How to Prune a Crape Myrtle: Tallahassee Tree Tips

Crape myrtle trees are a popular landscape staple in the Big Bend area. Vibrant blooms combined with interesting bark patterns make this deciduous tree gorgeous year-round. Most varieties lend themselves to having the classic vase-like shape with multiple trunks and strong branches arching outwards, but how to prune them correctly is an issue of debate to ensure their blooms are at full strength the next summer. One step everyone can agree on is that January through March is the perfect time for pruning crape myrtles in the Big Bend area. 

Following these seven steps will go a long way toward keeping your crape myrtle healthy and thriving. 

You may enjoy the newly pruned view so much this season that adding a few more varieties to your landscape becomes a goal. We have included a few of our favorite crape myrtles for inspiration! 

Pruning Tips

1.  Begin with a goal in mind. Most experts suggest well-spaced main trunks with the center open enough for good air circulation. Identify your first group of branches to trim and then stop to reassess after the initial pruning. You can always go through with a second or third round of fine-tune pruning. 

2.   It is best to prune your crape myrtle in a certain order, making sure to cut back to a larger branch or to one of the trunks. Do not leave stubs sticking out. 

  • Start with the suckers coming up from around the base of the tree. Cut them back to the ground. 
  • Cut back branches growing inward that obstruct the flow of air. 
  • Prune any dead branches or ones that are rubbing against another. 
  • Remove any branches that detract from the overall shape and appearance of the tree. 
  • If the tree is 5 feet or taller, begin pruning side branches growing from the main trunks. As the tree matures, this will include branches up to at least 4 feet and more – giving room for walking or mowing without the risk of running into a branch. 

One of the best features of crape myrtles is their flexibility of shape. If you start trimming and then realize a few branches would have been better off left alone – no problem. Crape myrtles naturally fill in with smaller limbs during the growing season. As long as you keep the middle open for air circulation and suckers pruned at the ground, your crape myrtle will carry on with new leaves and showy flowers. 

Adding More Myrtles to the Mix

When the crape myrtles are in bloom around Tallahassee it’s easy to imagine adding more color to your landscape. With colors and sizes to match about any plan or space, the difficulty is often in deciding which crape myrtle to plant. To help narrow down the possibilities, measure out the proposed planting area. Consider not only the measurements of how wide the tree will grow, but also how tall. Will it get plenty of sun? Will it cast the right amount of shade?

We are including a crape myrtle infographic below of a few favorites seen around Tallahassee. If you have questions about placement or varieties, contact a certified arborist for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prune my crape myrtle in the summer or fall? It’s generally not recommended to prune crape myrtles during the summer or fall, as this can stimulate new growth that may be susceptible to cold damage in winter. Late winter or early spring pruning is ideal.  

How do I prune a crape myrtle to encourage more blooms? Crape myrtles bloom on new wood. To encourage more blooms, lightly prune the tree after it finishes flowering. Remove spent flower clusters and any dead or weak branches.  

What tools do I need to prune my crape myrtle? Use sharp pruning shears or loppers for smaller branches and a pruning saw for larger cuts. Ensure that your tools are clean and properly maintained to make clean cuts.  

Can I prune crape myrtles into a specific shape, such as a ball or square? It’s best to maintain the natural form and shape of the trees. Avoid shaping them into unnatural forms, as this can stress the tree and detract from its natural beauty.  

Trust the Experts

At Miller’s Tree Service, we have certified arborists that can help care for your trees. 

If you have a tree creating too much shade it may be time to put a pruning plan in place for your larger trees. Contact us online here or call 850.894.TREE (8733) to schedule an arborist assessment. As a locally owned Tallahassee business we are invested in keeping Tallahassee trees looking their best!