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Pruning Crepe Myrtle (Australian Guide)

One of the major benefits that you’ll get from pruning your crepe myrtles is that they’ll respond with an abundance of flowers in summer on the new growth.

Crepe myrtles grow really well in most parts of Australia, especially those areas that have a warm, dry summer. They’re stunning feature trees and will add some glorious colour to your garden over summer.

Although it’s not absolutely necessary to prune a crepe myrtle as it does have a lovely growth habit, it is a good idea to give your young tree a light trim, especially if you want to keep the tree quite compact.

When to prune crepe myrtle in Australia

Ideally, you want to wait until your crepe myrtle has entered its dormant period and all the leaves have dropped off the tree so you’re just faced with bare branches.

This makes it easier to give your tree a little shaping and is usually around mid to late winter. It’s also the best time for the tree as it won’t be in active growth.

How do crepe myrtles benefit from pruning?

One of the major benefits that you’ll get from pruning your crepe myrtles while they’re dormant is that they’ll respond with an abundance of flowers in summer on the new growth.

crepe myrtle trees | Plant care

How to prune crepe myrtle

Pruning a crepe myrtle tree is really easy but take care not to over-prune your tree because you’ll end up losing that lovely natural shape. 

Also, remember that the branches that you’ve cut back will spring into growth once spring arrives. 

Therefore, you want to consider where the new growth will be and how that will affect the shape of the tree.

Here are some steps to follow to effectively prune your crepe myrtle:

Step 1 – Deadhead all the spent flower stems

The first thing that you want to do is trim back the branches that have flowered over the summer. You can cut these back anywhere from 5 cm to 30 cm, depending on how far down the stem the flowers grew.

Step 2 – Remove any crisscrossing branches

Take a close look at your tree and look for any branches that are crossing over each other. You want to trim these back so that they don’t cross over and end up rubbing against each other.

Step 3 – Remove any lower side branches from the trunk

One of the most beautiful things about a crepe myrtle is its lovely clean trunk with its smooth, mottled appearance. You want to highlight this feature by removing any lower side branches that are growing from the trunk.

Essentially, you want to aim for a clean trunk height of around 1.5 metres. When trimming these lower-growing branches, make sure that you cut them right back to the trunk but take care not to damage the trunk itself.

Step 4 – Balance the growth around the tree

Once you’ve cleaned up the tree as above, you want to balance the general shape of the tree so that the growth is even all the way around.

This is actually quite easy to do because the branches naturally grow in an upward direction. So, walk around the tree and adjust the height of the branches that grow from a similar point on the tree, all the way around.

RELATED: How to Prune Azaleas

Tips to remember when pruning your crepe myrtle

What you want to create when pruning your crepe myrtle is a nice umbrella shape. This is the natural shape of the tree and this is what you want to follow as you prune.

crepe myrtle tree | Plant care

So essentially, you’ll have the main trunk which you’ve cleaned up by removing the lower side branches, Then, you want to ensure that you have three main leader branches that grow up from the trunk. 

After that, you’ll have smaller branches growing from these three main leaders and these should all be growing in an upward direction. 

FAQ

What should I do if my crepe myrtle is too tall?

To reduce the height of your crepe myrtle, you can trim back the leading upwardly-growing branches but don’t cut back too much as this will stress the tree and also destroy its natural shape. You can also remove the twiggy branches at the top of the tree to control the height.

What is the lifespan of a crepe myrtle?

When grown in ideal conditions, crepe myrtles can have a lifespan of over 100 years.

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Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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2 thoughts on “Pruning Crepe Myrtle (Australian Guide)”

  1. I have a home that is bordered on its back side with two story homes that overlook my 5-foot-tall privacy fence. We have crepe myrtle planted to enhance the privacy. Is there any special trimming techniques that result in a generating a flowering ball above the fence-line. Also, do you have recommendations for the space left between the CM’s that are colorful and hearty for the Alabama/Tennessee border?

    Reply
    • The only thing I can recommend for your crepe myrtles is to cut them back after flowering as this will generate more bushy growth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this balled but if you cut back the lower branches to the trunk, you should get more top growth. Also, as I’m in Australia, I’m not sure what grows well in your area. Maybe visit your local nursery or garden centre to see what they might suggest.

      Reply

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