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Don’t Let your Landscape Be a Victim of Crape Murder!

Crape myrtle

Are you guilty of crape murder?  Crape myrtles are a beautiful, but misunderstood tree in our landscapes.  The picture above shows how beautiful a crape myrtle can be if pruned properly.   Even though pruning is not one of the services we offer at Lawn and Pest Solutions, we know the importance of properly pruning a crape myrtle. Planting a crape myrtle in the improper location often necessitates severe pruning. It is helpful to have the guidance of a trained landscape professional such as a landscape architect when planning your landscape, but that’s a great topic for another post.

Crape murder is the practice of pruning your crape myrtle back on the main trunks, often to the same location each year, and often to a height of 4 to 5 feet. Southern Living has a great blog post related to this:

http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/2015/03/15/crepe-murder-2015-dont-let-em-grow-up-to-be-trees-boys/

The misconception is the tree will produce more new growth the following spring and summer, which will result in more blooms. While the tree will produce an abundance of new shoots,these new shoots will be weak and place a stress on the tree. As the tree blooms,the blooms become heavy and usually end up weeping over under the strain from the weight.  As the years progress and the tree is pruned back to the same spot each year, a “knot” will develop on each trunk.  These knots are unsightly and a weak point in the tree.

What should you do?

Crape myrtles are ornamental trees and should be allowed to grow into a beautiful tree form. I have seen these trees pruned anytime from end of summer to early December. In our area of north Mississippi, you should prune your crape myrtles in late January or February. When you do prune, do not prune far down onto the main trunks. Your intent, instead, should be to maintain the tree form of your crape myrtle. An ideal crape myrtle will have an umbrella shape when viewed from a distance.  Instead of cutting out large sections of trunks, your focus should be on removing branches that cross one another.  Also, remove the seed pods left from the previous summer’s blooms.  If your crape myrtle does become too tall for its location, you can prune the tree back to a more appropriate height- just don’t make this a regular practice each year.  It will take a little more time to prune correctly, but you will end up with a beautiful tree.

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