Pruning Crepe Myrtles

On the Coffs Coast there are few autumnal trees/shrubs which is perhaps why Crepe Myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) hold such swathe in our gardens here. By giving us a beautiful display of Autumn leaves, it is almost a must that our gardens have at least one for their leaf turning burst of colour alone.

Crepe Myrtles thrive in the hot humid conditions and are also drought tolerant to boot. I just love their mottled bark which is so beautiful.

It is not necessary to prune, however some folk would like to know how to cut back their shrubs to promote more new growth. Following are some guidelines.

Crepe myrtles can be heavily pruned in winter to encourage the development of long, arching branches of flowers. However, the downside of this annual pruning is that it creates an ugly, butchered looking plant.
Left unpruned, crepe myrtles develop a naturally appealing shape and will flower well regardless. If a shrub is preferred, plant one of the new, smaller varieties, rather than pruning every year to keep a tree down to shrub size.
Pruning know how:


Step 1: 

Prune small sprouts at bottom of the tree first. These are called ‘suckers’. Left untrimmed, these will give your crepe myrtle a bush appearance. Suckers can be pulled out when they first sprout or trimmed with a hand pruner. Leave the large, healthy thick trunks to keep growing taller and stronger.

Step 2: 
Cut side branches. Prune any branches coming out of the side of the trunk up to about halfway up the trunk. This is called limbing-up, and helps the tree retain an attractive shape. For younger trees that you are starting to shape, prune the small limbs from the ground up, leaving only the 3-5 strongest limbs.
Remove smaller branches that are growing horizontally or toward the inside of the tree.

Step 3:

Prune out dead and crossing branches. You can use hand pruners for small, thin branches that you can reach, loppers for branches that are more than 12mm (1/2 inch) thick, or a [pole pruner for thicker or taller branches. Cut branches that are growing at an angle or that detract from the shape you are trying to achieve.

Step 4: 
Cut long or arching branches back to where they are no more than 12mm (1/2 inch) in diameter. Branches that are too thin will still bloom, but they will not be able to bear the weight of the blooms and will droop or break. If you’re cutting a branch back to the trunk, cut flush with the trunk instead of leaving a stub.
Use loppers for lower branches or pole pruners for the tall ones out of easy reach.
It is not necessary to cut off seed pods as it won’t affect blooming.

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