How to Prune Crepe Myrtle Trees

Crepe myrtle branch with pink blooms drooping in front of a tan brick building
  • 2-5 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
Safety glasses
Work gloves
Pruning snips
Pruning shears
Hand saw
Step ladder

Crepe myrtle trees are a favorite of southern gardeners who value their beautiful bark, majestic shape and abundant midsummer blossoms. Crepe myrtles can be trimmed to shrub height or pruned to encourage health and control size. The amount of pruning done has a great deal to do with the shape and height you desire. Timing and correct technique are critical when pruning these lovely flowering trees. Failure to prune at the right time or in the right fashion may result in tree damage.

Pruning helps promote a strong tree foundation, encourages bloom and healthy tree growth.

When to Prune

For best results, your crepe myrtle in early spring. You may do minor trimming throughout the year, but prune for shape and size just before the tree would begin it's spring bloom. Watch the branches for signs of new growth, and prune as soon as you see the first evidence of the tree coming out of dormancy. At this time of year, the plants are surging with nutrients that are rushing to fuel growth and blooms. Pruning at this time will maximize the tree's natural immunities, protecting it from disease.

How to Prune

white myrtle blooms

Pruning crepe myrtle is similar to pruning most plants. Always cut above or toward the tip of branches, without leaving a lot of bare stem between a leaf or branch node and the cut. Cut at a 45-degree angle, not straight across the branch.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson, adds, "Cut all suckers from the tree. This includes any shoots that are coming up at the bottom from the main trunk. Use clean and sharp pruning shears. Prune the tree for height. Step back and decide where you want the height of your tree to be before you begin trimming.

When pruning for shape, create visible curves by increasing or decreasing the length of the branch tip you cut off. Be careful not to leave protruding spikes that are bare of branches or leaves.

TIP: Susan advises, "Many people believe that severe topping of a crepe myrtle is necessary for flowering. However, light pruning is generally all that is required to maintain a healthy tree."

Compost the Refuse

Discard all smalls bit of plant refuse in your compost, as long as it is not diseased. If you have a wood chipper, you can use it to convert larger pieces of branches into organic mulch, allowing you to retain 100 percent of your yard waste.

TIP: Susan says, "Discard of any diseased limbs or branches by burning, if possible."