A few weeks ago, I nearly stopped in the middle of a run when I saw a landscape crew topping some poor crape myrtles. I kept going, deciding that the landscapers were unlikely to take advice from some random jogger, and vowed to blog about it later.
The topping practice that is sometimes called “Crape Murder” is common, and often thought to be the correct way to prune these beautiful trees. After topping, a plant produces many weak shoots below the cut. This new growth is weak and can be easily damaged by ice, snow, and wind. Last year, I saw this firsthand when a sudden thunderstorm caused a large portion of a topped crape myrtle in my neighborhood to break. It was a sad sight.
Crape myrtles will bloom beautifully even if you do very little pruning. If your plants are small enough, deadheading finished blooms may encourage a second bloom – but topping the poor plants is not necessary. The only pruning a crape myrtle really needs is the removal of suckers, dead branches, and branches that are crossed. That’s it.
For more information, please see
or this video by Mississippi State Extension