Best time to cut back Crape Myrtle

Carol 83

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I've done a bit of research, and have seen people recommend cutting back in spring, late summer, fall or winter. That didn't help me out much. If overwintering matters, it will be in my detached, unheated garage. I do have a crape in the landscape, but it is really big and is still the last thing in the yard to wake up. This one has grown like a weed this summer and obviously needs some serious pruning. Any suggestions are appreciated. cm.jpgcm2.jpgcm3.jpg
 

Brian Van Fleet

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They tend to die back a little after fall pruning, so I’d probably wait until spring. They’re vigorous growers, and I’ve had good results anytime during the first half of the growing season.
 

Carol 83

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They tend to die back a little after fall pruning, so I’d probably wait until spring. They’re vigorous growers, and I’ve had good results anytime during the first half of the growing season.
Thank you. Many suggested (google search) fall was the best time but didn't mention the dieback. That's why I asked here, for trusted advice. If you don't mind, would you suggest a big chop? I'm not scared, it's just a little guy in a nursery pot. I have a much nicer one from Zach Smith, so I am willing to be bold with this one.
 

Hartinez

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Ive seen what Brian is talking about on a landscape specimen in particular. Dieback on branches after a heavy fall prune. As Bonsai I’ve chopped a few back as early as April and as late as August without much issue. I have a Natchez Crape Myrtle that I had growing in my yard for 3 years before digging, heavy root pruning and Hard chopping all in one go in April of this year. Responded exceptionally well and grew vigorously all year.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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If you don't mind, would you suggest a big chop?
No, I’d set it on the ground next spring, let the roots escape and get that trunk fattened up first. It would double in a growing season...and then I’d chop it the following spring. I like bigger trunks, and with CM, you need a bigger tree for the flowers to work. CM blooms at the end of long new growth, so a small thin tree will look goofy with long shoots and blooms at the end.

I have just one CM growing for bonsai, and they’re not the easiest candidates because they do grow so fast. It’s tricky to avoid sucker growth, taperless trunks, congested knots of multiple shoots, and random branch dieback. The challenge is getting even branch spacing and good ramification which will support blooms. Mine has been in and out of the ground several times just to try to get it on a decent path. It’s grown to 8’ tall several times over and I’m pretty sure I don’t want it over 24”...😜
 

Bonsai Nut

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Depends if you want it to bloom. It will only bloom on this year's new growth. You can prune hard as late as May 1, and you will still get flowers come August (or at least I do here in NoCar). However for bonsai you will need to prune several times per season or the tree will run away on you. Also, if you are going to prune in the Fall, make sure that you do so early enough in the season that new growth won't get caught by an early frost. Aside from that, crepe myrtle = prune, defoliate, prune, defoliate :) It is pretty much an on-going process as long as the tree is in active growth mode. Otherwise the challenge is exactly as Brian put it - you have to develop enough ramification to spread the strength over lots of buds so that it won't run as much when you let it rest for the flowers... and the plant will fight you as you try to ramify it.

By the way that is an unusual looking crepe myrtle. None of mine have those long narrow leaves.
 

Zach Smith

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I'm with Brian, I'd wait to chop this one until next spring. If you lived here I'd say go for it now, but considering where you are I think you'll do more harm than good by pruning now.
 

Mikecheck123

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Crape myrtles do this thing where the leaves are kinda opposite kinda not, which gave me fits when I got my first tree guidebook and walked outside to try to ID a tree (that I later learned was a crape myrtle).

Question 1: Are the leaves alternate or opposite?

"Goddammit I can't even tell!" It was not fun start to my tree hobby.

I see that your landscaping one is also whorled! Wild.
 

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