Pruning a crape myrtle without causing its death is easier said than done. However, with the right insights, your pruning efforts will help your crape myrtle be as healthy and beautiful as possible. This post will share the essential tips you should remember while pruning these lovely trees.
Get the Timing Right
Pruning a crape myrtle during the wrong time of year can cause more harm than good, even if your pruning technique is flawless. The ideal time to prune your crape myrtle is late winter or early spring, while the plant remains in a dormant growth phase. During this time, you can remove branches that are dead, damaged, diseased, or crossing one another.
Early spring pruning is not always a promising approach for plants that bloom on old wood. However, since crape myrtles bloom on new growth, pruning in early spring does not risk removing the flowers that will bloom later that year.
Use the Right Tools and Techniques
Don’t prune your crape myrtle, or any other woody plant in your garden, unless your pruning tools are as sharp and sterile as can be. Tools you have cleaned well are less likely to spread disease to your crape myrtle. Likewise, sharp pruning tools make clean cuts that your tree can recover from quickly.
Once you have the right tools in hand, the next step is to employ the proper pruning technique. To prune a crape myrtle, you should not shear it, trim it, or top it. Instead, you should remove individual branches selectively, cutting each one at the point where it meets a larger branch.
Keep it Light
Most novice gardeners tasked with pruning a crape myrtle fear harming this gorgeous plant beyond repair. However, this kind of crape murder usually occurs when you make the mistake of over-pruning your crape myrtle tree. Even if over-pruning is not fatal, it will likely detract from your crape myrtle’s overall form and can cause it to put forth weak new growth that will be prone to breakage.
If you want to avoid crape murder, the best approach is to remove one stem or branch at a time using clean cuts. The branches you remove should also be on the smaller side. Generally, any branch that’s thinner than a pencil is safe to remove.
Deadhead During Bloom Time
Since a crape myrtle’s flowers are its most attractive feature, removing them seems counterintuitive. On the contrary, this pruning style, known as deadheading, can make your tree’s floral more impressive and long-lasting.
Any significant structural pruning should take place in early spring. However, you can also remove spent flowers during the bloom period, which may encourage your crape myrtle to produce new blooms. With that said, this pruning style is optional, and some crape myrtle varieties will rebloom without any deadheading at all.
Limb Up to Look Good
As you may have noticed, the most attractive crape myrtles often have a few graceful main stems that support the canopy. However, that look does not come about on its own. Instead, creating an attractive multi-stemmed look requires strategic pruning.
To achieve this look, start by removing all but three to five main stems while your crape myrtle is young. Each spring, remove any branch that emerges from the lower half or lower two-thirds of those main stems. This pruning approach allows your crape myrtle to show off a magnificent form for as long as it graces your garden.
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