Good news, the murder rate of crape myrtles is declining
Kudos to the person who first coined the term “crape murder”…it worked. Today, I drove around my beautiful small town in North Mississippi looking for photo opportunities of crape murder. As small towns and gossip go, I knew better than to post a picture of my neighbor’s lawn (yikes, they really committed a heinous crime). So, I changed my search for a public property, one where the crape myrtles have been hacked off by chainsaws and look like scary stumps with big knots at the top. To my surprise, people have been listening! Our crape myrtles along the main street area are in lovely condition for this time of year. The canopies of crape myrtles in our parks have been lovingly and appropriately trimmed. Even those in neighborhoods throughout town look like they are going to blossom out and be strong for the season. Though there were plenty of knotted, gnarled and shrunken “victims”, it looks like people are getting the message!
Am I a murderer?
Many crape murders are committted by cutting back on the main trunks, on the same location every year and often to a height of around 4-5’. Yes, some of these practices will lead to many new shoots and lots of blossoms, but these new shoots will be very weak. The weak shoots can’t support the heavy blooms and they will droop and weep from the strain. Each year, as the pruning occurs in the same spots, knots will develop on the trunks. These knots are not only unattractive, but they also contribute to weakness in our trees. This is crape murder.
I don’t want to be a murderer!
First of all, timing is everything! WHEN you prune your crepe myrtle is of utmost importance! In North Mississippi, the ideal time to prune is late January through February. You can still make corrective pruning as late as March or April, though. If you missed your chance already this year, just mark your calendar for next year, and make notes….
Repeat after me, “it’s a tree, not a bush”
Don’t prune far down onto the main trunks; allow your crape myrtle to look like a tree. Ideally, your crape myrtle should look like an umbrella from a distance.
Don’t cut out large sections, just remove branches that cross one another. If there are seed pods from last year, remove those, too! If your tree is too tall, you can prune it back down to a more appropriate height, but don’t do this every year.
Ok, I want to plant a crape myrtle…
If you are considering planting crape myrtles, consult with a professional, or at the very least, do a little research first. Here are a few big ideas:
Where you plant your crape myrtle will either contribute to the successful life or the untimely death of your beautiful ornamental tree.
Crape myrtles need lots of sun but not a lot of water to live in our area.
Pruning and long-term care is just as important to the lifespan of a crape myrtle.
For more reading on crape murder,proper care and planting*, read this great article in Southern Living.
While Lawn and Pest Solutions does not offer a pruning service, we want to help you maintain a beautiful lawn. We have customers all over North Mississippi and our licensed technicians are ready to assist you. You can contact us here for a quote.