Pruning Crepe Myrtles
Everyone gets excited this time of year about planting, but it's also an important time for pruning, but not everything. You see, knowing what and when to prune can be a little bit confusing, particularly when it comes to deciduous flowering trees and shrubs. You know, the ones that lose their leaves in the fall and winter. But I have a little rule of thumb that I always follow.
If it blooms before May the 15th, it's a spring bloomer. Some of our favorites include forsythia, flowering quince and spirea. These all flower on wood that was produced last year or old wood. All of these should be pruned once they finish flowering.
And there is another category of plants that I call summer bloomers. They bloom after May the 15th. They include things like crepe myrtles, Rose of Sharon and Butterfly Bush. Summer bloomers flower on new wood, wood produced this season, so by pruning them now, I'm encouraging the plant to put out lots of new shoots, therefore a lot of blooms.
Let me show you some techniques I'm using on this crepe myrtle. To maintain this multiple trunk form, over the past few years I've removed all the side branches up to a certain point, about seven feet. This will encourage an interesting trunk base and a wide canopy at the top. Then, I'll take all of these smaller limbs like this, and remove them, and in no time the plant will be transformed from this, to this.
Now this may seem a little radical, but this will encourage lots of new buds and later in the summer, lots of flowers.
From the garden, I'm Allen Smith.
P. Allen Smith Gardens © 1997 Hortus, Ltd.