For many years gardeners have been pruning crape myrtles, mainly because they get to tall for the position they are planted in. And as they can get to 10m in height it can indeed be a problem.
Now they can be hard pruned and they will recover, but this can cause a few problems, including increasing the likelihood damage from any freezes. And you could just leave them alone, they are really an attractive tree in the natural state.
However if you must prune, take a few minutes to consider what you are trying to achieve.
The first thing to consider with larger crape myrtles is what you actually want to achieve. Is it a less dense plants, or a shorter plant or a more compact growth habit. If you prune correctly your Crape Myrtle willthrive and flower the next season.
- Thinning is achieved by removing some of the lower branches to lift the plant up to 3ft (1m) above the ground. Any dead or damaged wood is of course pruned back.
- Then you can look at branches that cross the the tree, these tend to create a congested look. Take a step back and look at the shape, any branches that look ‘odd’ can be removed.
- Then we can look at bringing the plant down in height by selectively removing some of the taller growing branches.
In the past some gardeners have pruned back heavily each year in the belief that this would promote more flowering, in fact it tends to create more congested growth and the tree loses its natural shape which is one of its features, especially in winter.
If you start with a young tree you can prune to shape as it grows, easier than remedial work later on.
Of course you could always plant the new ‘compact’ or ‘dwarf’ varieties instead and avoid pruning altogether