I see lots of crape myrtle branches cut severely. Should I do this?
Please do not cut crape myrtles back to stumps! Crape myrtles (botanically Lagerstroemia hybrids) are wonderful summer-blooming trees, with beautiful, exfoliating golden bark and some with fall color. They come in many sizes and bloom in a variety of colors, so you can visit aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/databases/crapemyrtle to explore the many options and find the right one for your landscape.
Crape myrtles have a natural vase shape at maturity, so only remove dead limbs or branches that cross or rub against each other. For the vigor and health of the trees, save all branches from the main trunk that grow at a 45 or 90-degree angle. Using sharp hand pruners, loppers or a garden saw, remove narrow-angled branches that are weak and could potentially break during storms. Then, remove suckers that grow up from the base.
Dramatically cutting crape myrtles weakens their growth and makes them susceptible to insects such as aphids. Aphids secrete honeydew that can cover the leaves and the ground. Ladybugs and their larvae eat aphids though, so you might check first to see if nature will take care of these pests for you. If ladybugs are not present, you can spray soapy water. Also, black sooty mold may grow on aphid honeydew, which should not harm the tree but is unsightly.
Severely cutting crape myrtles does not produce more flowers, despite this common misconception. If you have a tree that has been vigorously pruned and you want to fix it, try this: When branches start to grow, select the best two that face outwards from each stump and remove the rest. Over time, the growth pattern should return to the tree’s natural shape.