Posted by & filed under crepe myrtles

By Evie Baltzer, Staff Horticulturist

Crape Murder

I’m sure many of you have heard the term, “Crepe murder,” so today I wanted to talk about how to trim Crepe Myrtles properly and how to avoid, “murdering,” them.

The best time to trim back Crepe Myrtles is in February or March, when they are just coming out of dormancy. While Crepe Myrtles do not have to be trimmed to leaf out and have blooms in the summertime, trimming will most effectively spur on leaves and blooms for the coming season.

Crepe Myrtles can endure a drastic amount of trimming and will even thank you for it. Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Remove half of the branch length. For example, if the Crepe Myrtle is 6 ft. tall, cut it back to 3 ft. While this is optimum, it isn’t a requirement; cutting off any amount will help.
  • If you pruned your Crepe Myrtle back the previous year, make your new cut about 2 inches above last year’s cut to avoid the gnarly claw like growth pattern that we refer to as, “Crepe murder.”
  • Even Dwarf Crepe Myrtles will benefit from being pruned.

Be mindful of winter kill on Crepe Myrtles this spring. The extreme cold temperatures this winter may have killed parts or all of a Crepe Myrtle. Since they are Southern plants, they suffer severely when temperatures fall below 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. You may also only see new growth on your Crepe Myrtles coming up from the base of the plant and consequently no new growth on any of the existing branches.

As always, when you are out trimming your Crepes, inspect the branches for scale. This insect will look like tiny round white dots stuck randomly on each branch. Scale is running rampant through our area right now, so it’s very possible your landscape is already affected. If it is, don’t worry! LawnAmerica has treatments available and suggestions you can do as a homeowner.

Happy pruning!

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