How To Reduce The Size Of A Large Crape Myrtle

Filed Under: Trees, Pruning, Techniques & Methods · Keywords: How To, Reduce, Size, Height, Tall, Crape Myrtle, Crepe Myrtle · 2654 Views
Hello. I have followed Brent Wilson's advice for the past two years on how to properly prune a crape myrtle. I have got to say that I have so many flowers that all of my neighbors come by to look at it. I don't see too many up here in Pennsylvania, at least in my town. The problem is that it is getting too big. Is there a way to properly cut it back to keep its size in check and optimize flower production. I realize that this might make it unable to bloom for a season. My other choice is to rip it out and start over. I don't want to do that if possible.

Matt Mengel Nazareth Pennsylvania

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Answer #2 ·'s Answer · Hey Matt - If the tree is just too large for the area it was intended to fill, I'd go with what John said about either cutting it back all the way to the ground to start it over, or replace the tree with one of the semi-dwarfs that grow 8 to 10 feet tall. That being said, you could always try pruning the trunk maybe halfway back. Two or more new branches will emerge from below where you made the cuts and these should produce flowers. Thing is, these large, topped-trunks are unsightly to me, and the new branches that emerge might grow very long the first year and be susceptible to damage from heavy rains or wind, especially when they are blooming. The next spring you can prune as normal however, as John also mentioned, it won't take very long for the tree to reach the height it was before you started this process. That's why I usually opt for replacing trees that are too large for an area.


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Answer #1 · Maple Tree's Answer · Hi Matt-Many of us have wished we had started pruning our trees as Brent discusses in his article when they were young. I have a crape myrtle that was growing extremely large for the area it was planted in. Unfortunately there wasn't a lot of choices 25 years ago as there is today regarding crape myrtle varieties. I elected a few years ago to drastically prune my tree back to the 5 main trunks as it was getting to large and had been pruned incorrectly for many years before I purchased my home. The last few years I have been able to develop a nice looking canopy again at a lower height, without the ugly knuckles, but unfortunately the cultivar I have will be too large again for the area in another year. Larger varieties that outgrow the area they are planted in will always in time need drastic pruning to keep them at a lower height. In doing so they unfortunately do not produce as nice a looking tree, trunk and canopy, as they would when being allowed to grow to their mature height naturally. Besides cutting the tree back to the trunks approximately 5 feet off the ground you could cut the trunks all the way back to the ground. This is considered rejuvenation pruning. Although this would give you a new start with a smaller tree it won't take much time to reach a height taller than you desire again. Like you I love my tree's trunk character and its blooming but don't want to have to start over every couple of years taking time to develop a new lower canopy. Next year I will most likely replace the tree with a smaller variety such as the 'Tonto' or 'Sioux'. It will be a hard choice as there are now many cultivars to choose from that will give me a mature height of 12 to 15 feet. There are some that have a mature height of around 10 feet and some that can be grown as a large or small shrub. I noted a link to an article on choosing the right crape myrtle you may be interested in reading. It gives you tips on choosing the right crape myrtle and a list of some of the crape myrtles and their mature height. There are many more to choose from but I believe these are Brent's favorites.

I uploaded a few pictures of the tree I drastically pruned back to the trunks two years ago in February. The second picture shows how quickly these trees can recover by May or June of the same year. I pruned it correctly last year and again this year, a little further back than I should have, but next year it will already be larger that I desire for the location it is planted in. As they are fast growing they will again be at a height you may not want in just a few years.

Hopefully this has helped with your decision whether to drastically prune your tree every couple of years or to replace it with one that will grow to a mature height that you desire naturally. Fortunately for you, myself, and others the correct pruning of the crape myrtle will develop a nice canopy until the tree reaches its mature height. Unfortunately our trees mature height is well beyond what we desire.

Please ask if you have any other questions.


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Matt Mengel

Matt Mengel · Gardenality Seed · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
Thank you John for your answer. I wasn't sure if cutting the crape myrtle back would kill it, especially here where it gets pretty cold. I was thrilled to see that it did so well, since it is a southern plant. The pictures were nice too. Thank you!

5 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
You're very welcome. Its nice that the crape myrtle is doing well for you. I believe you are in Hardiness zone 6b which is at the lower end of most crape myrtle's hardiness. If you are going to prune your tree back the best time in your cooler location would be late winter or early spring before you see any new growth starting. Let me know how you make out.

5 years ago ·
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