Talkin’ Dirt with Kathy – Crape Myrtles

In my last article, I mentioned that it is time to prune your crape myrtle trees.  As I was driving around this past weekend, I couldn’t help but notice crape myrtle trees that had been beautifully pruned and then the ones that had been mercilessly “murdered” by unaware landscapers and homeowners.  When it comes to pruning crape myrtles, it would be better to leave them alone rather than improperly chopping them back below the knuckles every year.  When a crape myrtle is pruned back too far, it has two effects: 
1.  Reduces the number of blooms that will be produced during the summer.
2.  New branches will grow far too long and therefore will not be able to support the weight of heavy blooms – particularly when wet.
Correct pruning can be done in three steps:
1.  Remove sprouts near the ground and along the trunk .
2.  Remove interior sprouts that travel “crosswise” inside the top of the tree.  Most of those you leave should be vertical or leaning towards the outside.
3.  Shorten all long arching sprouts back to the point where they are one-half to one-fourth inch in diameter.  You will have no dry flower heads left on the plant and it will have a nice “ice cream cone” shape.
If you happen to move into a home that has an incorrectly pruned crape myrtle, it can be corrected but may take a couple of years.  All you need to do to correct the tree is to cut the stem or stems just below each knob and then wait for sprouts to appear in April.  Select two or three vertical sprouts to keep and remove the rest in May.  The crape myrtle will look pretty good by September but you may need to do a bit of shaping and sprout removal the following spring.  Over the years, you’ll have a nicely formed crape myrtle.
I have included some photos of area trees that have been correctly pruned and also those that have been incorrectly pruned.  My bank, Progressive Bank, has several lovely crape myrtle trees that have just been pruned correctly!  My broker, John Rea, has several crape myrtle trees that have just been pruned incorrectly!  I will have to give John Rea a demo on how to prune a crape myrtle.  He is incredibly smart and I always look to him for advice regarding real estate, but he may need to stick with what he knows best and leave gardening alone!
More later this week on daffodils and don’t forget the Jonquil Jubilee this coming Saturday in Gibsland.  Go to for more information or contact Holly May at or call her at 318-843-6228.  I have never attended but my sister and I are planning to head to Gibsland this Saturday. The Jonquil Jubilee is an annual festival to celebrate the beautiful jonquils (daffodils) that grow in this area. Gibsland is a very small town in north Louisiana made famous by the fact that it was where Bonnie and Clyde met their end. I prefer to think of the lovely daffodils instead. This year, the festival is set for March 3rd beginning at 8:00 am with a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Gibsland Lions Club. Vendors will be gathered at the Pavilion and Gazebo area and always have many hand crafted items for sale.
Have a great week!
Kathy VanVeckhoven, Realtor
(318) 388-0941

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