How NOT To Prune a Crepe Myrtle
First, let me show you some examples of the atrocious 'Crape Murder' I'm talking about, and how it ultimately leads to the tree's untimely demise. Please make sure no children are watching, and sit down before viewing this graphic material.
You can call it 'pollarding' but pollarding is actually done by pruning the new year's growth to a few inches of the main stem, and cutting each branch individually with care. I have even seen well pollarded crape myrtles in a few places!
What actually happens is this: Landscapers go from house to house in late fall and shear the trunks, even including the current year's growth in the destruction, leaving awful looking stumps in people's yards. I have talked with landscapers about this practice, and the ones I spoke to are aware of how it harms the tree, but homeowners complain if it isn't done, as if the landscapers were being lazy by neglecting to ruin a tree. Misinformation is the culprit, not landscapers.
Here's an excerpt from my huge Southern Living Garden Book:
"DON'T COMMIT "CREPE MURDER" Don't chop your large crepe myrtles down to ugly stubs each spring just because your neighbors do. This ruins the form and encourages the growth of spindly, whiplike branches that are too weak to hold up the flowers... Don't leave big, ugly stubs."
From the UF/IFAS Extension website:
"Unfortunately, many homeowners and landscape professionals prune crape myrtle trees too severely. Topping--commonly called "crape murder"--can be very damaging and disfiguring to the tree.... Although topping may result in larger blooms, those flowers will grow on thinner, weaker branches that will droop--especially after rain--and may even break. Topping may also shorten the life of your trees."
I'm not out to judge or criticize those of you who still want to mutilate your tree each year, and some of my friends do it because it feels therapeutic. I get it, and by all means, keep doing it if it makes you happy. I just think its only fair to inform you that its harmful to the appearance and health of the tree, that's all.
I have started a Facebook page for people to rally together and spread information to the masses, so that one day the murders may end. I'll leave you with a final photo to show you what natural crape myrtles look like.