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A Guide on When and How to Prune Magnolia Trees

March 10th, 2022

If you’ve never grown a magnolia tree from a seedling, you may not know that pruning magnolias is an important part of their care. While they can grow just fine without pruning, we’ve seen our magnolia trees thrive after over twenty years of pruning. Unlike some other tree species, the magnolia can survive being pruned and even benefit from it.

Today, we want to share all of our tips for pruning magnolia trees, including when to prune magnolia trees, how to prune them, and how to prepare for pruning.

How to Prepare for Pruning a Magnolia Tree?

Pruning a magnolia tree is a task that should be done every year. It helps the tree grow strong and healthy, produce more blooms, and grow in your desired shape. But, before you start pruning your magnolia tree, you’ll need a few tools.

We’d suggest a pair of work gloves and your pruning tool of choice. Here on our magnolia farm, we use manual pole pruners, but depending on the size of your tree a regular pair of pruners would work just fine. 

The next thing to do before pruning is to check the condition of your tree. Check for any brittle, damaged, or dead branches and try to decide where you think you’ll do most of your pruning. 

When to Prune a Magnolia Tree?

The best time to prune a magnolia tree is in the early spring or late winter, after the final frost. This is when the tree is still dormant, which means that it will be easier to see the branches and remove any dead or diseased wood. 

Pruning your magnolia tree before it blooms will also provide it with enough time to produce good summer flowering. Though, it’s important to note that mature magnolia trees can be more sensitive to pruning than younger trees. 

How to Prune a Magnolia Tree

There are two main reasons to prune your magnolia tree. The first is shaping. If you want your magnolia tree to have a certain shape, you can achieve your ideal tree shape through pruning. 

The other and most important reason is to optimize your tree’s growth, which we do on our farm through the process of corrective pruning. This consists of pruning larger branches that are around 1 ½ inches in diameter. These branches need to be dramatically cut every year, reshaping the main structure of the tree. Many times a corrective prune will consist of completely cutting a tree branch either in half or completely off. By executing these cuts you can force the tree’s energy to be dedicated to the other limbs that were lightly pruned or not pruned at all, allowing for the best opportunity for your tree to flourish.

In the process of pruning, it’s important to first remove any of those injured branches. Once that is done, it is best to remove any branches that are outside the desired shape of your tree. Finally, you can remove branches that are crossing over one another to improve the optimal growth of the tree.

You can also remove any watersprouts as these will likely never produce any flowers and are not necessary for the survival of your tree. 

Southern Magnolia Tree

The magnolia tree boasts glossy, green leaves and ornate, cream colored flowers.

When grown to its maximum height, this tree can be 80 feet tall, and 40 feet in diameter. This tree loves sun, and can live 80 years or more.


We hope you enjoyed this overview of magnolia pruning. You can also read our tips for fertilizing your magnolia tree. Please contact us with any questions.

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