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Crapemyrtles are your friends, please don’t hurt them
Crapemyrtle allee at the Dallas Arboretum (http://dallasarboretum.org/named-gardens-features/crape-myrtle-allee)
Crapemyrtles are beautiful trees that can grow to be as small as a shrub or as large as 35 ft. tall. With their graceful multiple trunks, unique smooth bark, and splendid blossoms throughout the summer, crapemyrtles are standouts among Atlanta’s ornamental street trees.
But every year, people all over Atlanta (and indeed, the country) commit what has been termed “Crape Murder” – which is the senseless act of topping their crapemyrtle trees. Some think topping helps create more blooms; others think it will keep the tree at a more adequate height. In reality, topping is actually a detriment to the tree! If the crapemyrtle is topped to maintain a certain height, you may want to consider planting a specific variety of crapemyrtle, one that grows to the height desired. There are tons of varieties of this tree. By carefully selecting which crape to plant initially, the tree will already be the desired size without needing to be coaxed into becoming that size.
Even after years of corrective pruning, deformities left by a long-ago topping will still be evident. They just don’t have the desirable, gorgeous lines and elegant shape after they have been topped.
Crapemyrtles should be pruned just as any other tree should be pruned (come to one of our Pruning 101 sessions to learn how to correctly train a tree). Simply remove any new suckers that appear from the ground or from the main trunks to keep it from growing more trunks than desired.
The bottom line is that it’s better to carefully select and plant a crapemyrtle with the height, canopy, and flowers that you desire, rather than to maim one with topping practices thinking that you’re doing a good deed. Crapemyrtles are Atlanta’s friend, the belle of the ball. Plant them in a sunny location and enjoy!