Master Gardeners Myrtle Murder committed throughout area

Published 5:39 pm Saturday, January 11, 2020

By Sheri Bethard and Sandra Hoke

Certified Texas Master Gardener

I know you see it done all over town, but PLEASE DON’T DO IT!

It is that time of year when people are wanting to trim back their shrubs and especially their Crape Myrtle trees. I am already seeing some of them being butchered all over town. 

Yes, I put had an article last year by a fellow Master Gardener on this same subject, but after seeing some of the murder being done, I thought I would write about it again. 

When trimming Crepe Myrtles all at the same level, you are leaving years of “nubs” that distract from the beauty of the tree.  The tree sprouts at this level of pruning year after year leaving multiple “nubs” from repeated trimming. 

If you want a shrub, then you need to plant a shrub. 

There are many varieties for summer blooming shrubs of which you only have to prune to the ground in the spring and you will have a beautiful plant all summer long. One such plant is the Firebush plant. This plant is loved by hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. 

This type of pruning is called “Myrtle Murder” or “Crape Rape” which indicates that it is bad.


Myrtle Murder is bad for several reasons:

  1. Beautiful trees become ugly with unattractive “fists” where branches sprout.
  2. It prevents the pretty mottled bark on maturing trunks.
  3. Skinny branches sprout from the cut ends that are too weak to hold up flowers.
  4. After a couple of years the nubby knots get a black fungus on them causing it to be unsightly
  5. Crape Myrtles are trees, not shrubs!


When and how to trim correctly

  1. Late winter is the ideal time to prune.
  2. Trim suckers coming up from the base.
  3. Trim all higher branches growing toward the center of the tree.
  4. Trim all crossing, rubbing and dead branches.
  5. Trim branches growing at awkward angles that detract from the tree’s beauty.
  6. Always cut back to a larger branch of the trunk.  Don’t leave stubs.
  7. If you feel you just have to cut it back, then cut it in the winter to about four inches above the ground. You will have a nice shrub when it grows out and without the unsightly nubs.


Do this and you will have a beautiful Crape Myrtle for years to come.