Pruning of Centennial Spirit Crape Myrtle

graygp(8)March 23, 2005

My Crape Myrtle is about 7' high now, I would like to prune it back but am not exactly sure how to go about this. Many websites say to go back on each limb to a fork, is this true? Any help is appreciated.


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Please, Please!!! don't commit crape murder! That's when you cut it back to blunt stumps at whatever height you think it should be and let it bush out from the tops of those unsightly stumps. It's hard on the plant and looks awful. (My personal opinion. You may find some people that like the look!)

CMs should only need light pruning to remove dead or diseased branches and any that cross and rub against each other or any that are making the plant look mishaped. Otherwise, the natural shape is very attractive. You can take off some of the lowest branches to reveal that beautiful muscular shape of the trunk/trunks if you like that look. If height is a problem, prune some branches back each year to keep it in check or better yet, select a cultivar that will stay within the bounds of your landscape.

Other than that, the general guidelines for pruning shrubs/trees should be followed. Prune to but not into the branch collar, prune just as the buds begin to swell in late winter (for summer flowering shrubs only, spring flowering should be pruned just after blooming), if pruning a branch back partway, prune just above an outward facing bud. Sharp pruners that are cleaned with 1:9 water:bleach solution to prevent transmission of disease are a great idea.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 12:20PM
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OOPS! That should be 1 part bleach to 9 parts water! Sorry. My grasp of ratios is seriously lacking today!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 12:23PM
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- i think crepes are on of those plants that you just can't make look good at any size other than that to which they naturally want to be; how tall is your "Centenial Spirit" likely to get? Can you live with it at that size?

- If yes, than basically just let it be, just removing dead, crossed-and-rubbing, or otherwise bad limbs (as suggested above.) Also, you SHOULD remove any suckers; suckers are the spindly little branches that come up from around the base of a larger plant. With suckers, snip 'em off just barely above the "collar" (swelling from which they rise) OR, if they are at a bit of a distance from the main plant, you can cut the root they are growing from just above the sucker and remove the sucker and a good length of the lower root beyond it to make a new plant.

- If not, then i'm sorry to say it sounds like "right plant but wrong place;" you are not going to get it to look good smaller, so i'd recommend moving it (or trading it) and replacing it with one that will naturally be better suited to your purposes.

- Happy gardening,

    Bookmark   March 24, 2005 at 11:40AM
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Thanks for the information you two have given me, I will just do a little snipping here and there. I was talking about last years flower buds, should I take them off or not, I have not done that yet but from some of the stuff I have read I should. what do you think?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2005 at 10:51PM
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I dont think I know how to use this quite yet :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2005 at 11:12PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Yes, you can take off the dead flower buds, but don't cut the main "leader" branches. This is a lovely vase-shaped tree. You can prune off the suckers out of the ground as Vlad suggested, to keep it at 3 to 5 stems. It should never be stripped as I see all over the place, because it causes weak, spider-y off-shoots, that are weaker and can become diseased.

I just came from Virginia Beach, where the entire city has raped every single crape myrtle I saw. I was surprised at how disheartened I was at their mistreatment.

Centennial Spirit is a lovely tree!


    Bookmark   March 25, 2005 at 3:21PM
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