The Crape Myrtle Tree Ė How To Prune This Wonderful Ornamental
The Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, is one of the most ideal choices for a tree in a small garden, backyard or patio. It is also fairly modest in its water needs and so is particularly suitable fo...
The Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, is one of the most ideal choices for a tree in a small garden, backyard or patio. It is also fairly modest in its water needs and so is particularly suitable for dry and Mediterranean gardens. It has an attractive form, delicate leaf texture and as a deciduous plant, looks good when out of leaf, not least due to its reddish pealing bark.
It is usually chosen however because of its amazing flower display in the summer months; Crape Myrtle blooms being one of the highlights of the gardening calendar. While being impressed by flower display alone is normally a bad reason for choosing a particular tree species, in the case of Lagerstroemia, by virtue of its small size and non-aggressive roots, an exception can be made. In fact the flower color is so significant that uniquely perhaps among trees, it determines the pruning method to be adopted.
Pruning to shape trees almost always involves removing whole branches at their base, rather than shortening them, as with shrubs and bushes. This is so in order to maintain the natural shape and flow of the tree. Conversely, the branches of flowering shrubs like roses are shortened, to induce better and more prolific flowering. It should be remembered that roses are not generally grown for their form and habit, but virtually exclusively for their blooms. It follows therefore, that while we may be interested in enhancing the floral effect of the Crape Myrtle by means of pruning branches short, care must be taken not to ruin the form of the tree in the process. How can this be achieved?
*Firstly, branches should not be cut back too radically. Itís best to clip up to a third of the length of the branches. The clipping prevents the limb from shooting on as a long thin branch, encourages lateral growth and as mentioned before, superior blooms. On the other hand, cutting too far down on the branch, is liable to adversely affect the shape of the tree, particularly in the winter when it is bare of leaves.
*It is not necessary to prune/shorten each and every branch. As with all trees, removing excessive material at one session is liable to damage the energy level of the plant, thereby affecting its overall vitality and rendering it more susceptible to pests and disease.
*As pruning is carried out in the winter when the tree is out of leaf, itís quite easy to discern where the previous seasonís pruning cuts were made. Itís possible therefore to alternate between cutting limbs that were untouched a year ago, while leaving alone those that were pruned. In this way, a balance is struck between flower production on the one hand and the general health of the tree on the other.
*Lagerstroemia indica tends to sprout new shoots from its base but itís not necessary to religiously remove each one. On the contrary, as the trunks are relatively thin in diameter, Crape Myrtle actually looks better grown as a multi-stemmed tree. Furthermore, as persistent pruning tends to weaken branches in the long run, younger stems can be earmarked to replace older ones which over the years have lost their vitality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Jonathan Ya'akobi.I've been gardening in a professional capacity since 1984.I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building gardens for private home owners.I also teach horticulture to students on training courses.I'd love to help you get the very best from your garden,so you're welcome to visit me on http://www.dryclimategardening.com