Crepe Myrtle Tree Trimming Guide: How To Prune Myrtle Trees for More Blooms

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | October 25, 2023

Lady carefully conducting crepe myrtle tree trimming after learning how to trim crepe myrtle trees properly and cutting myrtle branches for crepe myrtle pruning during the correct season.

Using a Crepe Myrtle tree trimming reference guide can help you understand how to prune myrtle trees for more blooms and maintain their health overall.

As ornamental trees, Crepe Myrtle trees are also known as “Crapemyrtles”, “Crepemyrtle”, “Crepe Myrtle” and “Crape myrtle”; but these names all refer to the same tree.1,2

Crepe Myrtle tree trimming practices accordingly work the same regardless of what name it was given where it was purchased.

This tree trimming guide explains when, why and how you should trim your Crepe Myrtle trees, and also outlines when to hire a tree trimming professional who can do the job safely and accurately.

Why Is Crepe Myrtle Tree Trimming Needed?

One reason a Crepe Myrtle tree may need a trim has to do with simple property management. These trees can get big, and are often too big for the location where they’re planted.4

Ideally, you won’t have to prune your Crepe Myrtle at all. Over-pruning can be especially damaging to Crepe Myrtle trees.

Best practices in Crepe Myrtle tree trimming showing the different parts to cut and a guide on how to prune Crepe Myrtles.

Get the balance wrong and your tree will be more susceptible to disease and pest infestations.

Properly planted in the right place ahead of the right season, and you may never need to resort to Crepe Myrtle tree trimming. However, if you plant it in the wrong spot,5 the size, shape, and expanse of the tree will demand pruning.

Some Crepe Myrtle trees can get as high as 100 feet, though there are varieties available which have been cultivated to only reach a short height.6 If you incidentally plant a huge Crepe Myrtle in your yard, trimming may be needed to allow sunlight into the house, or keep the tree from damaging a property’s structural integrity.

There are diagrams available online that will help you get an idea of what the primary areas of a tree will be,3 and assist in understanding associated terminology when trimming crepe myrtle trees.

Consider these reasons to trim a Crepe Myrtle:

  • Removal of dead, diseased, damaged branches
  • Pruning encourages blooming when done at the right time
  • Pruning helps shape a tree, control size, and facilitate maintenance
  • Pruning encourages future growth but avoid trimming limbs bigger than a pencil

Best Practices in Crepe Myrtle Tree Trimming: Proper Pruning Tips

Plant a Crepe Myrtle that won’t get too big.7 Alternatively, properly shape it so it remains within intended boundaries.8

What you’re going to want to do is trim smaller branches along the sides of the tree. These are “lower temporary branches”, as the linked diagram in the introduction labels them.

Get rid of crowded branches, dead links, and seed pods. Don’t just remove branches near the top; the result is unsightly, and may “end” the tree.

Here are proper pruning tips:

  • Limit myrtles to between 3 and 5 trunks early on
  • Get rid of “suckers” near the “base” of the tree: They’ll turn it into a big bush
  • Removing branches below 5 feet helps reduce shrubbery appearance
  • For notably high Crepe Myrtle trees, increase the height below which you prune
  • Cut crossing, rubbing, dead branches from upper areas of the tree
  • Cut branches to just-above buds facing outward, or to the “collar” of the branch9
  • Remember to remove unwanted branches before they’re thicker than a pencil

Crepe Myrtle Tree Trimming Based on Tree Size

Additional best practices for Crepe Myrtle tree trimming based on tree size may include immediately outsourcing to an expert. These trees can get huge, and as they grow, best practices similarly transition.

Trimming can be done by a novice at any stage, but it’s not wise past a certain threshold of growth owing to involved logistics.

Here’s a basic rule of thumb if you’re new to such pruning: any work that requires you to use a step ladder or other vertical lift solution shouldn’t be attempted. That you mean any height higher than about 10 feet.

If you’re adventurous and skilled in learning new things, maybe extend that limit to 15 or 20 feet.

Crepe Myrtle trees can grow 30 to 100 feet high and China has one over 34 meters high (that’s over 111 feet).10

Crepe Myrtle tree trimming that requires you to climb high into the “trunks” of the tree with a chainsaw is something you probably want to be cautious about. Once you’re climbing into the tree’s innards, you’re in a lot more danger.

A better move is working with pros. Collaterally, this helps you avoid incidental “crepe murder”.

With that in mind, when you do follow through on a little Do-It-Yourself (DIY) pruning, at minimum you’ll need the following gardening tools:

  • Gloves and safety equipment as needed for the job
  • A hand pruner for twigs under the size of a pencil
  • Loppers for larger branches, up to 1.5”
  • Pole pruners and pruning saws for branches bigger than that

If you’re trimming a very large tree, you should work with pros. If you can’t, but want to get the job done anyway, see if you can secure access to the following tools:

  • Pruning ladders or rented “cherry pickers” for larger trees11
  • Safety harnesses and cables for interior trimming on larger trees
  • Disposal infrastructure: trash bags and trailers for branches as necessary

When To Prune

Just because a tree needs a trim doesn’t mean you should jump into the process immediately.

