Crapemyrtle Pruning

The Killing Season


Yes folks, it’s that time of year again, it’s Open Season on the Crapemyrtle. Just look around town and it not hard to miss what I am writing about. It is all over town, Crape”Murder” is happening everywhere.
For some reason, this town has a special love for torturing this group of flowering trees. I don’t get it. They have a naturally beautiful shape (when left alone), as well as beautiful smooth trunks with attractive exfoliating bark. I will never understand it. I don’t see it in other areas of the South that I travel.
In spite of my best efforts to get people to put down the chainsaw, the lopping shears and whatever other devices of torture they choose to use on these beautiful trees, the mindset continues to prevail. And because this is something that has been going on for years, and the neighbor does it… “Monkey see….”.
I have several crapes in my yard, and last year I didn’t even bother to take off the seedpods (I leave those for the birds to feed from- hey, free seed!). Amazingly they bloomed until the beginning of October. What magic tricks did I perform? None. I simply FED them. Yes, the magic of fertilizer. Something that simple can make all the difference in the world. And it takes all of 10 minutes to grab the bag of fertilizer and feed the 4 good-sized trees in my yard, and store the rest back in the garage. When customers ask why their Crapemyrtles don’t bloom, my first question to them is “when was the last time you fed them?” I usually get back “I don’t know” or “I didn’t know I had to feed them”.
If I were so inclined as to prune them, I would have to sharpen the chainsaw, get out the ladder (always a brilliant combination), then run out to fill the gas tank (it is never full) for the chainsaw, buy the oil to mix into the gas, shake it up (spilling it all over), then attempt to start the thing up, only to realize the spark plug hasn’t been changed in a while. You get the picture. Next, what do I do with that mountain of brush that I created? I can’t burn it due to HOA restrictions. I live outside the city limits, so I don’t have pick-up. I know. I’ll call a land-scraper (no, that is not a misspelling, there are plenty of people running around the area that have little idea of why they are doing, what they are doing). He will send in the guys and charge me a couple hundred bucks (just what I need right now, more bills).
This year, try taking the easy way out. Spend 10 or 15 bucks and scatter some Super-Phosphate around each tree, right now. Follow the directions on the label (they are on there for a reason). When warmer weather arrives and the tree begins to leaf out, apply a fertilizer with a higher middle number (7-22-8 is what I use), to get the tree growing and blooming. Do this once a month, until late August or the first of September. You will be amazed at the results. The only other tasks I perform on my Crapemyrtles is a quick removal of the majority of the seedpods in mid summer. Removing the pods make them re-bloom a little faster as well as making them a little tidier. At the same time I do some pruning to remove criss-crossing branches or do some up limbing of the lower branches that you can’t walk under.
So, if you like admiring the large ugly knuckles created by the annual Winter butchering, go right ahead. You have until sometime in late April before all the new growth gets in the way of your view. The Super Phosphate was spread around my trees last week, on a warm sunny day. Now all I have to do, is watch the birds feeding from the seedpods I left at the end of last season. Next Summer just be mindful of the arching branches on your Crapemyrtle carrying those grossly gargantuan flower clusters. They have a nasty way of hitting you in the face when you are cutting the lawn.