It never ceases to amaze me how many people buy crape myrtles without giving a thought to how big they’ll get in a short amount of time. I say this because I all-too-frequently am seeing crape myrtles being cut back way too hard in late winter and early spring, even by landscapers who ought to know better.
Hacking back crape myrtles to 3’ stumps not only results in the loss of blooms for the the next two, possibly three seasons, but produces new growth that is weaker and less cold hardy than the older wood that was cut away. Not to mention the unsightly “knobs” that form around where the trunk is repeatedly cut year after year.
If you’re finding that you have to prune back your crape myrtle that severely, then you’ve probably picked the wrong plant for that spot. But if you really don’t want to go without a crape myrtle, there are a growing number of new dwarf cultivars that stay smaller, many of them small shrubs rather than medium sized trees. These new cultivars include:
- Dixie™ series
- Razzle Dazzle™ series
- Little Chief™ series
- Petite™ series
But in any case, it’s still a good idea to know how to properly prune crape myrtles. Ideally, you want to only remove broken branches, and branches that are crossing/rubbing up against each other, or facing inwards towards the center of the plant.
When finished, the crape myrtle should appear thinned out while still maintaining it’s natural shape and structure: