How to Properly Prune Crape Myrtles: A Step-By-Step Guide

Ben Collinsworth

One of the easiest ways to tell if a commercial property uses an experienced landscaping company is to look at their crape myrtles.

Has the tree been cut down to a stump — also known as crape murder — or are the branches properly pruned? Crape myrtles can provide vibrant color, but only if they are cared for correctly.

Cutting your crape myrtles improperly will not only be unsightly, but it will also damage the trees and make them unhealthy. Trees can never heal from their wounds: They only seal them. So, it’s important to use the correct techniques when pruning.

Here’s a guide on how to properly prune crape myrtles.

white crape myrtleWhen to Trim Crape Myrtles

The best time to prune your crape myrtles in Texas is during the late winter or early spring.

You want to prune the trees before any new growth appears, while waiting long enough that you aren’t having harsh winter conditions. Crape myrtles are summer-blooming trees, so prune them before then. This service should be included in your commercial maintenance schedule.

Also, make sure you use sharp pruners to get clean cuts and avoid ripping the bark.

Start Pruning from the Bottom

crape myrtles pruned properlyIt’s best to work your way up when pruning a crape myrtle.

If there are any small branches or growth on the trunk or root area of the tree, such as suckers, you can either cut or break them off by hand, if they are small enough.

Be careful not to cut into the trunk when making the cuts.

Remove Crossing or Rubbing Branches

Pruning is the perfect time to fix tree issues that can cause problems for your crape myrtles. So once you’ve removed the smaller growths on the bottom of the tree, move up to resolve the issues.

For example, if you have branches that are running perpendicular to each other or ones that rub against another, you will need to remove the troublesome branches.

You should also remove branches that are less than 1/2 inch in diameter because these will bend and break with the weight of the blooms come summer.

You can use hand pruners for smaller branches that are in arm’s reach, pole pruners for thicker branches and loppers for ones that are more than 1/2-inch thick.

big crape myrtleHow To Cut Larger Crape Myrtle Branches

For thicker branches, you’ll need to make about three cuts in the branch to keep from tearing the bark:

  • Make the first cut about 18 inches from the trunk, about a half the way through the branch.
  • Then, cut an inch further out on the branch.
  • Make the last cut just outside the tree’s branch collar, leaving it intact.

Start Pruning Your Crape Myrtles Correctly

pink crape myrtleTurn your trees over to someone who knows what they’re doing. Ask the landscaping company questions about their tree care services to make sure they are experienced and use proper pruning techniques.

At Native Land Design, we focus on the health and appearance of our clients’ trees with our pruning services. Our team uses sharp, commercial-grade pruning equipment and knows how to maintain trees and shrubs.

In addition to tree care, we also offer commercial landscaping services like landscape enhancements, maintenance, design, construction, irrigation and water management.

Native Land Design provides commercial landscape maintenance services for Austin, Houston and McAllen, Texas. We would love to talk with you about how we can enhance your trees and entire property.

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Ben Collinsworth


Before Ben founded Native Land Design in 2001, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University. He’s an active member of ASLA, HBA of Austin, NHBA, PLANET, and BOMA. Ben, his wife and their three children reside in the Cedar Park area.

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Native Land Design has reliably been servicing The Domain (Austin, TX) for four years and continue to be attentive and thorough in their care. We are extremely appreciative of their efforts and hope to have a long lasting relationship. We would recommend them to anyone looking for a solid commercial landscaping contractor.

Melissa Kreutner, Property Manager, Endeavor Real Estate Group