Weekend Gardener: Stop Topping Crape Myrtles

Weekend Gardener

April 3rd, 2015 – Williamson County Weekend Gardener

This time of year it’s very common to see a sea of Crape Myrtle stumps everywhere you look.  Crape Myrtles have become a popular, and widely-used plant in Williamson County landscapes — and for good reason; they offer a wide variety of colors and sizes, and are relatively easy to grow.

Every year at this time, I start seeing friends posting on Facebook, begging people NOT to top Crape Myrtles.  It is, in fact, a horrible thing to do to ANY tree for ANY reason.  Anyone touting health benefits for the trees is misinformed, and has probably fallen victim to myths about topping.  Respected author and Washington Post gardening columnist, Adrian Higgins, recently wrote about this issue with Crape Myrtles:

How To Avoid Hacking At Your Crape Myrtles This SpringWashington Post

Here is a photo (credit to Len Spoden Photography) from his article that demonstrates proper pruning of Crape Myrtles:

A Before & After of Properly Pruned Crape Myrtles (Len Spoden Photography)

Higgins cites the Crape Myrtle’s rare ability to bloom in the heat of Summer as the main reason for its popularity.  And since it blooms on the new growth each year, over time the practice of hacking these plants back very aggressively became common.  “Because everyone else is doing it” is no reason to jump into this practice, however.

If you do a great job determining the right variety for the space, the plant can grow largely unmolested for years and you won’t spend every Spring looking at lifeless, ugly stumps.  Higgins also wrote an article on the topic of selecting the right Crape Myrtle:

How To Choose the Right Crape MyrtleWashington Post

I’d also recommend starting with a simple web search that can illustrate the wide variety of colors and sizes available here in Zone 7a:

Crape MyrtlesBing.com

Here is more information on Facebook about topping trees in Tennessee:

You Can’t Top Tennessee TreesFacebook.com


Weekend GardenerWilliamson County Gardening Resources:

Williamson County Master Gardeners Association

   Save The Date:  Master Gardener’s Plant Sale
                                  Williamson Cty Ag Expo Center
                                  Saturday, May 9th 9a-3p

Williamson County Extension Office

Williamson County is in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a (0 – 5 degrees)
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Previous Articles:

03/27/15 – Free Wildflower Seeds

03/20/15 – 5 Plants Anyone Can Grow

03/13/15 – 5 Ways to Get Back Outside