how do I prune a magnolia tree? (pictures included)

Discussion in 'Magnoliaceae' started by dmessman, May 3, 2005.

  1. dmessman

    dmessman Member

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    I have an evergreen magnolia tree in Northern Virginia, USA. It's about 25 feet tall, but it sheds leaves all year long. There are lots and lots of leaves. I think it loses leaves because the body is overgrown. I'd like to prune the tree to keep the tree healthy and lessen the number of leaves that fall. I've included pictures of the tree as a whole, pictures from underneath, and a picture of the number of leaves that have fallen in one week in late April.

    I appreciate any help you can provide. Thank you.
     

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  2. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years of Activity

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    It drops lots of leaves much of the time because it's an evergreen magnolia. They do that. Leave it alone, or cut it down if you can't stand the mess.
     
  3. dmessman

    dmessman Member

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    The leaves that fall are dead - brown and dry. I guess I've always thought that because the body of the tree is so thick that many of the leaves aren't getting the light they need, so they die. Is it possible that the tree is too full and it exacerbates a normal circumstance of leaves falling?
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years of Activity

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    No, opening it up with pruning will just make it thinner-looking, cause it some stress by removing branch and foliage tissue (leaves make food, branches store it for later use). You could do that - without killing the tree - to make the tree look different for your own enjoyment, but you will not make the tree stop being messy by doing so.

    "...at ground level, a wide tarn of black shade, and a summer long litter of big leaves in ones and twos over a long period. To my mind this handsome tree has little place in home gardening." - G. Schenk, The Complete Shade Gardener (Houghton Mifflin)
     
  5. scross1

    scross1 Active Member

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    Similar to Hollies, Magnolias will lose their leaves every year or at most every other year. It could be a light issue on the insdie of the tree or it could be last years leaves falling.
     
  6. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    I agree with Ron B, evergreen Magnolias shed leaves in the growing season and its quite normal. they are usually browned or yellowed.
     
  7. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Unfortunatly for you, the tree was limbed up. It's best to not remove the lower branches of this tree because of the way it sheds it's thick leaves. You could help the tree by removing the grass growing around the surface roots and adding mulch. I can't see the rootflare clearly, but do check to see if it's buried or if there are any circling roots around the base of the tree. Links enclosed.

    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG089
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/WO017
    http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/Garden/02926.html
    http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/planting/nosoil.htm
    http://www1.br.cc.va.us/murray/Arboriculture/TreeCare101/below/root_collar_exam/default.htm
    http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/mulching.asp

    Newt
     
  8. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    What do you really want from this tree? Yes, you
    can prune it and can prune it severely and take out
    the crossing interior limbs if you want to provide
    more light into the interior of the tree. I'd leave
    it a round head for shape if you want to prune it.

    What I want to know is how much water are you
    applying to this tree and how often are you watering.
    Also, I suspect that either your soil is sour by the
    looks of the grass or you have too much shade
    emanating from another tree or both conditions
    exist.

    Jim

    Below is what my first response would have been
    had I not changed my approach to this issue a little.

    To limit the loss of leaves deep water the Evergreen
    Magnolias that are planted in the ground. Generally,
    abnormal leaf loss is directly attributed to lack of
    water, much more so than lack of light. Older leaves
    in the interior of the tree will be sloughed off at
    intervals during the year, mostly during the Summer.
    That is to be expected with age, heat and evaporative
    transpiration. When we start losing the newer leaves
    or the exterior leaves then we've either not given the
    tree enough water or we are seeing the effects of
    fertilizing the trees and not giving them enough
    water to water in the fertilizer well. Over watering
    will cause the leaves to droop, wilt and later turn
    brown but those leaves will stay on the trees longer
    than the leaves will that died out due to lack of water.

    Light does play an important role in the interior of the
    tree but these are dense, round headed trees by nature,
    aside from a few selected dense angular forms. Lack
    of light in shaded areas can show dramatic leaf loss in
    the interior of the tree, not the exterior as seen here on
    the shaded side of this tree. When many of the exterior
    leaves show some browning in the shaded areas then this
    condition could be due to mite damage. A good shower
    of water on the leaves and the underside of the leaves
    will help for this. What this tree appears to need is to
    be deep watered on a regular basis during the warm
    weather months and then the loss of leaves will not be
    nearly as much of a problem for you.
     
  9. douglas

    douglas Active Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Hi
    sorry to but in
    my opinion a Magnolia is a beutifull tree if you can put up with the flowerbuds (slimmy things) the year round leaf drop (messy)

    If they are in the back 40 or better yet in the neighbours yard even better
     
  10. Puddleton

    Puddleton Active Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Being a loud mouthed Australian, I'm forced to add my bit.
    leave the tree alone. If you have a rotary lawnmower (horizontal slashing type), simply drive over the fallen leaves a few times with the catcher removed, then pop the catcher on to collect the shredded leaf fines and use it for mulch. Your tree looks like most magnolias suffering neglect, If you must have grass beneath, apply composted manures deeper in the soil so that the grass wont gobble the nutrients. Carefully make 100's of 40mm holes approx 200mm deep into the soil with a crow or pinch bar ensuring you don't damage any roots. best time to act is during a week of heavy rains as the steel bar will penetrate soil easily. Add 1/4 handfull of composted chicken manure and desertr spoon of slowrelease complete fertiliser. Top dress the entire area with clean sand and water well. If this is carried out annually you will have a happy tree and a happier turf also.
     
  11. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    I agree that a fertilizer program should be initiated
    for the lawn and the Magnolia but without ample
    watering and adding in more light, the correction
    of the current status will be minimal.

    Guys, there are lot of trees that are or can be messy.
    I am not going to side with work brittle book authors
    that are too naive about this plant. It is their bias that
    some of you have read and many of you have already
    prejudged this tree due to them and let's be honest
    many of them have never grown or tried to grow this
    tree. Who are they kidding?

    Only a handful of people it seems can be objective
    about the Southern Magnolias. Of which the same
    kind of reasoning or lack thereof can be written about
    the seed pods dropped off the by the Deciduous
    Magnolias also and little is written about them. Lack
    of ample water even on the Deciduous Magnolias will
    cause the leaves to shed like crazy so the condition is
    prevalent in all Magnolias. Not so bad or seen as
    often with the Michelias but even the Doltsopa and
    Wilsonii can lose a lot of leaves during the growing
    season in temperate climates if we do not water them
    properly. Notice there is little mention of their seed
    pods either? I'll trade any mess for the flowers and
    stature of the tree any day and so would a lot of people.
    If I were to write that ground up, fallen leaves from the
    Evergreen Magnolias made a good mulch for Japanese
    Maples many people would change their opinion of this
    tree in a heartbeat.

    Jim
     
  12. mpgibson

    mpgibson Member

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    Can I move my magnolia tree and prune it and when should this be done? It is growing wild.
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years of Activity

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  14. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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