How and when to prune a magnolia tree

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How and when to prune a magnolia tree

How and when to prune a magnolia tree

Last Updated on February 18, 2020 by John

There are over 80 species of magnolia trees, some of which are native to areas like Central America, others to the West Indies. They can be deciduous or evergreen and produce stunning flowers in Spring or Summer. But to keep them looking great, you need to ensure you properly prune your tree.

How to Prune

The first thing to note is that pruning your trees is not a necessity, but if you have a younger tree it will go a long way towards shaping it. Trimming a young tree will also encourage better flowers and help the tree in its overall health.

But if you have a mature tree, you should only prune as a last resort; mature trees do not recover from pruning like younger trees and unnecessary pruning leaves them susceptible to fatal wounds that can lead to diseases. 

When you are ready, you should make sure the secateurs or loppers you use have been properly sterilised to prevent the accidental transfer of bacteria or fungi. 

As you start to trim, make sure the tools you use are very sharp; if you injure or tear the bark it can severely damage the tree and again this is a point where diseases can infect the tree. 

What to prune

  • Any injured, diseased, or dead branches should be removed first.
  • Second, tackle the branches that are growing against the natural shape of the tree. Doing this when your magnolia is young will help maintain its proper shape as it matures. 
  • Then, remove the branches that are rubbing against one another or crossing to form a more open structure. 
  • Finally, cut away any suckers from the base of the tree.

Tip:

Never remove more than around one-quarter of the surrounding branches of the tree in any given season. Always cut branches just outside of a branch collar, not inside. 

Magnolia in flower

When to Prune

Evergreen magnolias

If you have a young magnolia and it is an evergreen, you should prune it as needed between the middle and end of spring only. At this time, shorten the longer, younger branches. If you want to bare stems that you so often see with magnolias, then remove the lower branches when it is young. 

If your tree is to be trained against a wall, then pruning should take place in the summer, as the springtime is an important time to train the new growth.

Deciduous magnolias

Young, deciduous trees do not need pruning aside from removing long vertical shoots or removing weak and damaged branches. If you have some damage on your tree, you can prune it between the middle of summer and the beginning of Autumn.

Caution:

Again, magnolias are highly susceptible to damage from over-pruning, no matter their age. It is always better to aim for light pruning, even if you think it is too little, rather than heavy pruning. Heavy pruning can also lead to a lack of flowers the following year.

Overall, pruning at the right times of the year, when the tree is young, and keeping away dead or diseased branches will help your magnolia to maintain its stunning shape and structure.

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