If you live in the Nashville area – or almost anywhere in the south, crepe myrtle bushes are one of the most beautiful flowering shrubs. During the late spring and into the summer, depending on the variety, these bushes fill with large clusters of red, pink or white blooms. To keep them at the desired height and in the desired shape, pruning needs to be done each year during the bushes’ dormant stage. If a year or two of pruning is skipped, or if you purchase a property that has existing overgrown crepe myrtles on it, you may have to do a more severe pruning to bring the flowering shrub back to its original glory.
“Crepe murder” is a term used to describe the pruning technique that leaves the crepe myrtle bushes looking like bare sticks with pom-poms protruding from the stick tops. The correct way to prune crepe myrtle bushes is to simply prune away last season’s growth during the winter when the bush is dormant. Prune away the long, dormant limbs that grew during the summer and all of the seedpods. Also cut away sucker growth that sprouts from the bottom of the bushes’ trunk.
Before you start, it’s a good idea to know what you’re trying to accomplish – you can always go back and cut more. The objective is to maintain well-spaced, main trunks with handsome bark and to thin out the center to permit easy penetration of sunlight and air.
Late winter is the best time to prune a crepe myrtle, because it’s leafless and you can easily see all of the branches – but it’s not too late to do it now. This weekend, go out and enjoy the warmer temperatures we’ve been having and prune back your crepe myrtles and enjoy them in your landscaping for years to come.