Advice on Healthy Pruning of Crape Myrtle

MarenAL(7)March 2, 2014

I have a beautiful, tall (20-25 feet), mature crape myrtle that I have rarely messed with in my backyard in the 7 years I've lived in my home- I typically only cut back branches that hang too low over our drive or the walkways. Unfortunately, we need to cut it back a significant amount because we are turning our back deck into a screened in porch and the branches impinge on the space, particularly when they are in bloom and rain weighs down the branches.

I would like to keep this tree, or at least some trunks, if at all possible. It would make me cry if I have to dig it up and replant a dwarf variety, but I will if I have to. However, I am not a gardener and I will take advice for how best to cut it back to allow for the new roof line.

Can anyone take a look at the pictures and let me know what you would do?

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Your Crape Myrtle is beautiful! I recently had to cut mine back because it was getting uncomfortably close to my power line. What I read, and the youtube video I watched said, to prune with a vision of what you want it to look like. If you are removing from the bottom branches, cut with a plan. Trim the "hair" off the top, for better blooms. Open the middle, remove crossing branches. "If" you have to hack at it to make it fit your new roof line, it will survive as long as it's still getting sun. People butcher crape myrtle all the time. It will make a knot in future branch growth where the main branch was cut. Not as elegant as a smooth branch, but not the end of the world. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:26AM
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Thanks for the response pmb2005- very helpful.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 7:12AM
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where is the deck that you are screening in?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 6:04PM
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Louisianagal, it is directly to the right. I've attached a pic showing the deck. It is really the overhang from rainy branches that is the biggest problem, so maybe the solution is just to take off height?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 6:52PM
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MarenAl, ok i see. I have pruned many trees on my property in a healthy, natural way. In fact, my husband and I do this every winter when we can see the overall form and entire branch structure of the trees (crapes, ornamental pears, redbud, maple). for your crape, I would suggest that you could easily remove one entire trunk w/o harming the tree, nor the overall appearance of it. Looking at the first picture you sent, I count 4 main trunks (crapes are best as multi-trunked trees). I am counting from left to right at ground level. Look carefully before you make any cuts, but I think you could remove trunk #4 the one nearest the deck, furthest from the white arbor/pergola. Make the cut at ground level. You could remove the upper parts of that trunk first, to make the final "timber!" fall more manageable! Then you should remove any smaller branches of the other trunks, that cross or rub with another, or that go inward and not in the nice fountain shape of the mature crape. In my opinion, your tree could stand an overall "thinning out." To do that you remove some of the smaller branches all the way to where it meets a larger trunk, don't lop if off halfway. To drop the overall height of the tree, as well, which would help with the drooping of heavy flower clusters, you could remove maybe the top 1/4 of the tree, keeping the nice rounded shape, don't square it off. Do one cut at a time, carefully stepping back and looking at the overall picture, each time you cut. Hope this was helpful! Laurie

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 7:19PM
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Laurie, this was incredibly helpful! Thank you for taking the time to be so descriptive. This will be our weekend project- have to take advantage of our beautiful forecast here this weekend.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:27PM
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gigim(8A SC)

Would love to see pics of your tree after pruning.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 3:37PM
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