Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - January 27, 2008

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning
Title: Pruning of crepe myrtles
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have three crepe myrtle trees in my yard. When do I trim back the branches? What if I waited too long to trim them back? Can I still do it? How far do I trim them back? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Lagerstroemia indica (crape myrtle) is native to China and, as such, is not a plant we would ordinarily recommend, as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care and propagation of plants native to North America. However, we do try to help out gardeners with plants they have already purchased, native or not.

Once upon a time, while taking the Master Gardener classes, the Extension Agent for Horticulture proposed to show us how to prune a crape myrtle. She then stood there, with her clippers at her side and did nothing. The point being made there was that the less done, the better. At the other end of the spectrum is the common method used by landscape contractors called "chain saw pruning". This is advertised as a way to promote more blooms, but in our opinion, what it produces is grotesque stubs in the winter and early spring, and then gangly, weak-stemmed trees in the summer. Pruning is best done on the crape myrtle in late winter, which is from about now until the end of February in the Central Texas area. The structure and the decorative bark on the trunks of crape myrtle are some of their chief assets; another reason to object to chopping them off at the knuckles. Pruning should ordinarily involve removing only dead and twiggy growth, thus exposing the structural aspect of the tree.

This Floridata website will give you more complete details on the care of your crape myrtles.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Non-native hylocereus undatus for Austin
February 24, 2012 - Can we plant Hylocereus (Dragon Fruit) here in Austin, TX? We are going to have a large xeriscape bed and want to know what all we can put in it. We are new to Texas so we have no clue what grows here...
view the full question and answer

Vegetable garden in Ballston Spa, NY
August 02, 2011 - I never got my veg. garden in this year. Are there any late crops I can still plant at this late date in Ballston Spa, NY? Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Pruning blue potato tree (Lycianthus rantonnei)
July 14, 2008 - I wrote earlier about a blue potato tree(Lycianthus rantonnei) the top appears dead but if you break a branch it is still green, what would happen to it if I cut all the branches forming at the bottom...
view the full question and answer

Sticky stuff dripping from non-native crape myrtle in Austin
August 01, 2012 - There is sticky sap-like stuff dropping from the very large crepe myrtle in my yard. The tree has quit blooming. This didn't happen last year when it was so dry; it started after we had all the rain ...
view the full question and answer

Care for a non-native Syringa vulgaris (lilac)
February 19, 2008 - I inherited a lilac bush when I bought my house. It grows in a bed right in front of the house but grows away from the house, not in a straight up and down manner. This winter we had a 12" snow fall ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.