The KPRC Radio Gardenline Tip By Randy Lemmon For 11-13-03 Printer-Friendly Version
Trim the Crape Myrtles?
Careful! Many of you will be driving around the next couple of months and you will see something that is so offensive to the savvy Houston gardener, that it often can't be described in words other than MASSACRE or MURDER! Yep, I'm talking about the Annual Crape Myrtle Massacre that is indulged in by various landscape companies all over Houston. And sadly, it lulls the average homeowner into thinking that they too need to butcher their Crapes. DON'T!
Some basics on the Crapes:
They best time to trim them is mid February (Same time we trim the Roses)
The don't have to be pruned more than the old seed pods for better blooming
The more you take them back to the "knuckles" or "fist" (the same place year after year) the more likely the tree will suffer from disease and insect pressures
If you prune them too early - like right now - and we have a warm Dec. or Jan, the crape will try to grow and that new growth will be highly susceptible to freezes that eventually do come in January.
Just because landscape crews are doing such pruning in "common" areas such as strip center and shopping malls and subdivisions, doesn't mean you need to. Just remember that barely one in ten landscape companies really have any true horticultural knowledge, so don't go by their lead.
The main reason they do it now through January, is as an excuse to keep some of their workers busy, so as not to lose them during the dormant season - lose the workers that is.
I'll remind you in February when it truly is time to prune the Crapes in Houston. Until then, here are some reading assignments for you as well, so everyone can learn the proper pruning techniques for Crapes.
< http://dallas.tamu.edu/woody/cmyrtle/pruning.html >
< http://www.crapemyrtles.net/pruning_crape_myrtle.htm >
By the way, I suppose many people who are over-pruning think that the more new wood they produce the more new flowers they will get. That is errant thinking because very heavy pruning can lead to a multitude of problems and the treešs diminished health. The vigorous new growth off the "knuckles" is weakly attached and prone to snap in bad weather. This in turn makes the trees more susceptible to insects and diseases. Professional crape growers will tell you that lighter prunings bring satisfactory results. They will also tell you that there are really only three basics things need to be remember during the pruning season:
1.) Remove any weak or dead looking limbs.
2.) Remove water sprouts and crisscrossing wood.
3.) Finally, the only absolute pruning you must do to encourage better blooms this year, is to remove any of the old seed pods from the tops of the crapes.
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.