How to Shape a Crepe Myrtle Tree Grown Too Large

How to Shape a Crepe Myrtle Tree Grown Too Large
Sharon F. recently read my article on HubPages, entitled “Proper Pruning of Crepe Myrtles” and e-mailed me about her myrtle. Here’s Sharon’s question:
 
 “My Crepe Myrtle is getting too large (both tall and wide) for the space where it was planted. How would you approach shaping this lovely tree?”

 

 

 

So many people butcher their myrtles. I feel sick every time I see one lopped off with nothing but chopped off trunks sticking up. They may as well go ahead and cut it down, and let it start over from the ground up. So I was really glad to receive this question.  Here’s my reply, minus the small talk of thanking her for the question and for reading my article, etc:

 

First, do a little routine maintenance:  Remove any dead wood and any branches that are growing back toward the center of the tree — this will allow air to move freely between the branches, and will help to maintain a healthy tree. (This is true for any tree.) Also, if you have two branches that rub against each other, one of them will need to be removed.

 

For controlling the width of the canopy:

 

Natchez Crepe Myrtle has a canopy of up to 20 feet.

If it has a large spreading canopy, I would first remove the lowest branches at the point where they emerge from the main trunk, taking care to make a clean, smooth cut. Then, to reduce the overall width, remove the ends of the branches around the circumference of the canopy, but again, remove them at a joint in order not to spoil the natural appearance of the overall shape of the tree.

 
 
For controlling the height of the tree:
 
This photo was taken at night, and not with the best light, but the branching structure can easily be seen. Choose the tallest branches, and remove each one at the point where it grows out from its supporting branch. After you have done this, if the tree is still too tall, repeat the process, always taking care to cut at a joint, so as not to leave a branch that is just lopped off.
 
Another important thing to remember is to remove any branches that are growing back toward the center of the tree. Also, remove any that rub against another branch, as that will damage both branches. A good way to chose which of the two to remove is to remove the weakest/smallest or the one that grows toward the center of the tree.
 

 Remember, most crepe myrtles

are trees, not shrubs.

 

If you have a problem with your crepe myrtles or any of your plants, drop me a line. Include a photo when you can. If you have a question or comment related to crepe myrtles or pruning in general, just leave a comment below.



15 thoughts on “How to Shape a Crepe Myrtle Tree Grown Too Large”

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      • I just bought crape myrtle Arapaho red tree and purple 💜 zuui . How would I prune these trees 🌳 when started growing to big what the best to keep under control. Thank you for your answer.

        • Hi Regina, I apologize for taking so long to reply to your message. We’ve been so busy cleaning up & making repairs after Hurricane Sally, that I haven’t been working on the blog much. I did get an email notice of your message, but it went into my spam filter, and I just found it last night. I hope you didn’t give up on hearing from me.

          The Arapaho Red crepe myrtle is a fast-growing mid-sized crepe myrtle that will reach a height of 15 – 20 feet at maturity. I couldn’t find anything on a Zuul or Zuui myrtle. I did find a Zuni crepe myrtle. Could it be a Zuni that you bought? The Zuni is considered a small tree or large shrub that will grow to a mature height of about 15 feet and a width of about 10 feet.

          There are 5 (and only 5) good reasons to prune a crepe myrtle tree:
          1. to remove any dead wood – more commonly called “deadwood”;
          2. to remove limbs and twigs that are growing back toward the center of the tree;
          3. to remove branches that rub against each other;
          4. to remove branches that hang over neighboring property, if they are causing a problem for your neighbor; and
          5. to remove small, low-hanging limbs that will one day hang out over a walkway, path, or lawn, and will be too low for a person to walk under.

          It’s best to remember that crepe myrtles are trees, so they will grow tall. If, by keeping them “under control”, you mean trimmed to stay small, there is no good reason do that. Would you do that to a dogwood tree or a red bud tree? Not likely.

          For reasons I cannot understand, people have gotten the idea that crepe myrtle trees should be pruned severely, and kept small. This weakens the tree, and ruins its appearance, especially in winter when it has lost its leaves. The process of pruning it severely is called “crepe murder”.

          I hope this helps you in making decisions about your new trees. They are beautiful and will provide a nice shade for you. Enjoy them.

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