How to Keep a Crape Myrtle Small: Tips for Picking and Pruning Plants - RootingForBlooms.com (2024)

Crape Myrtles grow in a variety of sizes, from knee-high shrubs to massive trees reaching 30+ feet high. If you have a small yard or want to place a Crape Myrtle in a modest garden, you’ll want to get one that won’t overtake the space. Luckily, there are plenty of small Crape Myrtle options, and you can keep them neatly trimmed with the right pruning techniques.

The best way to keep a Crape Myrtle small is to plant a small variety. There are dwarf, semi-dwarf, miniature, and small trees to choose from. Dwarf varieties have different pruning needs than full-sized trees. But, you don’t want to try to keep a large tree small by pruning – it won’t be effective.

This article will explain your options for choosing and keeping a Crape Myrtle small. We’ll discuss the different varieties you can choose from and some of their traits. You’ll also learn about dwarf Crape Myrtles and how to prune them correctly. Then, we’ll talk about pruning larger Crapes for maintenance.

Can You Keep a Crape Myrtle Small?

You can control a Crape Myrtle’s size by pruning and trimming, but it’s not ideal in most cases. If you’re dealing with a large variety, it’s normally not a good idea to try to contain its natural size.

However, if you planted a dwarf or miniature variety, some careful trimming can help ensure your Crape Myrtle stays within its intended footprint.

You should always check a Crape Myrtle’s tag for the variety and mature size before you choose and plant your tree. Continuously lopping off the top limbs to control your Crape Myrtle’s height will eventually result in weaker growth and more stress for the tree.

If you’ve run into an issue where you’re dealing with a too-tall Crape Myrtle, you should take a look at some tips for trimming tall Crape Myrtles.

Which Crape Myrtle Varieties Stay Small?

Crape Myrtles come in many varieties and all different sizes and shapes. A standard sized Crape Myrtle is normally 20 to 30 feet tall and may have a canopy up to 15 feet wide. These standard trees may have one or multiple trunks depending on how it’s trained.

However, there are all many options for Crape Myrtle lovers looking to plant one of these blooming beauties in a smaller landscape.Dwarf, semi-dwarf, and miniature varieties may be as small as under two feet tall or in the 15-20 foot range. Depending on how small you want it, you’ll be able to find a Crape Myrtle that fits your space – if you spend some time looking.

Choosing the right size tree for your landscape is always a better option than planting a bigger tree and lopping it down to size. In fact, the treacherous habit of chopping off the tops of Crape Myrtles every year is known as Crape Murder, and we think it should be outlawed!If you’re wondering what kind of Crape Myrtle is best for a small garden or lawn, here are some varieties to choose from.

Semi-Dwarf Varieties are those which grow up to 12 feet tall. Some are only half that size, so there’s a lot of variation within the group to consider. These look like typical Crape Myrtles, just smaller. So, they’re great to pair with other plants and shrubs or as a focal point on their own.

Dwarf Varieties are very small and may only grow up to four or five feet tall. These Crape Myrtles look more like shrubs than trees, and they normally have dense growth that doesn’t need much maintenance.

Miniature Varieties are normally one to five feet tall, but they may be as short as eight inches. Miniature is often used interchangeably with dwarf depending on where you purchase the Crape Myrtle. These may be used as ground cover, for container planting, or even in hanging baskets with other foliage. We’ve even seen miniature Crape Myrtles used for bonsai!

Medium Varieties are closer to standard Crape Myrtles, but they’re not quite as large as the big 20+ foot tall trees (like Natchez and Tuscarora). These are trees that are less than 20 feet tall but are larger than the semi-dwarf varieties. These are ideal for smaller landscapes where you still want the Crape Myrtle to be a dramatic focal point.

Here are some examples of our favorite Crape Myrtle varieties that stay nice and small and are ideal for a small yard or garden:

VarietySizeGrowth HeightBloom Color
World’s FairMiniature/Dwarf2 feetFuchsia
Baton RougeMiniature/Dwarf3 feetDeep red
Bayou MarieMiniature/Dwarf2-3 feetPink & red
ChickasawMiniature/Dwarf2 feetPink
CentennialMiniature/Dwarf3-5 feetBright lavender
PocomokeMiniature/Dwarf2-3 feet (3-4’ wide)Bright pink
AcomaSmall/Semi-Dwarf8-10 feetWhite
TontoSmall/Semi-Dwarf10-12 feetFuchsia
ZuniSmall/Semi-Dwarf6-10 feetLavender
Red RoosterSmall/Semi-Dwarf8-10 feetRed
Burgundy CottonSmall/Semi-Dwarf10-12 feetRed-burgundy
Delta JazzSmall/Semi-Dwarf6-10 feetBright pink
HopiSmall/Semi-Dwarf7-10 feetPink
SiouxMedium12-20 feetDark pink
CatawbaMedium12-20 feetPurple
DynamiteMedium12-20 feetRed

What Are Dwarf Crape Myrtles?

