Question: When is it best to prune crape myrtle? I’ve heard before winter and again just before spring. The last two years, I trimmed back the branches (it is only about 5 feet tall) about one-third of the way in late February. What is right? We live in Aliante.
The general rule of thumb on all flowering trees and shrubs is that pruning that affects flowering is always best done just after bloom so that the plant will have a chance to set flower buds for the next season. If the pruning does not affect flower production, then prune in the winter.
Large limb removal should be done during the winter on all trees. If you are shearing it or in some way removing a lot of the ends of young branches, then wait and do it just after it has finished flowering.
Large, heavier flower clusters and out-of-control growth results when branches are cut back severely. Flowers that result from these types of cuts can be so heavy that they bend branches toward the ground. For this reason, do not cut the branches back to stubs every year.
Crape myrtle blooms on new growth such as oleander and pomegranate, so it can be pruned in the spring, and it will still flower normally throughout the summer. Summer shearing will affect flowering.
Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com.