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How To Prune Crape Myrtles And Avoid "Crape Murder"

Updated: May 15

Whether yours are white, dark pink, light pink, or purple, February is the ideal time to prune your beautiful crape myrtles while they are dormant. Many homeowners or amateur landscaping companies commit what is referred to as “crape murder”. “Crape murder” is over-pruning or hacking them back so far that it becomes damaged or misshapen. Southern Living says, “Severe pruning or topping of crape myrtles removes strong, viable limbs and encourages the growth of weak and flimsy shoots that often aren’t strong enough to support the blooms come spring and summer.” We want to offer some tips to avoid this atrocity and keep your beautiful crape myrtles the star of your landscape! There are different ways that you may prefer to grow yours, but here are some general tips on how to prune your crape myrtles like a pro! What do I cut? The general rule of thumb is to establish which branches or trunks you want to be the main ones and then work on trimming everything else. The fresh, twiggy branches sprouting up around the base are referred to as “suckers” and they need to go, unless you want yours to have a more natural bush shape. Cut crossing or touching branches that are growing toward the middle instead of out. This will help strengthen the main branches and create a cleaner look. It isn’t necessary to cut all the way down to the “stump” of the main branches. If you commit “crape murder” and cut it back too far, they may grow back in a less appealing way. Thankfully, crape myrtles are one of the most resilient plants, so if you do “murder” it, you haven’t killed it. What if I want mine to look like a bush and not a tree? The natural, bush-like look for crape myrtles is pretty popular right now. There’s nothing wrong with skipping the pruning step if you prefer the multi-branched shape. Some natural crape myrtles do not bloom as fully as pruned varieties, because they will not have as much new growth. That doesn’t make them any less beautiful. What if I’m already guilty of “crape murder”? Crape myrtles are very resilient, so they’re able to withstand most everything we do to them. If you’ve over pruned in past years, then only lightly prune this year to let it recover. In severe cases, they may need to be completely cut so that they can essentially start over. If you feel like that may be necessary, it’s probably best to have our residential landscapers in Birmingham, AL take a look first. Ultimately, pruning crape myrtles all depends on what you like and what’s best for your landscape. Avoid “crape murder” for best results. When you want a professional landscaper to add crape myrtles to your yard or access your current ones, contact DSLD Land Management in Birmingham, AL to set up a consultation (205) 437-1012

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