Stop Crape Murder: Don’t Cut Back Your Myrtles

March 14, 2009


from the Escambia County Extension Service

Crape myrtles are a favorite tree along the Gulf Coast. It seems that every yard has at least one tree and landscapers frequently rely on these flowering trees for street plantings and commercial properties. Crape myrtles are low maintenance plants that reward us with colorful flowers throughout the summer months.

crapes12.jpgFlowers are not the only virtue of this tree. Many varieties have beautiful bark and growth habits that can be enjoyed all year if trees are not heavily pruned.

Unfortunately, many crape myrtles receive unnecessary pruning every winter in the form of topping or hat-racking. The practice of topping trees is so common that many people believe it to be needed in order for the tree to flower heavily. This is not always true.

Crape myrtles bloom on new growth which will occur without any pruning. Trees will continue to flower without topping and we all can then enjoy the natural shape and shade that the trees provide. Less pruning also saves the need to dispose of all the trimmings and may reduce your need for pesticides to manage unsightly powdery mildew or sooty mold. If you are pruning because your tree is too large for it’s spot, consider removing it and planting a tree or shrub that fits that spot.

There is a crape myrtle for any spot. Crape myrtles cultivars range in size from 1 foot to over 20 feet tall. Shop carefully so that you purchase a suitable plant for your landscape. The publication Crape Myrtle in Florida will help in your selection process.

Pictured top: Crape myrtle trees do not need pruningĀ  for new growth. Pictured below: These Crape myrtles were ruined with unnecessary topping. Submitted photos for



4 Responses to “Stop Crape Murder: Don’t Cut Back Your Myrtles”

  1. Elizabeth on March 15th, 2009 4:01 pm

    I’m not lying, but we had a man who worked for the division of forestry who told us to prune them to four feet tall every February.

  2. Williard Purell on March 14th, 2009 12:59 pm

    Thanks for this information. Not STUPID just uninformed. Maybe some more tips later please.
    Looking forward to pretty CM’S>

  3. Deni Deron on March 14th, 2009 11:30 am

    This is a great article because I think so many people have been doing it for so long just because they think they’re suppose to. Clean your Crape Myrtles up a little, but don’t cut them back so much. This totally makes sense to me.

  4. onyr on March 14th, 2009 1:55 am

    Wow, for all of the people who go and cut your crape myrtles back like those pictures… YOU ARE STUPID!! I use to work for a top notch landscaping company who did business for Sacred Heart, Sandy Sansing, and several other big names in Pensacola and let me tell you know that is the exact opposite way to prune the trees. When pruning the trees you only need to remove the small twigs, branches that are dead or covered with fungus, the branches that cross each other forming an X (only take out the one that does NOT point upwards or at about a 45 degree angle), and trim about 8-12 inches off of the top of the tree to give it a flat top look. The tree will grow all of this back the following year and it will still flower a tremendous amount.

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