Know the story of Moses and the burning bush?
If the story took place in Florida, that bush could’ve been a crepe myrtle instead.
Crepe myrtles (also known as crape myrtles or crapemyrtles) bring an explosion of color to the landscape when they’re in full, fiery bloom. If you have one on your property, you may be wondering how to help it reach this potential.
All it takes is pruning! We’ll show you how to prune crepe myrtles in five steps to help them look their best.
But first—why now?
Why Prune During Winter?
You could prune crepe myrtles at any time of year, but mid-January to the end of February is ideal for a few reasons:
- During this period, crepe myrtles are just about to end their winter dormancy. You have a blank slate to shape and structure just before the flowers grow in.
- By pruning during cool weather, you’re creating less of an opportunity for bugs and disease to take hold once the summer arrives.
- The rapid summer growth season hasn’t started yet, so there’s just less to do in your yard! Cross this off your to-do list before lawn mowing becomes your weekend chore.
How to Prune Crepe Myrtles
1. Remove All Dead Plant Material
There’s no point in keeping it around! It looks unattractive and it reduces airflow.
2. Plan for 5’ to 6’ of New Growth as You Cut
Crepe myrtles typically achieve five to six feet of new growth throughout the summer, so you’ll need to portion out that much space for branches as you’re pruning.
For example, does your crepe myrtle sit near any windows on your home? If so, cut the branches to at least five feet from or under your window, so they don’t blot out natural light when they grow back.
Similarly, cut at least five feet from shrubs, trees, or other plants that sit next to your crepe myrtle. Be attentive to the plant’s internal structure as well—you don’t want to wind up with branches growing into one another.
Take a look at how Sun Power Lawn Care does it:
3. Place Angled Cuts at Stem Nodes
On each branch, you’ll see “nodes,” or raised surfaces on the stem that typically have leaves growing off of them.
Place your cuts just above these nodes. That will channel the plant’s energy to grow big, lush flowers where you cut.
Be sure to angle your cuts as well, so that water drains off easily.
4. Did You Prune Last Season? Cut Strategically
It’s better not to place your cuts in the exact same places you pruned last year. As a general rule of thumb, place your cuts three or four nodes up from where you cut last time.
This creates depth and structure in the crepe myrtle, helping the flowers look their best when they grow in.
5. Prune Flower Heads Later in the Season
Here’s a trick to get more bloom for your buck.
In a few months, once your crepe myrtle has flowered, you can trim all the flower heads off to force a second bloom.
Typically, once a crepe myrtle blooms, it starts putting all its energy toward seed production. But by cutting off the flowers, you force it to put its energy toward flowering once again.
The best time to do this is mid-summer, when the flowers are starting to lose their vibrancy. Just trim right under the flower head. The flowers themselves make a great indoor decoration—don’t hesitate to arrange them in a vase inside!