There are many types of crepe myrtle, some are the size of small shrubs while some grow into tall trees. The flower that appear on these trees can be white, pink, magenta, or purple in color. Most crepe myrtle are shrubs but they are pruned to grow and shape as small trees. This tree shape is the most preferred shape and can be often seen on landscaping plans. These trees have a long-lasting bloom, that makes the tree even more attractive. In certain climatic conditions this tree can even bloom for six months. After the flowering season is over, one can also observe their bark which has interesting colors and tends to peel off in small section. Though, these trees are low on maintenance, one needs to annually keep pruning them to maintain its tree-like shape.
Is Crepe Myrtle Pruning Necessary?
Before you start pruning, one needs to understand if pruning of crepe myrtle is necessary. Pruning of the tree is not normally necessary to maintain the health of the tree. However, if you want to maintain the tree-like shape, you need to prune it every year. You can prune the trees according to any shape you like. You can prune the branches if you find them too close to each other. However, pruning is not necessary if you are fine with the shape of the branches.
The Right Time for Pruning
For general maintenance of the tree the ideal time for pruning is either in the late winter or during the early spring time when the tree is in the dormant state. This is known as the best time for pruning, if you are thinking of reshaping the tree or wanting to get rid of the weak branches and encourage new growth. Similar to many plants, the crepe myrtle tree can also be encouraged to put forth a second round of blossoms using a practice called deadheading. This helps to preserve and concentrate the tree's energy on the flowers and tree's health. This can be done after the tree's first round of blossoms is finished. Then you can prune out the blossoms.
Deciding Pruning Shape
There are different ways for pruning these trees, to either maintain a natural shape or a formal tall tree shape. In the natural style of pruning the focus is on the branches which are inwards. In the formal style of pruning, one focuses on pruning for an outward shape of the tree rather than inner openness. This style also helps to encourage additional blooming, as it forces the tree to grow more new wood on which the newer blossoms appear.
How to Prune?
To prune a crepe myrtle tree use sharp and clean pruning tools. The bypass pruning shears will give good effective results, but use a saw for branches which are more than one inch in diameter. So, clean your garden tools with a solution of 1 part of bleach and 4 parts of water. Then start at the bottom and trim out all the suckers, that are growing around the base of the tree. If you see any shoots which are soft and pliable, then just pull them out of the ground and snap them from the base. Then get rid of all the side branches from the main trunk till one third height of the tree. While pruning, try to maintain plenty of light and air circulation by limiting the number of main trunks to 4 - 5. Get rid of the diseased or damaged branches and finally remove any branches which cross each other.
Make sure you always avoid the ugly practice of pruning the crepe myrtle to a trunk, this is called 'crepe murder' and is a very bad pruning practice. This practice not only makes the tree look ugly, but is also very harmful to the health of the tree, as it invites fungal infection and decreases the tree's resistance to storm damage.