AUBURN, Ala.- The promise of pruning is a healthier and more productive tree. Gardeners want to do what is best for their plants, but sometimes do not know how.
Gardeners know that pruning needs to happen, but often do not know how or when. Sadly, this happens all too often with crapemyrtles. Take a Saturday afternoon drive in late February, and you will find dozens of cases of “crape murder.” Professionals with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System say too many gardeners do not know how to properly prune their crapemyrtles and end up doing what everyone else in the neighborhood is doing. The result–stunting the growth and beauty the tree has to offer.
Crapemyrtles are found at homes and gardens across the South. They are loved for their bright bloom colors of red, white or purple and trunks with sheets of bark in hues of brown and gray. Crapemyrtles must be pruned correctly in order for these qualities to flourish in the tree.
Alabama Extension provides resources so gardeners grow healthy plants and prune their crapemyrtles correctly. Alabama Extension’s horticulture agents are ready to help with any pruning question sent their way.
Pruning with Purpose
“Always prune with a purpose,” Dani Carroll, an Extension regional home grounds agent says. “Never prune just because it is the ‘right time of year’.”
The right time is late winter, according to Carroll. She says pruning should only be done if the tree is in need of reshaping, branches are rubbing against each other creating wounds, or parts of the tree are dead or diseased. In the case that there is dead or diseased wood, the limbs can be pruned at any time of year.
Crapemyrtles come in all different sizes ranging from four feet to 40 feet. A common mistake made by gardeners is planting large crapemyrtles in flower beds.
“What people don’t realize is that crapemyrtles are trees, not shrubs,” says Carroll, “They must be planted and pruned according to their size.”
- Prune with purpose: reshape and revive
- Prune for reshaping in late winter
- Prune away dead and diseased limbs at any time
- Remember crapemyrtles are trees, not shrubs
- Use hand pruners for pruning limbs less than one inch in diameter
- Use lopping pruners for pruning limbs two inches in diameter
- Use pruning saw for anything more than 2 inches in diameter
There is still hope to curing crape murder. Now is the time to correct past hurts done to crapemyrtles and prune them for what they have to offer. This year, prune with a purpose and don’t take a chain saw to your beautiful trees.
Have a gardening question? Call the Master Gardener Helpline. To reach the helpline, dial 1-877-252-GROW (4769).