Pruning A Magnolia Tree – Expert Trimming Options

If you’ve ever wondered how to trim a magnolia tree, keep reading, as I will share some helpful information.

For those who don’t know, the magnolia is a flowering tree mainly found in Southern America, although you can find some cold-hardy cultivars in the Northern regions.

About Magnolia Trees

They are effortless to recognize, thanks to their broad leaves. Magnolias are evergreen trees, which means their foliage remains green and fresh all year round, regardless of the season.

They are famous for producing nice-smelling white blossoms which can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. They are tall trees that can reach as high as 90 feet at full maturity.

Sometimes taller. They also have circumferences of about 12 feet.

In Mississippi and Louisiana, larger sizes of magnolia trees have been recorded. This doesn’t come as a surprise since the climates in those areas are perfect for magnolia tree growth.

The magnolia tree is known to grow wild in certain areas, and they do very well in warm climates. They are also popularly used as an ornament in gardens.

How To Trim A Magnolia Tree

Keeping a magnolia as an ornamental tree will require careful maintenance and pruning to maintain its beautiful shape.

Proper trimming will also keep the tree from overshadowing other plants in the garden.

The tree grows slowly, but over time the branches and limbs will spread out and shade the other plants, depriving them of sunlight.

Trimming and Shaping a Magnolia

The magnolia tree is cone-shaped. This is their natural figure. However, some factors can influence its shape.

Such factors include the amount of sunlight the tree receives and other environmental elements. Altering characteristics can cause the magnolia tree to grow in quite awkward shapes.

In the case of a young magnolia tree, you can train it quickly into the shape the owner prefers. This will be harder to accomplish with older trees as their branches have matured and taken a more permanent form.

To trim a magnolia tree, all you need are the same tools you would use to trim just about any other tree of similar height and size. These tools include pruning shears, lopping shears, and a handsaw used to cut thicker branches.

Before you trim, make sure the pruning tools are properly sterilized. This will ensure the tree is not infected during the process.

Also, after you have pruned one magnolia tree with a set of sterilized tools, be sure to fix them again if you want to prune another tree. Diseases can be passed using cutting tools as a channel.

As you prune the magnolia tree, remove the dead and diseased branches first. You’re not doing this just for the sake of good looks but also for the tree’s overall health.

When you are done taking out the decayed or dead branches, you can proceed to trim the limbs into the shape you desire.

You can achieve this by trimming the limb at the base area and using 45° cuts as much as possible. Be careful not to leave stubs behind or rip the tree’s bark as you cut. It is bad for its health.

Magnolias are easy to maintain and do not require significant pruning besides creating or maintaining their shape. Just remove dead and decayed limbs while you’re at it.

Young magnolia trees can handle a prune better than older trees. Remember, I pointed out that magnolias grow slowly, so an older tree would not have the time to heal from the pruning wounds. Slow healing of the scars would mean being infected.

Young magnolia trees can recover from prunes faster than older trees, but this doesn’t mean you should prune them recklessly. Prune carefully, as the main aim here is to form your desired shape and encourage new growth and better flowering.

It would help if you did this at the proper season in the year and with the right tools.

When To Prune A Magnolia Tree

If you’re dealing with magnolias that bloom early in the spring, then the ideal time to trim them is just after the bloom is complete. This should be around late in the spring or early in the summer (depending on the climate zone).

If you prune late in the season, you will be left with lesser blossoms the following season. However, this does not apply to cutting off dead or decayed limbs; you should cut them off as soon as possible to maintain the tree’s health.

Other Considerations: Growth Rate

The magnolia tree is a slow grower and usually doesn’t flower until after the first ten years of being planted.

So if you plan to grow a magnolia tree from scratch and watch it reach its full potential, be prepared to wait a very long time. I’m talking decades!

Additional Varieties

There are many species of magnolia trees. Most of them require minimal trimming, except for removing old dead limbs. The deciduous species should only be pruned due to a high risk of damage.

Below, I will list some of the most beautiful and fresh-smelling magnolia trees. These include –

  • Sweetbay magnolia
  • Wilson’s magnolia
  • Purple-red magnolia
  • Port Wine magnolia
  • Laurel magnolia

Tools and Supplies You Will Need To Trim A Magnolia Tree

You will need the right tools and supplies to prune your magnolia tree correctly. Allow me to list them out below.

A step ladder: This will be used to climb up the tree to reach branches far away from arm’s length. Make sure the ladder is strong and sturdy on the ground, as there will be a lot of hand and body movements.

A sturdy ladder will give you the balance you need to handle the cutting tools high up the ground.

Hand pruner: These tools resemble a regular pair of scissors, only that they are much more significant. They are very sharp and can print up to 2 centimeters thick branches.

They will come in handy when you come across smaller, manageable foliage that needs to be cut off. They are pretty easy to carry up the ladder. Please place them in your pocket or your small tool bag.

Pruning loppers: This tool will also prove to be helpful when trimming your magnolia tree. They are almost the same as hand pruners (or pruning shears), the significant difference being the size and length of the handles. Pruning loppers have much longer handles than pruning shears.

You can use them to cut magnolia limbs about 2 inches in diameter.

Hand saw: Not all magnolia tree branches can be cut using hand pruners or loppers. The thicker branches will require a more powerful tool. This is where the handsaw comes in.

You can use it to cut magnolia tree branches much thicker in diameter and length.

Make sure your handsaw is properly sharpened before trimming your magnolia tree. If the blade of the saw is blunt, you will not be able to achieve any smooth cuts. You will only be left with jagged edges around the pruned branches.

Be warned that rough cuts lead to nasty injuries on the tree. Such damages attract pests that will attack the tree and infect it. Once it is infected, it can spread to other healthy trees.

Always use a sharp saw to trim the branches of your magnolia tree.

Safety Precautions When Trimming Magnolia Tree

As I have mentioned, a magnolia tree can grow up to 90 feet, so climbing up and trimming it is no joke.

Before trimming, be sure you have created a safe environment for the job.

Clear out the surrounding spaces at the bottom of the tree. Make sure there is no one on the ground as you cut. It would be best to take this precaution to prevent falling magnolia tree branches from hitting a passerby.

Such tree-cutting accidents can cause injuries or even lead to death.

Make sure you are putting on the proper protective gear before you climb. You will need a hard helmet to protect your head in the event of a falling branch or if you accidentally fall off a tree.

You will also need a pair of gloves and rugged work boots.

If you would be cutting the branches with a chainsaw, put on a pair of goggles to protect your eyes.

Lastly, you may not be the right person for the job unless you have the required experience and expertise. Other than that, contact a reliable tree trimming service to trim your magnolia tree for you.


So, that’s how you trim a magnolia tree. Follow the above-listed tips and be safe as you cut.

Take care!

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