The Q&A Archives: Pruning Crape Myrtle

Questioner's Location: Nashville, TN
Date: November 8, 1997

Question: We have a huge, we think Japanese, red, peeling bark, crepe myrtle--we were told to cut it all the way back in the winter. Exactly what does this mean? Month? Cut back how far? It is a valuable part of our poolside landscape and we don't want to harmit but have never seen such a tree in this locale.

Answer: You must be in a warm spot--you are located in zone 6 and crape myrtles are rated to USDA zone 7. In colder regions, crape myrtles are sometimes pruned right back to the ground--since they die back from the winter cold anyway. That might be what your advisor was referring to. Of course you won't want to do that to your tree!<br><br>Plant to prune your tree in late winter or early spring--in your region late February should be fine. Begin by removing suckers around the base of the tree and vigorous upright shoots (called watersprouts) along the branches. Also remove any crossing or rubbing limbs. You can gradually remove lower branches if you like, to expose that attractive bark. Then simply prune it lightly to keep it in the shape you like.

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