What is this tree and do I need to prune it?

AGTx(9)February 5, 2013

Hey everyone,

I'm new to Texas and new to gardening and have a question: We have these trees in our front yard (see photo) but we don't know what they are.

In summer they had pink blooms that were quite fragrant. Now they are completely bare, not a single leaf remaining, only a few small black and dried balls that used to be the fruit, I assume. When we moved here, it seemed that these trees, along with the rest of the yard, had been largely neglected and left to their own devices. They already had some dry branches without leaves, even in summer.

Do I need to prune these trees before spring comes? If so, how much do I need to cut them back? I've never done this before and I don't want to damage the tree.

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Hi AGTx,

I have been in Tx for a few years and usually the one with questions. So I am really glad I can answer a question for once!

Its a crape mrytle you have here. You'll find much info if you google them. Here's a little prelim: They are smallish ornamental trees that come in all different colors red, shades of pink to pure white. I think they are originally of chinese origin but they do great here in SW and TX. You can't miss them when they finally bloom. I agree they look almost dead from winter to late spring. Its almost summer when they start showing signs of life and then they are magnificient until late fall.

About pruning, mine are really small so I don't prune. I have read about not pruning them too hard but frequently on highways and commercial landscapes I see their dead dry canopy all chopped off. Guess they come back after that. Some if not most varieties like to grow into a shrub. Yours seems to be kept as a tree form and you might have to trim suckers that sprout up to keep the shape. I love the trunk of these trees too. Mine are still little shrubs no trunk to admire yet. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:01PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Don't prune a Crape Myrtle.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:25PM
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Thank you so much for your responses!! And for the link to the article! I will only do some minor shaping then and remove the branches on the bottom of the trunk then.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:34PM
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Yes I've see crape murder everywhere. And the dear deers commit crape murder too but not to the dry wood. They nibble on leaves but really love flowers and buds.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 6:02PM
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tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)

So tired of seeing the poor crepe myrtles with their heads chopped off!

Just a note, if you ever decide to remove them, they'll come back up from the roots for years. They're very tenacious!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:57PM
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I didn't know that. I was actually thinking of transplanting my bush to a different location to save it from deer damage and planting something else in its place? Is moving impossible to do?


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 11:32PM
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As an FYI, a crape myrtle is not necessarily a small shrub/tree. I have one in front that is less than 10' and doesn't look like it will ever get any bigger (I've been here almost 10 years), but I have two in back that are easily 25' tall. They were planted by the former owner, so I don't know what varieties they are.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:29AM
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PKponder TX(7b)

Natchez are white with beautiful peeling bark and get big! I had one that could not have been more than 12 years old that was a good 25 feet tall! Beautiful tree!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:25PM
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denisew(z8 TX)

The only time you want to prune a crape myrtle is to remove crossing branches, cut out dead branches or trim them up from the bottom. Never top a crape myrtle. If you look up the term "crape murder" you should find lots of information as to why you should not top them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article from Greg Grant on Crape Murder

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 2:22PM
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tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)

I've never tried to move one, just had to remove about five of them (the previous owners planted more trees than would really fit in the yard). However, when we pulled them out, we had someone driving by ask if she could take them as she wanted them. It wouldn't hurt to try, at worst you'll have to buy another one to put where you want if this one doesn't make it. Or transplant a few of the ones that pop up from the roots in the original location.

As for planting in the original location...I'd honestly wait a couple of years first or plant something that'll tolerate you going in to pull out the sprouts. My parents planted mint in the same location as a CM they pulled out, it hasn't kept the roots from sprouting.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:31AM
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Crapes can be trained to be a variety of shapes, They can be left bushy, form the natural 'vase' shape or more tree like.

If those are actually Natchez the can eventually get 20 feet

If those were mine I would clean up the lower portions - ie just trimming small limbs. Attached a picture. I am all for pruning them - NOT TOPPING. The biggest problem i see is that people plant them then let them grow wild and they never end up looking like "classic" crapes. The rule of thumb I have heard is that you want enough space that bird could fly thru the limbs. You want airflow at the top so removing limbs from the center improves the flow

The problem with "topping" is that the new limbs really cant support the new growth. Kind of once you top you have to keep doing it.

If you trim you would want to do it inthe next few weeks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Aggie Crape Varieties

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 7:30PM
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