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Pruning your Florida Crepe Myrtle, Why, When, What and How

 

Here in Central Florida we are blessed to have the beautiful Crepe Myrtle tree (Lagerstroemia).  The Crepe Myrtle, found in Greater Orlando,  is a decorative tree that grows in Tropical and Sub-Tropical parts of the world.  It is known for it’s beautiful, abundant, colorful blooms that come back every summer.  It’s name comes from the thin blooms as they have a crepe like texture.

Why Prune?

Most Central Florida homeowners prune crepe myrtles because they will grow, grow & grow!  Before long they can reach heights of 100′ or more.  Pruning can help keep your beautiful blooming tree under control.  However, there are some Crepe Myrtle Purists who call too-much pruning “Crepe Murder” and believe if you desire a smaller specimen then you should go buy one!  It is our opinion to live and let live, if pruning your tree makes you happy, then well go for it.

When to Prune?

Crepe Myrtles can be pruned at any time of the year. YES, you read that correctly!  However, it is easier to prune in (January/February) winter as all the foliage has left the tree, making pruning and clean-up an easier task for you.

What to Prune?

Look for any small “sucker” branches shooting out of the main trunk or main branches.  These appear to increase photo-synthesis and increase the tree’s survival, however to some they are unsightly.  Cut these back all the way.  Next, clean your main branches of any sub-branches that grew from the following year. The main branches can be trimmed as well, however don’t cut them too short or the new growth will look odd attached to stubby branches.  You can cut below or above any knuckles (stubs from previous pruning).  This is up to you but I like to cut through just below last years knuckle.

How to Prune?

Generally, most people use a stout pair of pruning sheers, loppers and a pole-pruner/saw.  Depending on the age/size of your trees you may opt for one or all three to get the job done.  Be sure to wear a good pair of work gloves and protect your eyes with safety glasses.  The whip-branches can get you in the eye, terribly,  if not careful.  Make nice clean cuts, don’t shred the wood.

Marshmallows?

Do you like marshmallows heated over an outdoor fire? Me too!  Save 10 or 20 whip-branches from your pruning exercise to use for roasting marshmallows over your back-yard fire-pit or Big Green Egg.  They work excellent when freshly pruned!

Local Nurseries that carry Crepe Myrtle specimens:

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