When in doubt, don’t ask the neighbor, ask Grumpy.


I don’t know who did this. They just moved in. Their bushes and trees were a little overgrown and I’m sure they wanted to make a good impression. Unfortunately, they made the worst possible decision when it comes to pruning. They asked the next-door neighbors.

I imagine the conversation went something like this.

New Guy: What do you call these pink trees? We don’t have ‘em in Arizona.

Neighbor: Crepe myrtles. Everyone has ‘em here. You need to cut ‘em.

New Guy: Why?

Neighbor: Because if you don’t, you won’t get any flowers. That’s what I read. Besides, everybody cuts theirs. I think there’s an ordinance.

New Guy: When is a good time to cut ‘em?

Neighbor: Any time. That’s what I read. Plus, if you don’t, they get too big.

New Guy: How big?

Neighbor: Real big. Tall as a cell tower.

New Guy: Wow. That IS big. How short should I cut ‘em?

Neighbor: The shorter, the better. That’s what I read. The shorter you cut ‘em, the longer you can wait to cut ‘em again.

New Guy: Thanks!

Neighbor: Welcome to the neighborhood! I know a lot about guns and fishing too.

Accordingly, armed with a dull saw and a warehouse of neighborly knowledge, the guy proceeded to perform one of the worst versions of crepe murder I’ve ever seen. He cut about half-way through the trunks at various heights and then just broke them off, leaving them with jagged, uneven ends.

Worse than that, though, is the timing. Severely cutting back a crepe myrtle in late July means that it will shortly sprout a forest of long, spindly stems that will continue growing into the fall. They won’t harden off before the first freeze comes along and kills them. They will look awful.

Faithful readers, if you have questions about pruning crepe myrtles or other woody plants, please do not consult neighbors who ring their mailboxes with white rock, hang plastic poinsettias on the front porch, or plant fruit trees by the swimming pool. Ask the one unimpeachable source of horticultural wisdom who has guided flocks to the promised land for more than 30 years. The Grumpy Gardener.

For tips on how and when to properly prune crepe myrtles, see “Crepe Myrtle Pruning Step-By-Step.”