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How Do I Prune A Magnolia Tree?

Trees, like all organisms on earth, tend to expand and increase in size. Sometimes the size may be too big or the shape may not be beautiful so trees sometimes need pruning.

Quick tips for pruning Magnolia

  1. Prune the magnolia just after it blooms.
  2. Cut back branches that stick out too much to the sides to get the shape you want.
  3. Do not cut more than 25% of the branches in one year.
  4. Trim the top of the magnolia to the height you want, but no more than 20 percent of its height.
  5. Start shaping the magnolia from a young age.
  6. Remove dead or diseased branches in early spring with a saw or loppers.
  7. Cut crossing branches to lighten the crown.
  8. Always use a sterile and sharp tool to prune the magnolia.

Also, be sure to read the Basic Maintenance Guide for Magnolia Trees.

how do i prune a magnolia tree

When to trim?

The best time to prune a magnolia is immediately after flowering. Depending on the type of magnolia and the climate, this may be spring or early summer.

In this case, you will get the blooms in the current year. In addition, the tree will also produce flower buds for the following year.

If you cut back in early spring before flowering, the number of flowers in the current year will be much lower or none at all.

If you prune in late summer or fall, you will remove the flower buds and the magnolia will not bloom next year. For the same reason, avoid pruning in the winter.

As for age, you need to start shaping magnolia from a young age. But not before it reaches 3-4 years of age.

For pruning, choose a dry and not very sunny day. This is to allow the wounds to dry out immediately, but the tree should not lose too much water.

How to shape?

In most cases, a magnolia is trimmed to give it the desired shape or to reduce its size.

The magnolia is a conical, upward-growing tree. But very often the side branches spread out to the sides, blocking the path around the tree or shading other plants.

In this case, shorten the branches with a saw, loppers, or pruning shears. This is best done after the magnolia has finished flowering. By winter, the wounds will partially or completely heal.

Avoid removing more than 25% of the branches in one year. Trim it back a little bit each year to the desired shape. Otherwise, the tree may be severely stressed and die.

how do i prune a magnolia tree

But it is better to shape the magnolia from a young age. At about 3 or 4 years of age, start removing branches that grow too far to the side or that cross over other, larger branches.

If necessary, you can remove a branch completely, but do it as close to the main branch as possible. If it only needs to be shortened, make sure that it has at least 1-2 buds left because otherwise, it will die.

Never cut back a magnolia the first year after planting or transplanting. Pruning a magnolia after transplanting will only increase the transplant shock, which can result in the loss of the tree.

Cutting the top off a magnolia

Sometimes it becomes necessary to cut off the top of a magnolia. This usually happens if the tree is too upright. This can result in a wider canopy and reduce the height of the tree.

If you decide to do this with your magnolia, stand some distance away from it and try to imagine what it will look like after the top is removed.

magnolia pruning

Do not remove more than 20% of the height of the tree. Otherwise, the magnolia will look like a bush or look unnatural.

It is best if you shorten the leading branches by a few inches and leave a few buds on them. If you do this every year, the tree will be fuller but still maintain its conical shape.

Pruning lower branches

The need to remove the lower branches of a magnolia usually occurs in two cases.

The first is when the lower tier of branches is too large and covers the entire space around the magnolia. Many people want to free up this space to grow other plants or for some other purpose. This is also called crown raising.

The second case is when suckers appear on the magnolia. These are branches that have almost no leaves and feed on the tree itself without giving anything back. They are usually in the lower part of the crown and must always be removed.

It is also very common for grafted magnolias to have branches below the grafting site. In this way, the rootstock will tend to grow back its own branches, and these must be removed.

how to trim a magnolia tree

Whatever the reason for removing the lower branches, do it as close as possible to the trunk of the tree. But try to keep the wound as small as possible, which means you do not want to damage the trunk of the magnolia.

The best time to cut the lower branches is in early spring. By the end of the season, the wounds will be fully or partially healed and the tree will survive the winter much better.

Use a hand saw for large branches and a pruning shear for suckers. Wounds resulting from the pruning of large branches should be treated with a multi-purpose fungicide.

Deadwood pruning

Pruning dead wood is a must because it increases the health of the tree. It is best done in early spring.

The wood usually dies off in several cases. The first is frostbite from late frosts. Very often when the sap began to move in the tree, but the spring frost came and damaged the annual branches.

The second case is when a branch may break in winter under the weight of snow or from a strong wind. This is because branches are more brittle in winter.

It is also very common for magnolia branches to be affected by various diseases. In this case they can turn black or have spots on them. As a result, the branch will die.

In any of these cases, the dead branch must be cut off. Do this a little farther back than the dead tissue begins, that is, cut off a small part of the live branch. This is to prevent a possible spread of the infestation.

Tools and aftercare

In most cases, you will need a hand saw, loppers, and pruning shears to trim a magnolia. Make sure that all tools are sharp and in good working order before pruning.

Also, treat them with rubbing alcohol to avoid disease contamination. Disinfect each time for a new tree.

After pruning, avoid watering the magnolia so that the wounds dry out. If the wound stays wet for long periods of time, it can lead to disease.

It is good practice to dress the wounds with fungicide. A multi-purpose fungicide or a copper fungicide can be used for this purpose. This is especially important when removing large branches.