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Crape Myrtle care

Posted by sammy OK/7A (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 6:22

I have many crape myrtles, but they look good in my yard. For years I have wondered about the best way to cut, prune, or care for them. All of the rules seem to pertain to small plants, not large ones like mine. It is very popular to say not to commit crape murder, but mature plants can take over a major part of your yard if you are not careful.

Yesterday I went to two sites on You Tube where they demonstrated how to prune them. One is our own Oklahoma State Extension, and the other is Arkansas Extension.

The helpful recommendation that I had never seen before is to begin the spring growing season with 3-5 main canes.

I cut five of my very large plants to about 7 canes, removed many or most of the leaves and small growth up to about 2-3 feet from the ground, and they are beautiful. I always do cut mine down to about 4 feet in the spring because they look better in my garden like that.

My crape myrtles are quite old, and for those purchasing new ones, you can pick your size. As for me, I do not want to try to dig out my crapes that are so old, and I enjoyed reading about how to care for them.

In the fall or spring I intend to try to remove some of the old wood at the base of these plants. If any of you know how to do that, I would love to know. If I were to allow the plants to grow all of their canes, the total would reach more than 40.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Crape Myrtle care

I cut one back to about 3 feet tall this spring and it grew back to about 12 feet or so by the first of July.

I'm sure there is a proper way to do it, but I don't know that you can cut one back too much. They grow like crazy.

RE: Crape Myrtle care

Not to hijack your thread, but I've been having a similar question. I want to prune mine to keep them a reasonable size, but not sure when to do that. I know if you prune roses it stimulates growth, so should I wait till next spring to prune? Someone once told me they prune around Christmas.

RE: Crape Myrtle care

Quailhunter, I agree.
Patty, you are not hijacking. I often cut mine around Christmas time so that they won't tend to create so many new sprouts. Also that is when I have the most time to cut the branches to put them into the trash.


RE: Crape Myrtle care

I know from personal experience that they have roots to China! Tried to dig one out years ago and transplant it.

For several years, another one came up at the same location, but eventually I was able to get that totally out.

So, I am doing crape murder, even though I am against it. At this house someone planted one a mere 24 inches away from the house. If I don't murder it (on a regular basis), the branches hit the roof, and I am worried about damage.

It really doesn't seem to make any difference what time of the year I cut this one back. It keeps growing.


RE: Crape Myrtle care

When we bought our first home in Fort Worth in the 1980s we had a crape myrtle that had 30-40 canes coming up out of the ground. It was about 20' tall and was just a dense, tangled mess. For 4 or 5 years I tried to keep reducing the number of canes, and they fought hard to come back. Finally, we took a chain saw and cut the entire thing off at the ground right after the first hard freeze. At that point, I didn't care if it came back or not. It wasn't in a place I ever would have planted one, being too close to the neighbor's driveway and too close to the street.

The following spring, as soon as the canes started sprouting, I started cutting back all of them weekly except for the ones we wanted to grow. I think we reduced it that year to about 12 canes. That fall, we cut it back to the ground again. When it sprouted canes the following spring we cut back unwanted canes weekly using lopping shears and kept about 8 or 9 canes. After that, we had regained control of it and kept it looking good and healthy.

I never cut back the top other than to remove dried flowerheads/seed pods since it was obviously one of the older, taller varieties but I religiously removed every new cane that sprouted other than the 8 or 9 we had decided to keep.

While it took us several years to conquer the crape myrtle's desire to be a big shrubby mess, ultimately it became a beautiful, healthy plant. Of course, its nature was to send up new canes, so I would dig one up occasionally and start a new crape myrtle plant in the side yard or back yard.

I'm not recommending that anyone saw off their crape myrtle at the ground if they want to keep it. We only did that because we were at the point where it was such a big mess that we were determined to either conquer it, or to kill it and then hire someone to grind out the roots. I was happy we didn't kill it, but the world wouldn't have ended if it died either.

Our next door neighbor had lived in her home since our neighborhood was built in the 1940s and said that big old crape myrtle had been there in the corner of our yard for decades before we bought our home, so I never would have tried to dig it up, but we had to do something because it was a horrible overgrown mess.

I am glad there are newer cultivars that don't get as big as those older varieties because that gives us a lot of control over how much pruning we'll have to do or not do in order to keep the crape myrtles looking nice and somewhat under control.


This post was edited by okiedawn on Tue, Jul 29, 14 at 8:35

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