Winter is the time for Crepe Myrtle pruning. It blooms on new growth, so pruning won’t interfere with flowering. Here in plant zone 6, we’re lucky that we can grow beautiful crepe myrtle shrubs. Although they’re typically hardy only to zone 7, newer varieties can handle zone 6 winters. If our winter is particularly harsh, they will die back to the roots, but I haven’t known one that hasn’t made a come back.
Other than the obvious desire to have a beautiful looking shrub, the plant needs air circulation to prevent powdery mildew. Removing dead branches will keep decay organisms from attacking the healthy ones. So thinning out a Crepe Myrtle will increase the health of your shrub.
There are 2 Crepe Myrtles that have been on our property since before we purchased this home 3 years ago. They were nearly dead, so my goal was to try and save them with rich compost and plenty of water during hot spells. To add to the problem, there was a Walnut tree trying to grow up in the middle of one. For 2 seasons I kept the Walnut tree sawed down, and poured Roundup on it trying to avoid the Crepe Myrtle. I really didn’t think it was going to work, but it paid off. The Walnut tree died, and the Crepe Myrtle flourished. And this year – yikes! They are a hot mess. Time to get the pruning shears out.
The first goal is to remove all branches that are as thin or thinner than a pencil. There were lots!
Then remove branches that are crossing over other branches. Crossing branches cause rubbing which leads to damage. So out they go.
Now it’s time to remove some of the large branches all the way down to the ground. I left about 12 on each shrub.
Lastly, trim the tops off.
After all the Crepe Myrtle pruning on 2 shrubs, they may end up dying to the roots after all. The Arctic freeze we got last week might have been too much for them. Only spring will tell.