It’s a horticultural crime. A serious crime. One with lasting repercussions on the garden and your landscape. What is crape murder? It is the unnatural and unsightly mass pruning of wonderful crape myrtle trees. These garden trees are hacked down in the prime of life destroying what could potentially be an amazing tree.
Why do people desecrate such a noble tree? I hope it is only ignorance. People for years have trimmed them in this fashion and turned them into lollipops of color. If you drive through commercial developments you will find many magnificent myrtles murdered in what can only be an ill conceived notion that it looks nice. OK maybe that’s just my opinion but if you ask me crape myrtles should be allowed to freely express their “inner treeness”. They should be allowed to stretch into the sky in the fashion that mother nature intended and not pruned into a stubby little shrub.
Go natural! Keep the suckers away and allow the tree to grow into a 3-5 trunk landscape focal point. Crape myrtles flower on new wood which is why they are frequently pruned so dramatically but you completely lose the winter bark interest that develops over time. As the trunk gets thicker smooth multicolored peeling bark forms. Topping the crape myrtle will create thick lower trunks and spindly upper trunks which in the winter look very unnatural without the bark interest.
The Clemson University Extension has a couple of great pictures on their site that illustrate crape myrtle pruning. The first picture on their page shows one trimmed properly into a natural looking form while the second one shows the results of tree topping. I know which method I prefer, how about you?