How To Prune & Trim Magnolia Trees and Bushes In Shape?

Magnolia requires occasional pruning. While evergreen magnolia need to be trimmed for shape, deciduous variety needs a check on its excessive growth.

How to trim a magnolia tree
The best part about having a magnolia tree is watching it bloom beautifully. Whether you plant them as specimen trees or for privacy hedging, they will make a wonderful addition to your home landscape.
Since magnolia plant is vulnerable to damage learning how to trim a magnolia tree is necessary. Even if your tree doesn’t have any decaying or damaged branches, it is important to maintain its appealing shape. First, check if you have a deciduous or evergreen variety and then prune accordingly by thinning out excessive growth and dead branches.
Also, magnolia is sensitive to trimming and gets damaged easily if you don’t prune it right. So, let’s go through this easy guide on cutting back magnolias to keep them blossoming.

How To Prune Magnolia Trees?

While pruning magnolia trees you should be really careful and well-prepared. This means getting all the necessary pieces of equipment required for proper pruning. It includes a hand pruner, running saw, ladder, hard hat, and pruning loppers.
Remember magnolia trees take time to restore from pruning cuts. So, you must give it time to recover and settle down after each pruning session. Also, knowing how to trim a magnolia tree in different situations is also very necessary for taking care of magnolia trees.

a. Pruning it for removing the dead parts

Pruning it for removing the dead parts

  • First, disinfect your pruners using isopropyl alcohol or ethanol. Also, sharpen it smoothly to prune your tree.
  • Begin by removing any dead branches. Now look for crossing branches and remove the one that will help your tree to attain the desired shape.
  • Finally, remove any infected or diseased limbs in your tree. Don’t miss out to disinfect and clean your pruners again after working with diseased branches.
  • After this properly use your pruners to draw cuts through the wood. Avoid leaving a hanging branch using a thread because you can end up breaking some part of the bark.


b. Regular pruning for shape

Regular pruning for shape

  • When it comes to knowing how to cut back magnolia trees for good shape, again start by using hand pruners.
  • Start by deciding the ideal size and shape you wish to have when your magnolia is fully groomed
  • Focus on maintaining an open crown and regular shape using the hand pruner.
  • Next, prune back to the trunk or a fork to give a beautiful look to your tree.


Is Pruning Deciduous Magnolia Different From Evergreen Magnolia?

Of course, when and how to prune a magnolia tree completely depends on the variety of magnolia. So, yes pruning a deciduous magnolia is different from an evergreen magnolia. Let’s read how.

a. Trimming a deciduous magnolia

 Trimming a deciduous magnolia
Always keep in mind to trim deciduous magnolias between mid-summer and early fall. With pruning these trees you need to make sure that there is no excess overgrowth.

Always trim after planting

While planting use shears or loppers to remove any damaged or delicate branches Also, get rid of anything which can hinder the upward structure growth. It will help in the proper upward growth of the plants. Remove about ¼ inch of the branch that is above a healthy shoot.

Get rid of any rotten or damaged woods

Most deciduous trees are trimmed in mid-summer and through early fall. You can also locate the fork and then, chop it off. Remove any decayed or dead limbs near the fork of the tree instead, because they won’t produce any leaves.

Get rid of decaying or dead woods

Make sure to only prune a deciduous tree that doesn’t produce any wood. If your plant grows any wooden limb, quickly remove it. Get rid of these limbs before the branches start to produce leaves.

Trimming for good shape

If you have a established tree, learn how to prune it for magnolia bush formation. Cutaway limbs that are extended too long. While trimming saw is best for chopping away natural limbs and branches of deciduous trees.

Don’t miss out to prune suckers and water sprouts

If you notice any small water sprouts or suckers on the tree’s trunk, bigger branches or ground, remove them using pruners.

b. Trimming an evergreen magnolia

Trimming an evergreen magnolia
Evergreen magnolia should be pruned to keep them in shape in the late spring or early summer only.
If you’re unsure of pruning them in summer, do read our guide on pruning evergreens in summer.

Trim from the start

Use shears or pruners to remove the lower branches immediately after planting an evergreen tree. It is helpful in promoting a tree’s upright growth and pyramid-like structure.

Identify and prune dead wood

Sometimes it may be difficult to find out which branches are decayed or dead. So, check it by simply using a knife to scrape through the damaged bark. Magnolia has a long life but if it has a dead branch, you’ll notice a brown or gray shade underneath the bark.

