Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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 Pruning Questions

Pruning smooth azalea in NJ
July 12, 2011 - I have a Smooth Azalea growing in my woods. It was verified by the Master Gardeners of Burlington County New Jersey. It's 12 feet tall and lanky. Can it be trimmed in hopes of thickening up? If s...
view the full question and answer

Removing a non-native windmill palm from Austin
February 27, 2013 - I have a fairly good size windmill palm (about 15ft high) that is planted too close to the house. I also don't like having to constantly remove its fronds as they block a walkway. Is there a good wa...
view the full question and answer

Getting a senna to fill out from Irvine CA
May 30, 2013 - I have a Senna of some kind, started from a seed by a friend. I got it as a small,six in high) seedling. After two years it is now blooming beautifully, but is a single thin stem 4 feet tall with ve...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Texas madrone trees from Utopia TX
August 19, 2012 - I have a number of large Texas Madrone trees on my ranch in Utopia Texas. A few of them have dead limbs and I was wondering whether I should cut off the dead limbs or just leave the tree alone. I wa...
view the full question and answer

Trimming back Texas Star hibiscus in Granbury TX
February 26, 2009 - Can I trim back my Texas Star Hibuscus? And when do I do that?
view the full question and answer

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