Do you have beautiful plants growing in your garden? And maybe you already know how to prune a rose bush or an apple tree, but now wondering when to prune a magnolia tree to keep it strong and healthy! We are here to help! Magnolia trees are a flowering favourite that grows in different shapes and sizes all over the country.
With over 80 species of magnolia tree – evergreen trees, deciduous trees, and a lot more – there are bound to be different ways to trim it to keep the tree strong, healthy, and blooming. It is essential that you know when and how to prune magnolias. Want to learn more? Keep reading!
Table of Contents
Why do you need to prune your magnolia?
If you trim a Magnolia tree when it is young, it will encourage more blooms and improve its health. Also, if your mature magnolia tree is overgrowing its space, you will have to trim it.
If any crossing branches are rubbing together and are damaging the tree, you will need to cut them to keep the tree healthy. Prune any diseased branches as well. While pruning a magnolia tree, your main aim is to keep the centre open so that the main stem becomes prominent.
If you over-trim a magnolia tree, it will increase the production of wispy shoots. This is not encouraged as it spoils the shape of the plant. Be very careful while pruning your magnolias, as incorrect pruning can keep them from blooming.
Mature magnolia trees don’t need hard pruning and don’t heal properly from harsh pruning cuts. Therefore, we suggest that if you have to do it, exercise caution and choose the right time of year.
When is the right time?
Magnolias are one of the most ancient flowering trees. They have had thousands of years to evolve, and as a result, there is a lot of variety in the magnolia family. Some have multiple trunks and stems, while others only have one trunk.
A few of them are evergreen, while others are deciduous. The right time to prune the magnolias depends on the type you are growing in your backyard.
Magnolia grandiflora, also known as Southern magnolia, is a big tree that can become very tall and has large white flowers. Since it usually grows symmetrically, you don’t need heavy pruning to keep it in shape. If you have to trim it, you should do so after it stops blooming in early summer.
Magnolia X Soulangeana
A pink tulip tree or saucer magnolia has various stems, and it can get about 8 meters tall and wide. When the tree is young, you should decide how many stems you want to keep so that the branches don’t cross each other. It blooms in late spring, so you can trim after the flowers have faded. Once the tree matures, keep the pruning to a minimum because it doesn’t heal easily.
Also known as star magnolia, this plant will have multiple stems and will grow to almost 4-6 meters tall. You will see beautiful star-shaped blossoms in spring on the bare branches of the tree. You can trim this tree after it blooms in spring until it reaches five years of age, after which you should be very careful while trimming it.
Sweetbay magnolia will bloom in late summer. It is a multi-stemmed plant that you will have to prune when it is young. Do in late winter as the tree will start growing in spring.
How to prune your magnolia tree step-by-step
Things you will need
- Hard hat
- Stepladder or telescopic ladder
- Hand pruner
- Pruning saw
- Lopping shears
Pruning a Deciduous Magnolia
When you plant the magnolia, use hand pruning shears to cut off any damaged or weak branches. If there are any branches that interfere with the symmetry of the plant, trim them as well. Make sure you cut about 0.6 cm above a side shoot or a healthy bud node.
Removing damaged wood
Unless a major storm hits, your mature trees won’t need a lot of pruning. Since deciduous magnolias are trimed from mid-summer to fall, it is easy to identify dead branches with no leaves. Cutaway the deadwood with the help of a pruning saw. If there are any broken branches, cut them as well, all the way back to the fork.
If you want to shape the magnolia, do so between mid-summer and early autumn. If there are any limbs that are interfering with the spreading growth or rubbing together, trim using lopping shears. Make sure that you are wearing a hard hat when you are pruning higher branches.
Pruning an Evergreen Magnolia
Use loppers or shears to remove the lower branches of the young trees. Evergreen magnolias are often tall trees, and the aim is to encourage upward growth along with a pyramidal shape. If there are very long branches, shorten them to maintain a good shape right from the start.
Removing damaged wood
Typically, you should trim an evergreen magnolia tree in early spring. It may not be apparent which stems are dead. An easy way to figure out which are, though, is to scrape the bark on the limbs you think are dead, using a sharp knife.
If you find grey or brown material under the bark, the branch is dead, and if the material is green, it is alive. You should thin the branches right to the main trunk to maintain the symmetry and shape of the tree.
Trim the tree lightly to maintain its pyramidal shape. Cut the branches back to the natural fork. If the branches are large, begin cutting from the underside and once you are halfway through, shift to the top side.
Pruning tools and extra tips
You don’t need any special tools for pruning magnolias other than standard lopping shears, and maybe a hand saw for very large branches. However, we suggest that you use pruning shears instead of handsaw wherever possible.
It is a good idea to sterilize your tools before you trim the magnolia tree. Make sure that you are trimming with clean shears to prevent infections or diseases. You should also sharpen your garden shears before you start trimming. Be careful not to injure or damage the bark while pruning.
Most types of Magnolias are low-maintenance. However, once in a while, you have to trim them to keep them strong and healthy. For example, you might be repairing the storm damage done to your magnolia tree, or maybe you are thinking of shaping your young magnolias so that they don’t crowd the pathway to your home. In this article, we have provided you with all the information you need about how and when to prune your magnolias without damaging them.
Happy gardening, folks!