Pruning magnolia trees: tips for the perfect cut


For me plants are some of the most exciting living beings, even though they live in slow motion. They have fascinating abilities and just so much potential! That's why I studied organic farming. However, since plants are rather thin on the ground in my city, I often spend time hiking in the nearby mountains at the weekend. In the future I would love to run a farm myself.

Favourite fruit: strawberries and gooseberries
Favourite vegetable: courgettes

In order for the magnolia tree to retain its flowering power for a long time, it needs proper pruning. Let us show you what to pay attention to when pruning magnolia trees.

old magnolia tree flowering pink
Learn what to look out for when pruning magnolia trees from this article [Photo: Nancy Kennedy/]

Magnolias (Magnolia) stand out for their elegant, spherical growth and magnificent flowering. But how does this actually happen? Is this the gardener’s art or the plant’s?

Magnolias do not need to be pruned. In fact, they develop their characteristic sprawling growth pattern all by themselves. Pruning actually disturbs the plant’s growth, because magnolias are quite sensitive to it. A consequence is often annoying water shoots and a lot of lost energy. Since the magnolia grows relatively slowly, there is often also no need for pruning at all. In the event that the tree ends up growing too much, you should cut back the plant only every three to five years. But generally, magnolias are excellent garden trees that do not require any pruning.

When to prune magnolias

Magnolia should be cut in late summer, because the flow of sap is significantly reduced at this time. This has the advantage that the plant loses less sap and therefore less energy than in the spring.

Pruning magnolia trees: step-by-step

Magnolias are not tolerant of pruning and prefer to develop without coming into contact with pruning shears or saws. Therefore, only prune magnolias when absolutely necessary and be very careful. Removing dead or troublesome branches is usually sufficient. Always cut branches back to the trunk, to give the best chance of healing. When doing so, make sure that your saw or scissors are clean and, to be on the safe side, disinfect them by briefly immersing them in boiling water. You can then smooth the cut edge a little with a sharp pocket knife so that it fuses more cleanly. Radical pruning is only usefulafter storm damage or snow breakage, because the magnolia recovers very slowly from harsh intervention.

large pale pink magnolia flower
Take special care when trimming magnolia trees [Photo: Bogdan Sonjachnyj/]

Magnolias appreciate fertilisation in order to gather new strength after pruning. Learn more about fertilising magnolias here.

Pruning star magnolias: what you need to consider

When pruning the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), the same advice applies as for other magnolias:

  • Prune in late summer
  • Use clean tools
  • Cut back carefully and not too radically
  • Prune only every three to five years
  • Cut back branches to the trunk
  • Remove dead branches

Star magnolias naturally grow up to five metres tall. The small trees will still develop a beautiful overhanging crown without any pruning at all.

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