Reduce The Size Of An Overgrown Crape Myrtle

Filed Under: Restoration, Pruning, Landscaping, Gardenality Help · Keywords: Crape Myrtle, overgrown, reshape, reduce size, reduce canopy · 2336 Views
The house we purchased a few years back has a crape myrtle in the front corner that has just grown too big and is more trunks than foliage/flower. I would like to lower the canopy of the tree so that the base of the canopy is approximately 8 feet. I also want to remove some of the trunks, especially the ones shooting over towards the neighbor’s house. Last winter I removed two of the trunks this tree had and it still has six trunks.

After reading several articles here I believe there are two options. Option-1, cut all the branches to a height of 5-6 feet and start over with the new growth, or option-2, cut off all the trunks all the way down, pick 3-5 of the new suckers that appear and make them the new trunks and the start of a new tree.

Will you please take a look at the photos I’ve posted and tell me what you feel my best option is? And if option-2 is best, cutting all the way to the ground, will you please show me a photo of what “all the way to the ground” actually looks like so I know how much above the ground to cut the trunks off?

Here is a link to the photos of my tree:

Thanks for your help.


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Answer #1 · Maple Tree's Answer · Hi Mark-I have a crape myrtle also that gets to large for the area it was planted in. Every 4 Years or so I have cut the tree trunks back to approximately 6 foot. Two to three new stems will grow from just below the cut. Each year I cut the previous years growth back to 8 inches where new growth will again sprout from below these cuts. Unfortunately cutting a crape myrtle back this way each year can produce ugly knuckles in time. You can reduce the looks of the ugly knuckles by again in several years cutting the tree again back to the trunks below these knuckles. This is one way I have kept the tree a size I need for the area. The best solution would be to remove the tree and plant a variety that stays smaller in size so that it can mature naturally without having to drastically prune it each year. As you have read you can rejuvenate a tree by cutting the trunks down just above ground level and allow new trunks to form. Again it would be best to remove the tree and plant one that grows to a height naturally that you desire for the area. This way you start a new tree at a good height and don't have to wait to create a nice tree again trying to train new shoots that in time will grow too tall for the area. The tree in the pictures is the one that was cut back to 6 foot high trunks 4 years ago and has developed as you see it with cutting new stems back to 8" long each year. Next year I will most likely plant another variety or cut the tree back to the trunks again. Crape myrtles handle hard pruning well and recover each year quickly. The tree you see was cut back drastically in the spring and recovered and starting to bloom already this year. Cutting out any trunks you don't want is no problem. Just cut them off close to the ground being carefull not to damage any adjacent trunks and close enough to the ground not to leave much of the trunk that will look ugly. It is best to wait until late winter or early spring to do any cutting out of trunks or other hard pruning. Prune before any new growth appears or after any freezing temperatures are expected.
Please don't hesitate to ask any other questions you may have.


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Mark Lucas

Mark Lucas · Gardenality Seed · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
John – Thanks for your answer.

Just to be clear, the tree in your photos had the trunks cut to a length of 6 feet and then the sprouts that grew out were all cut back to 8 inches the following spring?

The problem I have with my tree is that the trunks are really spread out. I’ve looked at dozens of trees in my surrounding neighborhood and see so many that have trunks that are growing pretty much straight up which makes for a great looking tree with a nice full canopy. If this were the case I’d have no problem keeping this tree and starting over with it.

So I’m thinking my best option is to cut all the trunks at the base. The problem is that all the trunks come together into one consolidated trunk about a foot off the ground. As you can see in the pictures I have one large trunk coming out of the ground and then at about a foot above the ground, it branches out to several trunks that are spread far apart. So the absolute lowest I can cut the individual trunks down is to the top of the base trunk. So in the end, I’m going to have this large base trunk and from it, any new growth will begin. And I’m hoping to get 3-5 new strong straight sprouts that will become the new trunks of the tree. Let them grow to about 6-8 feet and then cut them off to form the base of the new canopy. Do you think this will pan out?

I figure I will do this as you mentioned, late winter early spring, give it a few years and if it doesn’t work as planned then I will just remove it and plant a new tree.

5 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
That is correct regarding your first question. cutting the large single trunk near the ground is all you can do to try and start over. It is hard to say how many new shoots will grow from the cut but I'm thinking there should be at least 3 or 4 that should grow more vertical that you can use for your trunks. All you can do is give it a try and if it doesn't work out you can replace the tree. Although the crape myrtle is fast growing you find it better to replace this tree not only with a smaller growing variety but one that already has a trunk structure or form you desire in your tree. Let me know what you decide and how you make out.

5 years ago ·
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