The Crape Myrtle's small tree form will usually have one or two main stems or trunks. All side shoots on the main stems are kept pruned off up to the head or top of the plant. All growth activity is channeled into the development of a healthy full head.
Far too many gardeners neglect pruning Crape Myrtles. Those that do prune, seldom practice sound pruning practices.
In landscape design, Crape Myrtles are used as a specimen shrub or small tree form. Those plants grown as shrubs are pruned differently from those grown as a small tree. Those that are grown as shrubs are pruned yearly down to 3 inches or 4 inches above the ground and usually have several stems. The small tree form will usually have one or two main stems or trunks. All side shoots on the main stems are kept pruned off up to the head or top of the plant. All growth activity is channeled into the development of a healthy full head.
The trunks of the Crape Myrtle small tree form provide interesting color and texture during the winter months. The cinnamon or light chocolate color plus the smoothness of the bark are very attractive.
Regardless of whether your Crape Myrtle plants are to be handled as shrubs or small trees; they will have one pruning or grooming practice in common. As flower heads fade, they should be cut or pruned away. This will give repeat bloom during the summer. Because this practice is often ignored, most Crape Myrtle plants seemingly have one large peak bloom in early summer. If the old flower heads are kept removed there will be several blooming cycles.
Along with correct pruning and grooming a regular fertilization program can make your Crape Myrtles the picture-look plant often visualized by gardeners. A fertilization in March, May and July for young plants, or once per year in late March or early April for mature plants will do the job. Use a complete balanced lawn or garden fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
Follow each fertilization with a thorough watering, and water once per week during dry weather. Thoroughly soak the soil. You can accomplish this best by laying your garden hose underneath the plant. Do not leave nozzles on your hose. Turn on a slow or soft stream or drip so that all of the water soaks into the soil rather than flowing away. Allow the hose to run for 2 - 3 hours. You will use less water and get better utilization if you follow this practice.