#TeachingTuesday: Crape Myrtles

#TeachingTuesday: Crape Myrtles

By Myatt Landscaping, Posted in
June 16, 2020

#TeachingTuesday: Crape Myrtles

If you live in the south or have visited the south in the summer, you have without a doubt experienced firsthand the popularity of crape myrtles. Not only seen in gardens and landscapes, crape myrtles are tough enough to be a common choice for street trees, parking lot islands, and other commercial environments where they thrive despite drought, pollution, and other tough urban conditions. They can even be grown in containers, though they are fast-growing and can become quite large and difficult to manage that way. Another factor that makes crape myrtles so attractive is that they bloom profusely during the summer, when most other trees are already finished blooming. They also have nice fall color (some varieties nicer than others) and beautiful exfoliating bark that shows off in winter.


Because crape myrtles bloom on new wood, some people think the trees need severe pruning to encourage new blooms, but this actually damages the structure of the trees and should not be done. Light pruning to remove crossing branches or enhance the natural shape, and removal of suckers are the only pruning that needs to be done regularly. For excellent, detailed info on crape myrtle pruning, check out this Facebook post by Bracy’s Nursery.

Crape myrtles do have a strong tendency to grow suckers, especially if they are damaged in any way, like if you hit a root with your lawn mower, or nick the trunk with a weedeater. Prune these vigorous shoots as close to the trunk (or root) as possible. If you have ever tried to remove a crape myrtle, you know that even after the stump is removed, a ring of new shoots often grows around where it used to be, because of the remaining roots. They are very difficult to get rid of!

Removal of the seedpods can encourage a longer flowering season during the summer—it’s the same as deadheading a perennial. Sure, it can be done, and it may encourage more blooming, but is it really worth it to you to deadhead an entire tree? Decide for yourself, but don’t feel like you have to do it just because your neighbor does.

ID Tips

  • The leaves are somewhat unremarkable and seemingly random in terms of arrangement—they may be opposite, alternate, or in whorls of three all on the same tree
  • The flowers are in large bunches called panicles at the end of each branch
  • Each flower looks kind of like crepe paper (the kind often used to decorate for children’s birthday parties)
  • The seedpods are round, dry, and open up to release the seeds in the fall/winter—The empty seedpods stay on the tree, looking a bit like dry star-shaped flowers, usually with 6 “petals”
  • The bark is smooth and exfoliates (peels off), exposing hues of reddish brown to gray

Photo credit: Robby Tackett