Dwarf Crape Myrtles are the smallest option. They’re also sometimes referred to as miniature Crape Myrtles. These petite bloomers typically look more like shrubs than trees, and they only grow up to four to five feet tall. Some are less than one foot tall at maturity.Dwarf varieties are great to use for ground cover or to fill in space in your landscape. They’re also good container planting options.

One important thing to understand about dwarf Crape Myrtles is that they have different pruning needs than standard Crapes. You may never need to prune your dwarf Crape Myrtle, as they typically grow at slower rates than their taller relatives, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to give them a trim.

If you’re dealing with a young Crape Myrtle and it’s not as thick and lush as you’d like, some light pruning can help it grow in more densely. By trimming back long branches to no more than half their original length, you can encourage more foliage to grow in and create a thicker shrub.

How to Prune Back Larger Crape Myrtles

If you have a medium-sized or larger Crape Myrtle, it’s possible to keep it somewhat controlled with pruning. Still, you don’t want to try to reduce the tree’s natural size through pruning. Cutting back a large Crape Myrtle too much can cause stress and weaken the growth. If you’re dealing with a very tall Crape, you may need to use a ladder or hire a professional to trim the highest branches.

To prune your Crape Myrtle, start by thinning out any dead or crossing branches. You can do thinning cuts to remove excess growth from the center and clean up the tree’s canopy.However, you should remember that anytime you cut Crape Myrtle limbs, new growth will occur from just below the place you made the cut.

Always do your pruning in late winter or early spring before new growth starts to develop for the season. The key to controlling and maintaining your Crape is to start the pruning while your tree is still young. This is how you’ll control the number of trunks and achieve the shape you want.

Remove lower branches, suckers, shoots, and any other unwanted growth as soon as you see it. Any branches thinner than a pencil’s width can also be trimmed back.

Final Thoughts

Crape Myrtles are generally self-sufficient trees that don’t need much care and maintenance, especially once they become established. Pruning should be minimal. The best way to ensure your Crape Myrtle will be a good fit for your landscape is to purchase or plant the appropriate size from the start. It’s like the saying “measure twice, cut once”; it’s always easier to go bigger than to go smaller.

The good news is that there really is a Crape Myrtle variety for every landscape. From 18 inch dwarf varieties to massive 30+ foot tall trees, there are plenty to choose from, and you’ll be able to find the right one for your lawn or garden.

How to Keep a Crape Myrtle Small: Tips for Picking and Pruning Plants - RootingForBlooms.com (2024)

FAQs

How do you keep crepe myrtles small? ›

If you need to prune your crapemyrtle tree or shrub, thinning branches to limb up the crapemyrtle is the correct method. Remove lower limbs that are thinner than a pencil diameter. While the plant is young, it is acceptable to prune the top of the branches. When it gets older, this is unacceptable.

Should you trim the dead buds off crepe myrtles? ›

ANSWER: Cutting the clusters of faded flowers or seed pods off is optional. Most gardeners consider deadheading crape myrtle trees more trouble than it's worth, but it's certainly something you may do. Sometimes it's recommended to ensure another flush of late-summer blooms.

When should crepe myrtles be pruned? ›

February is a good time to prune crape myrtles. It should be done before fresh growth appears in March. Its toughness makes crape myrtle a popular plant.

How do you keep crepe myrtles from getting too tall? ›

As your Crape myrtle grows, it will be necessary to remove low branches to raise the canopy. Do this by pruning out the side branches on the main trunks – do this up to a height of about four to six feet, but not up to a height of more than half of the total tree height.

Can you dwarf a crepe myrtle? ›

Dwarf Crepe Myrtle Varieties

These smaller crepes give all the brilliant color of their taller cousins, but because they're smaller, you can get a little more creative and have some fun with them. You can plant just one as an accent shrub, or group several of them for a big show of color.

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