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Crape-murder . . . rape of the crapes. . . butchering—call it what you like, but there
are serial homicidal pruners of crapemyrtles out there, and the trend continues despite
the best efforts of horticulturists across the south. Standard crapemyrtles have
the potential to be wonderful small trees, if they aren’t chopped to their knees annually!
Crapemyrtles are probably the most incorrectly pruned plants we grow, with "crape-murder"
being the norm, versus the exception.
Crapemyrtle trees bloom on the new growth, so any pruning that is needed should be
done prior to new growth beginning—for most of the south, this will be from mid February
through mid March. Crapemyrtles are often one of the last plants to begin growing
in the garden, waiting on warmer temperatures; so don’t worry if February is slipping
away on you.
While some gardeners begin pruning in the fall after the leaves have fallen, avoid
this for two reasons:
Well-established and well-structured plants may not need annual pruning. Doing a
good job of pruning while the trees are young, will build in the structure and form
you need, and require less care when the trees are older.
A common and devastating mistake made while pruning crapemyrtles is the practice of
"topping" off the beautiful plant. Dr. Jim Robbins shows the proper techniques for
pruning your landscape crapemyrtle in the video below.