Pruning Trees - Knowledgebase Question

Name: Kathleen
Edwardsville, IL
Question by ktherien
August 23, 2012
We live near St. Louis. I bought two crepe myrtles that looked like trees when I purchases them--they had about 4-5 main branches from the bottom and flowers at the top. Over the next two years they came back as shrubs--When is the best time to prune out the extra small branches to make them looks like what I originally bought? In general, when is the best time to prune trees? And when is a good time to fertilize them?

Answer from NGA
August 23, 2012


By nature, Crape myrtle is a shrubby plant but it can be trained into a tree. Not all are hardy in Illinois, though, so training your shrub into a tree can result in a dead plant if it freezes down to the ground each winter. With that said, your plant blooms on the new growth of the season so pruning in early spring, just as new growth begins, s the best time to renovate and renew it and still get flowers later in the season. Prune out completely any excessive growth by taking the branches or stems back to their point of origin on a main branch. You can also thin out a shrubby plant by removing extra stems or upright shoots by cutting them down to ground level. Just a caution - this may encourage suckering growth at the base of the plant, which may require pruning or pinching them out as they appear. As long as you don't remove more than a third of the healthy, live growth on your crape myrtle in any annual pruning session, you won't hurt it. Crape myrtles are very forgiving. Early spring is a good time to feed your landscape plants. Best wishes with your garden!

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