We love getting questions here on our blog, through our website or on Facebook! Recently, Donna Leonhard Zimmerman asked us a question on Facebook page which we thought deserved its own posting:
“Can anyone there tell me if my Crepe Myrtle will come back after my son cut it down to the ground earlier this week? I just discovered it and it made me sick. It was so pretty when it bloomed!”
Donna we call this Crape Murder, and we are so sorry that you have to experience it firsthand. We have all driven through a neighborhood or shopping center and seen what a chainsaw can do to a hapless tree, but no tree seems to get hacked as much as the beautiful Crepe Myrtle. Crepe murder is when the crepe myrtle has been pruned by topping. Topping can disfigure the tree creating an out of proportion tree with a ‘witch’s broom’ appearance. Not only does this ruin the natural form of the crape myrtle the new shoots that quickly form are spindly and too weak to hold up the beautiful summer blooms.
The fact is when properly planted away from roads and walkways crape myrtles need little to no pruning. However, there is nothing wrong with pruning your crape myrtles to better suit your taste or because it is encroaching on a walkway, building, or road.
If you are considering planting a crape myrtle our advice would be to do a little research to find the best one for your lawn or garden. There are several smaller varieties including ‘Centennial’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle’ which are both dwarfs and reach only 3-5 feet.
If your tree has sadly already been a victim of crape murder, as is Donna’s case, don’t panic. While it will never be quite what is was there are ways to save the tree. If Donna’s son really did chop the tree down to the ground, she is already on her way to tree recovery. After crape murder has been committed the first step in saving the tree is cutting the tree down to about 2inches from soil level, letting the tree start fresh.
Here are a few resources which will help make your tree beautiful once again.
If you are looking to prune your tree this great diagram from Holcomb Garden Center on the proper way to prune a crape myrtle. They also have an excellent video on their site – http://www.holcombgc.com/pruning-crape-myrtles.html
Here are a few more resources on the proper care and maintenance for crape myrtles.