(Crape) Crepe Myrtle Pruning

Trimming Lagerstroemia indica Trees

Crepe myrtle pruning and trimming info. Different ways to prune crape myrtles. How to avoid committing "crepe murder". When to prune Lagerstroemia indica trees.



When to Prune Crepe Myrtle Trees

The best time to prune crepe myrtles depends on where you are growing them. If you live where the trees are reliably hardy, you can prune them any time from late fall through to early spring.

If you live where the tree may suffer winter injury due to frost, wait until early spring before trimming crepe myrtles.

Crepe myrtle  grown as a multi-trunked tree.

This crepe myrtle tree has been limbed up to expose its peeling bark but the crown has not been pruned.

Pruning Lagerstromia indica in this fashion makes for a more natural-looking tree which is beautiful year round.


Pruning Crepe Myrtle Plants

For easy maintenance, let the tree grow as a bush. This is the natural growth habit of the crepe myrtle plant. Prune it only to maintain the shape in the spring. Plants grown in this fashion will display smaller flower clusters on stronger branches.

You can train a crepe myrtle bush as a single-trunked tree but this will mean constant pruning to keep it from reverting back to bush form.


Don't Commit Crepe Murder

Unless you really want to

Many people practice a form of pruning crepe myrtles referred to jokingly as "crepe murder". This involves topping the trees at 4- 5 feet so that a completely new top will form each spring.

This controls the size of the tree and causes it to produce larger, and showier, flower clusters.

The problem with this style of crepe myrtle pruning is that the new stems that form the top of the tree will be weak. They often break under the weight of the blooms after a rain.

Pruning them this way also makes them ugly in the fall and winter. They look like a bunch of chopped off sticks growing out of the ground.

A crepe myrtle tree pruned in


How to Prune Crepe Myrtle Bushes

Crape myrtle bushes and  trees grow together in a Deltona front yard.

Some crape myrtles are pruned as bushes, others as trees in this Deltona front yard landscape.

If you want a natural-looking shrub, make thinning cuts (cuts that remove entire stems back to the branch they originate from). First, thin out all broken or crossing branches.

Then, decide how much smaller you want the bush to be. Remove all branches that are growing outside this boundary.

If you are new at pruning crepe myrtles, step back a bit between cuts and look at the tree from a slight distance. Check to make sure you are removing equal amounts of wood from all sides and keeping the shrub balanced.

When you finish thinning the tree, make a few heading cuts (cuts that remove only the top portion of a stem) if you want a shorter or fuller crepe myrtle bush.

When crepe myrtle pruning, remember that crepes bloom at the stem tips. The thicker the tree, the more stem tips it will have.

More stems equals more flowers.

Here's a crepe myrtle pruning technique that will enable you to turn any variety into a low-growing shrub:

Cut the plant to the ground (leave only 6-12 inches of trunk) after the last spring frost.

It will regrow into a vase-shaped shrub by summer.

After the first blooms fade, cut the new growth back by half. The plant will bloom again a few weeks later.



Related Pages

Smart Tips for Pruning Other Kinds of Trees

Pruning Rose Bushes Using Hand or Power Tools

Miniature and Dwarf Crepe Myrtle Tree Varieties

Crape Myrtle Trees: the Lilacs of the South

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