Every fall or early winter, there is a crime wave, and the criminals get off comparatively lightly. We’re discussing crepe murder, the colloquial name for crepe myrtle trees that are felled by inexperienced gardeners using tree loppers to remove the center leader branches.
The outcome is far worse than a hideous-looking tree. Crepe myrtles are more vulnerable to disease, pests, weak wood, and low vigor after cutting the core leaders that are the topping. After you’ve topped the tree, when it does sprout anew, it will appear as though someone taped fragile twigs to the trunk.
The solution is straightforward: learn how to trim a crepe myrtle properly and use those techniques to prevent your tree from leading a life of crime and keep it happy, healthy, and gorgeous for as long as you can.
If your crepe performed well this season, it will most likely perform similarly next season with the exception of some minor maintenance pruning that you would perform on any other tree or shrub. You do not need to turn trimming your crepe myrtle into a major undertaking, you are correct.
The purpose of pruning is to build structure, increase light and airflow, and remove dead or damaged branches. It’s not a good idea to prune your crepe myrtle tree just because you feel like you should. Avoid cutting the central branches carelessly just because you think you should.
Constantly removing limbs hinders the tree’s exfoliating bark, which is one of its most beautiful features, and the accompanying aesthetic.
Take note: There will be a lot of waste if you decide to prune your tree or shrub (because it really needs it). Calling your town is an excellent idea to find out how to properly dispose of woody plant waste. Woody material is a great filler for the bottom of beds and an eco-friendly way to get rid of plant waste if you’re planning raised beds or know someone who might be.
Right Month To Prune Your Crepe Myrtle
There are numerous misconceptions about this subject, but the optimal time to prune a crepe myrtle is around the middle of February. On most other trees and shrubs, late fall or early winter is the optimal time to prune, but if at all possible, avoid doing it here. First off, crepe myrtles give a landscape lovely winter interest; you do not want to spoil that with pruning. Second, cutting too soon and subjecting your plant to the worst winter conditions could harm it and make it more prone to injury.
Equipment / Tools
- Safety Glasses
- Pruning Shears
- 1 Bottle of Alcohol or Bleach
- 1 Rag or Roll of Paper Towels
Your intention is clear: Make pruning cuts to shape the plant, get rid of any dead or broken branches, and give it structure.
For the pruning you wish to undertake, choose the appropriate tool. Pruners work well for little branches with a diameter of up to 3/4 inches. For branches with a diameter of 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches, use loppers. For huge branches more than 1 1/2 inches in diameter, use a saw. Before making any cuts, thoroughly clean your tools with a bleach or alcohol solution.
Lay Down a Tarp
Put a tarp underneath your plant to collect all trash. It not only makes cleanup easier but also prevents branches from falling to the ground, which is crucial if you have unhealthy or contaminated plant material.
Cut Off the Small Branches
Any thin branches that require trimming should be the first to be clipped. Look for branches that cross over one another, rub against one another (which will eventually cause damage and weaken them), are broken or dead, or otherwise deviate from the desired shape.
Avoid making cuts across a branch’s horizontal plane since doing so will impede vertical growth. The cut site will only grow more widely as a result of this. Vertical cuts should be made.
Remove Larger Branches
Use the same factors you used to decide to remove the smaller branches when selecting to remove the larger branches after the smaller branches have been removed.
Leave a branch alone if you come across one that needs a vertical cut with a saw and that you would like to prune. When cutting heavy branches with a saw, you must make specific cuts because the branch would break under the weight rather than allowing you to make a precise cut.
Note: Keep the center branches intact. Topping is the act of cutting the center leaders. This is by far the most typical error, and it is the cause of crepe murder.
Make Use of Three-Cut Method for the Large Branches
After dealing with the larger branches that can be cut using pruners and loppers, you can use the three-cut pruning technique to cut the larger, heavier branches:
- Make your initial cut a foot from the trunk, underneath the branch, and continue cutting upward through the branch until you are halfway through.
- Make a second incision approximately six inches from the trunk this time starting at the top of the branch and sawing downward until the branch is completely through. You’ll be left with a 1-foot branch stub that is still connected to the trunk.
- Make your last cut by sawing up from the bottom, just off the tree trunk. A circular pattern can be seen where the trunk joins the branch. Make your cut outside of that cut so that it heals perfectly into a donut-shaped scar.
Point: Before cutting off any large branches, keep in mind not to reduce the height of your tree and not to cut too much.
Dispose of the Pruned Branches
Remove the fallen branches from your tarp by dragging it to a trash can or brush pile.