How to Prune Crape Myrtles
- Video Transcript, Demonsration by Kerry Heafner.
Crape Myrtles have been fixtures in the landscapes of homes in the United States since at least the 1700s. And more and more we’re seeing crape myrtle show up in the landscapes of urban settings as well and it stands to reason. They're hardy durable trees, they stand up to heat and humidity well and they tolerate a lot of air pollution and have relatively few pest compared to a lot of other ornamental trees. But they are trees and they do get tall and eventually, especially in an urban setting they start to interfere with the power lines, just like this one is doing right here.
This pruning technique leads to something we call crape murder. These plans have been cut off at about head high leaving the wounds open to all types of fungal and insect pest. So the question is how should a crape myrtle be pruned correctly? Today we're gonna look at how to correctly prune crape myrtles.
So crape myrtles are being used more and more in urban landscapes and what we see here is a line of them along this busy highway for beautification purposes. And they do need to be pruned, so let’s walk up here and watch some of our local master gardeners prune these crape myrtles.
So one of the first things we want to look for when we’re pruning on the inside, is any branches that are rubbing, and those will be the first ones pruned out typically. That’s just going to create problems later on as the tree grows and ages. So remove one of the two branches that are rubbing together and that will help open up the inside of the trunks.
What Jennifer is doing now is just trimming off any of these smaller limbs that the tree will put energy to in the spring time. But we’re more interested in the tree growing up right and out in forming a nice canopy. So a lot of these little limbs on the inside are going to get taken out.
You want to keep in mind the four D’s of pruning. Diseased, damaged, decay, and dead, and those are the branches you're going to cut out first.
This is last year's fruit and seed crop, and if we look at these capsules that are just about all of them are completely open. We might still find some of last year’s seeds. Well they’re not going to service the purpose for this year so we want to remove these off of the tree. With an older crape Myrtle like this specimen, we're gonna start with removing the suckers from around the base of it because they won't do anything but zap energy from the main trunks that we want to grow into the tree.
Now some of the final cuts you want to make on a more mature crate Myrtle are going to happen at the top. Maybe take about the first 6 or 8 inches off of the very top and you're good to go.
So now you have some basic tips for how to prune crape myrtles correctly and not committing crape murder. For State By State Gardening, I'm Kerry Heafner.