Trimming is a great way to enhance the health and beauty of a Magnolia tree. Most experts prune magnolia trees using a pair of loppers or sharp hand pruning shears in the initial stages. Weak or damaged branches are usually the first to be removed. This includes all broken, dead or diseased branches.

Limbs that do not align with the tree’s natural and intended shape are normally next in line. Pruning professionals then remove suckers and crisscrossing limbs. The best way to prune magnolia trees is to cut the limbs off beyond the branch collar.

It is also advisable to only prune magnolia trees to a maximum limit of one third each season. This aids them in achieving optimum growth and nutrition. A mature magnolia tree should however not be trimmed unless it is completely necessary.

Magnolia tree trimming   How, when & how much

How to trim a magnolia tree?

Magnolia trimming tips

Prioritize Dead and Diseased Branches

Since you can only prune a magnolia tree up to 1/3 of its size, you should prioritize pruning dead and sick branches before cutting out the healthy but unattractive ones. Dead limbs are usually identified by their brittle, decolorized and unproductive nature.

This remains constant even during the early spring blooming season. They should thus be pruned 1-inch away from the trunk using disinfected lopping shears. Sick branches are also easily recognizable through discolored foliage, a rotting bark, mildew infestation and sagging.

Ensure the Season is Right

Magnolia trees often experience their first bloom between early spring and the end of summer. This is usually their recommended pruning time. This is because trimming at any other time usually interferes with their extent of blossoming during the next season.

Choose your Branches According to your Trimming Purpose

Magnolia trimming is done for risk management and growth control. Dead, dying, infected and weak limbs are pruned first to reduce the risk of disease and death. Small branches on the lower part of the trunk are then pruned to prevent any excessive growth.

Prune Magnolia Trees Safely

Safety for the tree involves ensuring the tree is not left in a vulnerable state because of the pruning techniques applied. Branches should thus be trimmed off beyond the collar to prevent any bark damage that may cause trunk infections.

Pruning of Magnolia trees should also only be done lightly to help the trees produce more blooms in future seasons. Water sprouts which usually grow in areas where branches are cut off should equally be rubbed off.

Dry and sunny atmospheres in late spring and early summer present the best conditions for Magnolia pruning since they help to keep the freshly cut wounds free from infection.

The person trimming the magnolia tree should also acquire the necessary gear which includes hand gloves, goggles, loppers, shears and a ladder to keep himself safe. A professional arborist or tree expert can also be engaged especially if the tree has extensive issues.

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Differences Between Evergreen and Deciduous Magnolias?

Deciduous MagnoliasEvergreen Magnolias
Shed their leaves in WinterRetain their leaves in Winter
Best planted in AutumnBest planted in Spring
Can thrive in colder climatesThrive only in warmer climates
Grow faster and largerGrow slower and smaller
Harder to maintain Easier to maintain
Require more soil fertilityRequire less soil fertility

Trimming Deciduous and Evergreen Magnolias

Deciduous Magnolia Trees

Pruning deciduous magnolia trees usually begins by trimming off all weak, damaged and improperly growing branches. These branches are usually cut 1/4-inch beyond a healthy bud node just moments after planting using either a pair of loppers or shears.

Any more pruning whether for shaping or health purposes should be done between mid-summer and early fall. You should cut branches back to a natural fork either using lopping shears for smaller, lower branches or a trimming saw for larger boughs.

Hand pruners can also be used to flush cut all suckers and waterspouts which may appear on the ground, trunk and larger boughs. Deciduous Magnolias should also be annually inspected for proper shape and size.

Evergreen Magnolia Trees

Evergreen Magnolias are first trimmed at planting time. This is usually done to do away with excessively long branches which interfere with the trees’ intended shape and growth pattern. It is harder to identify deadwood on an evergreen tree than a deciduous one.

This is because evergreens are usually trimmed off in early spring. Dead branches can however be identified by scraping through the barks of suspected limbs using a sharp knife. Green material underneath is an indication of life while grey or brown tissues signify death.

Branches should be trimmed off back to a natural fork to maintain the tree’s overall shape. Flush cutting can also be done for any suckers or waterspouts. Evergreen magnolia pruning should be done at least once every 3 years.

When should magnolia trees be trimmed?

Evergreens are best trimmed in late spring. Midsummer and early fall pruning is however recommended for deciduous magnolias.

FAQ’s

Dormant seasons are regarded as the best times to trim Star Magnolias. This is because such seasons make it easier to distinguish between a bud and a mature flower. Lower branches which do not receive enough light to flourish should be trimmed off first.

The trimming of old blooms should be done without interfering with the growing points located under the blossoms. This enables them to be preserved for fresh blooming in future seasons.

Southern Magnolias seldom require trimming. They can however be trimmed in cases where a broken or stray limb is spoiling the intended shape of the tree.

A mature saucer magnolia tree averages a height of 25 feet.

FAQ’s Magnolia tree trimming

Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.