How to Prune a Magnolia Tree

There are more than 80 species of the Magnolia Trees, many of which are timeless classics that have historically represented the global south. This plant species is most popular for its leathery leaves, white or pink-tinged flowers, and some magnolia varieties that grow well in colder climates. From the Kobus and Saucer Magnolia to the Southern Magnolia and Star Magnolia, growing this plant variety requires a moderate degree of care and caution. Ensuring that your Magnolia Tree is adequately trimmed will keep it at the peak of health while also improving the overall aesthetic and appearance of this plant. Read on to learn how to prune a magnolia tree.

Pruning Deciduous vs Evergreen Magnolias

There are two types of Magnolia Trees that you need to be aware of: 
  • Evergreen Magnolias: Little Gem Magnolia, Bracken’s Brown Magnolia, DD Blanchard Magnolia
  • Deciduous Magnolias: Ann Magnolia, Jane Magnolia, Alexandrina Magnolia

  • As a general guiding principle, deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter, whereas evergreen trees keep their leaves all year long. Evergreen Magnolia Trees have a more vibrant and vivid color full of life, whereas deciduous trees are lush, dense, and grow faster. Most gardening hobbyists will find that evergreen trees are easier to take care of because they require little maintenance. 
    Japanese Magnolia Flowers With evergreen Magnolia Trees, you only have to worry about retaining a triangular shape. Meanwhile, with deciduous Magnolia Trees, your chief concern will be to stop branches from growing too thin and long, as this variety has a faster growth habit.

    When to Prune a Magnolia Tree?

    Your objective with pruning and trimming your Magnolia Tree is to get remove dead branches and water shoots, so it is a good idea to spread each pruning session over a minimum of 2 to 3 years. Pruning your Magnolia Tree too much can cause unnecessary stress, and it may start to appear weak and leggy with not enough leaves and flowers to show. Be careful not to prune this plant in late winter or early spring because that is when the branches and stems will ooze sap fluid, which can attract a host of pests and insects. The best time to prune magnolia trees is late spring and summer. They are equally appropriate times of the year to prune your Magnolia Tree, without attracting any disease-causing bugs. You will also want to prune magnolia trees after it has finished flowering or else you risk cutting off the gorgeous flowers. It is a good idea to prune your Magnolia Tree when you first plant it so that it can grow into the shape of your liking. Inspect your Magnolia Tree for weak limbs, small branches, and twirling branches that may cause your plant to appear misshaped. Look out for abnormally large branches that are much longer than others. You need to get rid of these too! It goes without saying that you should extract any suckers, water shoots, and dead limbs as these can cause problems later in your plant’s journey to growing into a healthy and aesthetically shaped tree. 

    How to Prune a Magnolia Tree?

    Both evergreen and deciduous Magnolia Trees follow the sample principle when it comes to pruning and trimming. Just remember that with evergreen trees, you have to focus on the shape, and for deciduous trees, you need to prevent overgrowth. Inspect your tree and evaluate its shape, projected growth pattern, suckers, water sprouts, damaged branches, and any weak link that may inhibit growth. Next, you will want to: Using Shears to Prune Branches
  • Use hand pruning shears to get rid of dying, diseased, dead, and weak branches, especially if you have just planted your Magnolia Tree. You will need to cut the branches at a quarter of an inch from the side shoot.
  • Remove suckers and water sprouts. These plants hold back your Magnolia Tree from growing up to its full potential. For thicker branches, you can fork them. For longer branches, a simple cut-off flush will do.
  • When it comes to pruning for shape, evergreen trees need to have their branches cut back to the natural fork in the tree. For deciduous trees, watch out for overly long stems that are throwing off your tree’s symmetry. 
  • You can either perform intense pruning once every few years or perform light trimming every 3 to 4 months. Just remember not to go overboard with your pruning practices. Reach out with any questions you may have in the comment section below and as always good luck!!

    For more pruning resources check out our guide to Tree Pruning Basics and for more details on caring for your Magnolia tree, check out this guide