can be grown in containers.
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Pruning Crepe Myrtles
The foliage is attractive in the fall and the textured bark provides winter interest. Once the flowers die back, the seed will grow readily the next year. Crepe Myrtles, with full sun and well-drained soil, make a beautiful, low maintenance addition for any garden as many have seen in downtown Charleston and Summerville.
Even so, many people like to prune Crepe Myrtle trees in order to neaten the look of the tree or to encourage new growth. If you are looking to perform general maintenance on your tree, the ideal Crepe Myrtle pruning time is late winter when the tree is in its dormancy and the leaflessness permits an easy view to all of the branches. It also blooms on new growth, so pruning now won't reduce blooming, it should actually increase it!
How to Prune Crepe Myrtle
Here's a few things you want to know, should you wish to prune your Crepe Myrtle: To begin, select the tools you'll want to have; for a smaller Crepe Myrtle: 3/4" to 1" Bypass Pruners, for a larger Crepe Myrtle: 1-1/2" Lopper Pruners, pole pruners or a pruning saw to cut branches more than 1-1/2 inches thick and gardening gloves are recommended.
Make note that the most daunting and incorrectly practiced aspect of crepe myrtle care is pruning; often done too heavily and giving meaning to the term 'Crepe Murder."
Start by tracing down from the top of the stem (from the seedpods), to where that stem meets a branch. Make a cut about 6 to 12 inches or so above the intersection - never below the intersection. Bend over the tip, making your cut right at the point where the stem starts to bend. Repeat until all stems have been cut. Two new stems will emerge from beneath your cuts. By using this method of pruning you will be promoting twice as many branches every season - which means a fuller canopy and twice as many blooms. To continue "cleaning up" your Crepe myrtle tree, prune suckers that grew from the trunk base, and twiggy growth that emerged up and along the main trunks.
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More Info About Crepe Myrtle Pruning
Wrong-season pruning would mean November and December. If you trim the Crepe Myrtle in the last two months of the year, and then we get a warming trend in January or February, the trees might start putting on new growth that will be highly susceptible to freezing weather should it come on the heels of a warm spell. New growth will also tend to draw the cold right into the plant, causing needless damage to a tree that should be resting in dormancy.
When it comes to pruning Crepe Myrtles, it would be better to leave them alone than to prune them improperly. We've all seen over-pruning - people chop back Crepe myrtles below the knuckles each and every year.
Use Us for your Crepe Myrtle Care
Many people who butcher Crepe Myrtles when pruning say it's because their plants get too big. All that this means is that they chose the wrong plant for the wrong spot.
If you don't have a Crepe Myrtle yet and you would like to plant one, you might like to give us a call at Pleasant Landscapes for advice on the variety and characteristics best suited for your landscape.
So go ahead, follow the guidelines above and trim your Crepe Myrtle now! As for those notable blooms . . . well, you may not see them now, but we all know that 'Good Things Come to Those Who Wait!'
Isle of Palms 843-886-9314 ~ Summerville 843-851-8008 ~ John's Island 843-768-6808 ~ Daniel Island 843-216-4796