The crepe myrtle is a spectacular tree and, if kept in good health, it can elevate the look of any garden. To ensure the tree blooms as it should come late spring, and the branches can hold the weight of the blooms without bending or snapping, the best thing you can do is to keep your tree pruned properly, and the time to do so is just around the corner.
These trees are quite sturdy and with the right care, they grow to be a showstopping feature in your backyard. You needn’t worry that pruning will stop your crepe myrtle from blooming, though - quite the opposite, it will actually help rejuvenate the tree. In fact, professional gardeners claim that failing to prune could actually be the biggest threat to your tree's health.
To find out the best time to prune your crepe myrtle and what the effects of not doing so can have on the health and look of your tree, I spoke to some gardening experts. Here's what they had to say.
When should you prune your crepe myrtle?
If you're wondering when to prune your crepe myrtle, you still have a bit of time to prepare. ‘Pruning is best in late winter before new growth begins, often around February in many regions,’ Tony O’Neill, editor at Simplify Gardening tells me.
You can also get away with pruning your crepe myrtle in early spring, but the most important factor to determine if it's safe to prune is whether it's leafless. The tree should be dormant, which is the stage before you start to see new buds. ‘Typically this is after the threat of the harshest frost has passed but before the plant breaks dormancy,’ adds Gene Caballero, garden expert at Your Green Pal.
Why should you prune your crepe myrtle?
Pruning is a vital step to ensure the health of your tree. Firstly, it promotes blooming. ‘Proper pruning encourages more flowers during the growing season,’ explains Zahid Adnan, garden expert at The Plant Bible. ‘It helps maintain the desired shape and size of the tree, preventing it from becoming too leggy or overgrown, while also improving the overall health of the plant by removing dead or diseased branches and enhancing air circulation.'
As with any plant or tree in your garden, pruning can also help prevent the spread of disease. ‘Increasing air circulation by thinning out the middle of the plant will also reduce the likelihood of fungal diseases,’ explains Gene. With crepe myrtles specifically, pruning will also help to keep the flowers in check. The flower clusters in pruned crepe myrtles tend to be larger and fuller, which makes more of a visual statement.
What happens if you don’t prune your crepe myrtle?
Not pruning your trees can have a few negative effects. ‘Pruning is crucial for the plant's aesthetics and overall health,' says Zahid. 'Neglecting to prune a crepe myrtle can result in a less attractive appearance, reduced blooming, and potential disease issues.'
An overgrown or leggy tree won’t just have a less appealing shape, impacting the curb appeal of your modern front yard, but it will also be less likely to support the weight of blooms. ‘Pruning is necessary to maintain a strong structure, promote vigorous growth, and enhance flowering,’ Gene tells me. 'Overgrown branches can also be prone to damage from wind or heavy rain.'
Be mindful, however, not to overdo it. ‘Remember not to over-prune crepe myrtles; this practice, often called “crepe murder”, can severely damage the tree, leading to weak new growth and a shortened lifespan,' notes Gene. 'Instead, focus on removing only the necessary branches to shape the tree and support its health. Proper pruning will ensure your crepe myrtle remains a vibrant and stunning feature in your landscape.'
If you're considering a crepe myrtle for your garden, late fall to early spring is the best time to plant them.
Ensure your crepe myrtle stays healthy and keeps its shape by pruning the tree yearly.
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Raluca is Digital News Writer for Livingetc.com and passionate about all things interior and living beautifully. Coming from a background writing and styling shoots for fashion magazines such as Marie Claire Raluca’s love for design started at a very young age when her family’s favourite weekend activity was moving the furniture around the house ‘for fun’. Always happiest in creative environments in her spare time she loves designing mindful spaces and doing colour consultations. She finds the best inspiration in art, nature, and the way we live, and thinks that a home should serve our mental and emotional wellbeing as well as our lifestyle.
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