How prune a very old crepe Myrtle

Asked August 9, 2018, 2:30 PM EDT

My crepe myrtle is about 52 years old. It has two very beautiful trunks that are quite thick. I would like to keep those trunks. One landscaper suggested cutting it down to the ground. I think if I did that I would lose the old trunks. I am thinking of trimming it. It is growing over the house. What is best way to prune and when. Also what is normal life span of crepe myrtles? Thank you

Prince George's County Maryland

1 Response

It sounds like you have a gem of a crape myrtle.

There is a misconception that crape myrtles need pruning. It's so bad that they call it 'crape murder' in the profession. In fact, unpruned crape myrtles have many more blooms than pruned ones.

If the branches are scraping the house or causing a problem, then by all means prune those back. It is very tolerant of pruning.

Removing the two old trunks would, of course, mean the loss of those two beautiful trunks. Unless it is necessary for some reason, we would not recommend it. If you must cut down the trunks (meaning the entire crape myrtle), the root system would almost undoubtedly send up new shoots. In a few years you'd have a shrub-sized crape myrtle. The time to do that is late winter--NOT summer or fall. But, there is no cause to do that, according to your description of the situation.

Crape myrtles can live over 50 years. A life expectancy of 70 years is given. Quite an amazing tree.