How many of you are guilty? Our first year in Tupelo, we followed the lead of our neighbors and trimmed our crepe myrtles back to nothing. We've learned better over the years. Take the advice below. You'll be glad you did.
One of the most beautiful trees that grows in the South is the Crepe Myrtle. As the summer months warm up, these trees unleash stunning festoons of vibrantly colored blossoms. Shades range from white, to lavender, to magenta to ruby red. These trees start off their lives as rather unassuming diminuitive things. However, if left to grow in their natural beauty, these trees become majestic monuments to the charm of the Southern landscape. In the late winter, after the blazing blooms of the crepe myrtles are a distant memory, there are many who use these dormant months to chop these gorgeous trees down to bare stumps as they remove the majority of the branches and leave an unimpressive trunk with a few stark branches. This is an offense that I call "crepe murder". When you chop a crepe myrtle, the branches will grow back. However, the shape of the tree is destroyed and you will produce a stunted shrub-like tree that lacks the grace of a naturally-shaped crepe myrtle. The photo below shows a row of trees that have been hacked at the knees. You can see the knobby growths produced by someone cutting the trees down to a diminuitive height.
How To Properly Trim a Crepe Myrtle
When the tree is dormant (in late winter/early spring), you can lightly prune a crepe myrtle in order to encourage a particular shape or to remove limbs that are in the way. In addition, when the tree starts to put out new growth, you may see shoots that appear at the base of the tree. These should also be removed. The key is to use a light touch and your tree will grow to be a true Southern beauty.