The Q&A Archives: pruning crepe myrtle

Question: I would like to get my crepe myrtle to more tree-like than a bush. I don't know when to prune it. After winter, it's hard to tell what will leaf out and what has winter kill. When it flowers, the blooms hold so much water after a rain, that the branches droop like a willow. After the blooms, the branches hold pendulous hard berry-like seeds. When do I prune it, and how?

Answer: You can prune your crepe myrtle immediately after the flowers are spent and before they develop seeds pods. You can train your plant into a tree form by removing all but a single stem which you can train into a trunk by removing the lower branches and leaving just a topknot of growth. Training into a tree shape won't eliminate the problem of rainsoaked flowers and foliage - the branches will still droop under the weight. And, crepe myrtle trees won't be quite so winter hardy as shrubs. With a shrub, if winter weather kills it down to ground level, it will grow new stems. With a tree, if winter weather kills it down to ground level, it will grow new stems but it will look like a shrub rather than a tree. Perhaps the best approach is to allow it to grow as a shrub and plan on removing some of the flowers as they develop to keep the branches from becoming too heavy and drooping under the weight of the rain.

Best wishes with your crepe myrtle!

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