Trim to maintain good shape

The best time to prune evergreen varieties of magnolia trees is early summer or late spring. It will help you in retaining the tree’s pyramidal shape. Avoid stripping the bark by removing it from the underside to the middle, then again trimming through the upper side down to the bottom cut-off branch.

How To Trim A Magnolia Bush?

How To Trim A Magnolia Bush
Trimming a magnolia bush is not very different from cutting back a magnolia tree. The only difference here is that the idea here is to shape the magnolia to give it a fuller look and bushy appearance.

  • Take a look at your magnolia specimen to check if the vertical leader (i.e., shoot) has split into two parts. If yes, then you should simply trim the shoot that is delicate.
  • Likewise, look out for the branches that can be easily rubbed against each other. That way you can remove the weaker one.
  • While carrying your plant home from a nursery, if you notice any damaged shoots. It is best to remove them using the best quality pruners. Just take the brittle branch next to the healthy side and trim it.

Related: Magnolia Fertilizers | Where Do Magnolia Trees Grow Best?

When To Trim A Magnolia Tree?

When To Trim A Magnolia Tree
As you understand how to trim a magnolia bush, let’s know when to prune it. Magnolia trees should be checked every year to know if they need to be trimmed. In case they don’t appear to be in a good shape, you should begin pruning it.
Magnolia is a slow grower. When it comes to pruning a magnolia, make sure to watch out for the signs which might stunt its growth. This goes for the decaying or dead limbs, suckers, water sprouts, unwanted long branches. If you notice them, trim them right away to establish a good environment and promote your tree’s growth.
Generally, the best time to trim your magnolia tree is when it has fully open leaves. This usually happens between mid-summer and the beginning of autumn. The trimming process is different for different varieties of magnolia.
If you have evergreen magnolia trees, make sure to get rid of any lower branches. It helps retain a pyramidal structure and promotes the upward growth of trees. These varieties should be pruned and shaped in spring.
Whereas, if you have a deciduous magnolia tree, focus on shortening the branches individually. It will prevent them from growing very delicate and long. These varieties should be trimmed in mid-summer through fall. First, make sure to learn how to prune and shape a magnolia tree to maintain its beautiful looks after trimming.

What Not To Do While Trimming Magnolia?

What Not To Do While Trimming Magnolia
As mentioned, magnolia trees are considered to be highly sensitive to pruning. Unlike most trees, magnolia trees do not come back after pruning, if done incorrectly. So, once you’ve learned pruning magnolia trees, it’s a good to understand what not to do.
This means knowing some important things that you should not do while pruning a magnolia. Here, take a look:

  • Don’t use lopers or pruners without proper cleaning. Use them only after properly disinfecting them using isopropyl alcohol or ethanol.
  • Try not to harm or tear branches while pruning.
  • Never trim your magnolia tree more than one-third at a time.
  • Don’t prune until your tree has its first bloom. Magnolia loses its leaves in winter to go into dormancy. Avoid trimming your tree during the winter months. It can make the tree more vulnerable to diseases.
  • Never prune any diseased branch as it can severely damage your tree’s health. Make sure to fix the disease before trimming.
  • Don’t leave any dead or decaying wood near the branches. Just cut it off immediately, regardless of the size.
  • Don’t try to fix any broken branch using a thread because it can remove some other healthy branches.



Q. How much can you cut back a magnolia tree?

Ans. If you want to see your magnolia tree grow big and healthy, just prune them from time to time. It is necessary to remove any unattractive or scraggly branches otherwise it may cause more damage to your tree.
Don’t forget that magnolia trees are highly sensitive to pruning.  It is best to prune only 1/3 of your tree at a time not more than that. Make sure to start by pruning any decaying or dead branches.

Q. Does neglected magnolia come back after pruning?

Ans. It is important to start pruning a magnolia tree when it is young. It will help your tree to bloom more and improve its health. But sometimes mature magnolia trees whose care has been neglected for long might not recover even after pruning.
In fact, older species of this tree can show severe damage after pruning. So, make sure to prune a full-grown magnolia only when it’s the last resort to restore it.
Summing up…

Whether you have a magnolia plant or planning to have one, learning how to prune magnolia bush or tree is always helpful.  It will allow you to keep your tree in excellent shape for a long time.
The good thing is that magnolias are not a fan of getting pruned. Even if you don’t prune them, they will grow perfectly fine.
But sometimes your tree’s branches might get damaged, or you might have crossed branches. This is when pruning will save your tree from developing any infection. It is also helpful in maintaining a well-shaped appealing plant in your garden.