The Q&A Archives: Crape Myrtle trimming

Question: We live in Wilmington DE. It is now the beginning of April, is it too late to trim our crape myrtle tree and how far do we trim? Last week we were in Washington DC and saw that they were trimmed quite extensively. Our tree's main trunk is about 4 ft tall. We still have the seed pods on the tree branches. What should we do?

Answer: Crape myrtle blooms on new growth of the season so you want to trim it early, preferably when the buds are swelling. Do not prune it extensively in summer after it leafs out because this will remove flowering wood. Some people routinely prune these back very hard each spring, but this is not really necessary and actually ruins the natural shape of the shrub/tree. It does however keep the size smaller if you need to do that. Ideally you would just remove any broken or winter killed branches, and possibly thin it to remove crossing/rubbing branches or head back branches that are very asymmetrical. These plants come into growth very late in the spring, so be patient before deciding a branch is dead. The old seed pods can be removed as well, either after the bloom season or in late winter/early spring. On the very large tree sized plants of course it is impractical to do that. Enjoy your crape myrtle!

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