PRUNING YOUR OKLAHOMA CRAPEMYRTLE:
It is a very common misconception that pruning back Crapemyrtles in the winter increases the flower production the next year. This “hacking back” of the limbs actually creates less flower production because the plant tries to first make up the growth that has been cut away before setting new buds and flowers.
The practice of chopping of the top of the Crapemyrtle is all to common place . This type of pruning results in a not very attractive branching structure as seen below
(See Article “Crapemyrtle Murder in Oklahoma”)
Some people do excessive pruning because the plant is too large for the space it was planted in, still others see their neighbors doing it and feel they need to follow suit. Why? There are some instances in which heavy pruning is necessary, but light pruning is usually all that is needed. The type and amount of pruning depends on the desired shape and size of the plant.
1. Prune For An Ornamental Tree Look
To develop a tree shape, remove all limbs growing from ground level except the three to five strongest limbs. As the tree matures, remove lower lateral branches one-third to halfway up the height of the plant. Also, remove branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. Make your cuts to a side branch or close to the trunk leaving a collar.
As tree growth continues remove the suckers or baby trees that start emerging at the base of the tree. These sprouts draw water and nutrients away from the main tree. You can pull these out by hand if you catch them early enough, if not prune them back.
Each year while the Crapemyrtle is dormant (winter to early spring) you will want to continue the practice of corrective/selective pruning to remove defective or dead branches, to remove lateral branches, small twigs or branches in the center to create more open space for sun and air movement, as well as branches that are crossing/rubbing one another.
2. Prune To Control Height
To keep a crape myrtle at a manageable height, prune moderately by removing all twiggy growth back to main branch from which it emerged. This will give the plant a more uniform appearance. As mentioned earlier, the best way to maintain a Crapemyrtles size is to plant a known cultivar that will mature at the desired height.
3. Prune For A Shrub Look
To create the look and size of a small shrub, look for branches that are dry and unhealthy and remove them with pruning shears. Growth from the previous year that has grown to the width of a pencil should also be cut back so that only about 6 inches remains of each branch. (If you want a shrub then buy a variety that will stay small).
Don’t forget to feed and water the birds!
The “Original” Red Dirt Gardener