Ideally, as you’re planning when to prune, shoot for the end of your Crepe Myrtle’s “dormant” phase. This is in winter, usually around mid to late February.

Closeup of a Crepe Myrtle tree in winter showing no leaves attached on the branches.

(Image: Hà Phạm19)

Try to avoid Autumn pruning. This weakens the tree ahead of its dormant phase.

Pruning throughout the tree’s active season is ideal for increased blooms. Just do a proper trimming job after the tree’s flowers are spent, and it will flower again.

Leave the last buds of the season on the tree for next year.

This can get tricky. Crepe Myrtles bloom red, purple, white, or pink flowers in late summer and autumn.

You want to get to know your tree’s “rhythms” so you don’t prune too late.

Pruning also helps you identify health issues. One thing many Crepe Myrtles suffer from is CMBS: the Crapemyrtle Bark Scale,12 an insect easily detectable while pruning.

Desired Results That Follow Crepe Myrtle Tree Trimming

Some desired results that tend to follow Crepe Myrtle pruning include:

  • Multiple blooms in a year
  • A stronger, larger, more robust tree
  • Identification of pests or other diseases
  • Property management ahead of notable growth

The thing to remember when you’re pruning Crepe Myrtle trees is that they are sensitive, and if you’re too zealous, you’ll severely damage the tree. There’s even a colloquial term for this among arborists: crepe murder.13

Crepe Myrtle trees are often planted in the wrong place. If you have a yard 40 feet on a side, you may think you can plant a Crepe Myrtle in the middle.

Well, you can; but if that tree makes it to 100 feet in height without being delicately shaped at the right time in its growth cycle, it could very well have branches extending beyond your 1,600 square foot yard. Those branches may even come to impact your property’s infrastructure or impose on neighboring land.

When You Should Contract Arborists or Other Trimming Pros

There are numerous instances when you should contact an arborist or a tree trimming service. Sometimes a job is beyond you, sometimes you’re looking for a precise advice to help you with your DIY pruning further on.

For a lot of homeowners, it becomes integral to contact arborists when they prune a bit overzealously, and find themselves facing incidental “Crepe murder.”

If you’ve butchered a Crepe Myrtle, you might have to cut the tree all the way to the ground so it can grow back anew. When the tree has managed to expand in the subsequent season, pick which of the new trunks you want to keep (usually 3 to 5), and get rid of the rest.

Restoration takes about 5 years.14 If you haven’t damaged your tree so bad, here are tips to help Crepe Myrtle tree trimming efforts keep from causing additional problems:

  1. Cut off remaining knuckled knobs
  2. Several weeks later, prune unwanted shoots growing from remaining knob stumps
  3. Repeat every spring for 3 years–only let shoots you’ve chosen stay
  4. Train” shoots into upward, outward growth; get rid of center-growing branches15

If you’ve either over-pruned to the point you almost need to “start over”, or you’ve attempted this method of “shoot” cultivation toward “trained” growth, you may be able to restore the beauty of your tree. If you can’t, it’s time to contact an arborist or other trimming professional.

If you’ve inherited or otherwise acquired a large property with a big Crepe Myrtle on the premises, you might want to contact professionals right away to determine how you should proceed going forward.

Low-angle shot of a large Crepe Myrtle Tree showing dark green leaves and bright pink flowers.

(Image: Bryan Dickerson18)

Generally, the larger the tree, the more you’ll need professional assistance to prune it in a healthy way that maintains bloom, and assures the tree won’t incidentally impact adjacent infrastructure.

Crepe Myrtle Tree Trimming: Helping Your Myrtle Trees Fully Flourish

In ideal circumstances you shouldn’t have to prune your Crepe Myrtle.

You can selectively prune it when flowers have expired to encourage additional blooms in the year, and in this way get multiple blooms during a single season.16 Just be sure not to over-prune at the end of the season, as this is right before the tree’s dormant phase.

It’s best to only prune branches under the width of a pencil in size. Shaping your Crepe Myrtles and turning it into topiary trees is also wise; it’s probably going to get big.

Remember to plant it in the right place for ideal growth.

Also, water the tree extensively,17 and assure it gets lots of sun.

Lastly, if you over-prune the tree, don’t worry. Just cut it down to the ground and carefully husband the trunks that grow up in the next season.

Understanding how Crepe Myrtle tree trimming practices can be used to keep your ornamental trees healthy is just a matter of knowing when to cut Crepe Myrtle branches and where.


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18Photo by Bryan Dickerson. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

19Photo by Hà Phạm. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>