Atlanta landscapes exist in a climate where a variety of plants can be grown happily. Like anywhere else, we do have our favorites. Since they can be made to grow in all shapes and sizes, are hardy for our weather conditions, and bloom dependably, crepe myrtles have become a standard across Atlanta and Georgia.
While their presence in a landscape is almost a given, they aren’t without their controversy. Nearly every one of them is pruned during the winter time, which poses the question; is this necessary? To some, it’s absolutely required, but to others, it’s “crepe murder.” Below is a quick breakdown from the lawn care experts at Nature’s Turf, serving lawn care and pest control across Atlanta.
Do Crepe Myrtles Need to be Pruned to Flower?
Crepe Myrtles do not need to be pruned to flower, but they may flower more if pruned well. The legend that they need to be pruned to flower stems from the fact that crepe myrtles only flower on the current season’s new growth. It’s not far-fetched for someone to hear that, and then assume they require annual pruning.
The fact of the matter is, that healthy crepe myrtles will bloom annually whether they are pruned or not. Some of the healthiest and most beautiful crepe myrtles I’ve seen were actually huge trees. So large that people accustomed to short, annually-pruned crepes, probably wouldn’t realize they were crepe myrtles. Despite being taller than twenty feet, and never pruned beyond the removal of the occasional sucker (we will discuss these in a minute), they bloomed faithfully.
Does That Mean I Shouldn’t Prune My Crepe Myrtles?
Deciding whether or not to prune your crepe myrtles depends on what your goals are. Well-planned and executed pruning for any plant is a key component to health and longevity. Woody ornamentals can often feel “set and forget” compared to other parts of our landscape. They seem to just exist with little intervention. Like all plants, there are things we can do to help them be healthier.
Strategic pruning for crepe myrtles is much the same as it is for any tree. When small, selecting the three most prominent trunks allows those to become the strongest. Pruning the lower limbs as they grow taller trains them into the shape of a tree. Removing branches that are at unhealthy angles, crossing neighboring branches, or creating unhealthy density reduces competition, and increases airflow. Efforts should also be made to remove sprouts (branches growing straight up from other branches), and suckers (new shoots coming up from the ground).
Removing all of the top growth from a crepe myrtle as is traditionally done does have some practical uses. It will create more blooms if the plants are healthy since there is more new growth. It can also help to regulate the height of the plant, although planting varieties meant to stay smaller can be a healthier option than extreme pruning. The full removal of top growth can create some challenges though. Certain pests are more attracted to soft tissues or stressed plants, and pruning in this way can also create the production of more suckers.
So The Question Remains: To Prune or Not To Prune?
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Understanding the pros and cons of both strategic and annual pruning will help you decide which is best for your trees and landscape. Regardless of which you choose, I encourage you to research beyond this blog, making healthy, strategic cuts.
- Crepe myrtles bloom on the current season’s new growth. The myth that must be pruned annually to bloom likely stems from this fact.
- Healthy crepe myrtles will bloom annually whether they are pruned or not.
- Deciding whether or not to prune your crepe myrtles depends on what your goals are.
- Strategic pruning for crepe myrtles is much the same as it is for any tree.
- Removing all of the top growth from a crepe myrtle as is traditionally done does have some practical uses like keeping them smaller.
Do you have further questions? Lawn care needs? Contact the lawn care and pest control experts at Nature’s Turf today!