How To Prune Crape Myrtles Without Murdering Them

How To Prune Crape Myrtles Without Murdering Them

Crape Murder

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia), sometimes spelled Crepe because of the crepe paper-like flowers, are incredible long-blooming plants that stand up to the summer heat! They’re deer-resistant, easy to grow and feature such incredible saturated color that not much can hold a candle to their color! offers many different kinds of Crape Myrtle plants, some are tree form, some are large shrub form plants, and our newest series includes dwarf shrubs that are hardy much farther north and can actually be grown as a perennial. We have cultivars that come in a multitude of flower colors, varied leaf color, and size. 

Be sure to check out the mature sizes of the many different varieties of Crape Myrtles and select one that will fit into the space that you want to grow in. Selecting the right mature size means less pruning will be needed, and the plant will take on the most natural form. 

And don’t forget to check out the new series of GreatMyrtle™ Dwarf Crape Myrtles which can be grown as perennials way down to zone 5! Imagine early, dwarf Crape Myrtle shrubs that can be cut down each spring and bloom just like the rest of your perennials.


Ouch! The picture at the beginning shows a horrible "Crape Murder." 

Please, don't use heading or topping cuts to pollard Crape Myrtles, it just won't give you that natural look the plant should have. You'll also avoid creating those knobby knuckles, which sadly wreck the appearance of that beautiful Crape Myrtle bark.

Instead, let's watch Ed Laivo, one of Nature Hills' horticulturalists, as he gives valuable information on how to correctly prune this beautiful tree:

What is the Right Way to Prune a Crape Myrtle

The goal is to get air circulation and sunlight into the canopy of the tree. You also want to allow your Crape Myrtle to showcase the beautiful bark as part of its character.

In the video, you'll learn when to prune Crape Myrtles and get a step-by-step approach to determine your pruning plan. Hint, start from the ground up!

Ed also walks you through a pruning tool selection guide. He'll show you exactly what types of branches you want to prune. You'll also learn what to leave on the tree.

This pruning technique retains the natural shape and form of the Myrtle without it looking like it got a crew cut!

Tools and Equipment Recommended by Ed

  • Eye Protection
  • Gloves
  • Sharp Pruning Shears
  • Tree Saw
  • Sharp Loppers for larger limbs
  • Taller trees may need a Pole Pruner

When to Prune

Crape Myrtles are best pruned when they are dormant. That means either late winter or very early spring before you start seeing new growth emerging. Flowers form on new growth so pruning before they start growing in spring will not affect the blooms.

Some newer varieties of Crape Myrtles can rebloom if you deadhead all the spent flower heads. 

Where to Start

  1. View your Crape Myrtle and make a pruning plan before you begin to cut anything!
  2. Start from the Bottom and remove any suckers
  3. Remove any small tiggy growth from the trunk and from the inside canopy to open the interior for air circulation and sunlight
  4. Clean up the main portion of any main stems leading away from the main trunk of twiggy growth 
  5. Prune out any crossing limbs or inward growing branches
  6. Remove all dead, broken and diseased looking branches
  7. Clean off any of last year's dead flower heads

Remember to leave a collar on your cuts and don’t cut flush to the bark. Ensure your cuts are clean and at a 45-degree angle from the branch.

Ed also sent over some photos of Crape Myrtles that were pruned correctly:

correctly pruned crape myrtle

Correctly pruned Crape Myrtle 


correct hard prune of crape myrtle

Hard pruned Crape Myrtle done the correct way


How to Pick the Right Crape Myrtle

The first thing to do regarding pruning Crape Myrtles is to choose the right plant for your space! This will save you so much time and energy, and if you choose the right size plant for your location then you’ll eliminate how much pruning you will have to do in the long run! 

Your options when choosing a Crape Myrtle are vast! From towering tall tree-form, to mid-sized trees or shrubs, to neat and tidy dwarf forms. And don’t get us started on the color options these days! There’s a huge selection of not just bloom colors, but foliage colors too!

Sharpen your shears and start pruning the right way to keep these glorious trees looking their absolute best for years to come! has some great #ProPlantTips for Crape Myrtle care and for pruning everything in your landscape, so stop by for a visit soon!

Happy Planting!

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