Can you cut the tops off of a Magnolia tree without killing it?

Discussion in 'Magnoliaceae' started by DenyseC581, Mar 19, 2008.

  1. DenyseC581

    DenyseC581 Member

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    Hi,
    I have a 90 year old friend who lives in the Northeast of America in Massachusetts , and she is wondering if you can cut the tops off of a Magnolia tree without killing it. Thank you for your help!
    Denyse
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Likely to induce trunk decay and sprouting of weakly attached vertical shoots. With trees generally mature specimens are apt to be damaged and deformed by topping, while very young ones are much better able to recover from it - but even these will still have their shapes altered, with unwanted production of forking branches likely (as well as making it look cluttered these may cause the tree to split later in life).
     
  3. DenyseC581

    DenyseC581 Member

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    How would you trim the top off a magnolia tree without causing damage, as it is too tall (2 stories tall) as it is, then? Thank you!
     
  4. smivies

    smivies Active Member

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    What Ron B is saying is that you can't top a Magnolia without causing damage! Magnolias are not trees that take pruning well. The tend to look really ugly after a major pruning and the rapid regrowth branch structure is just as unsightly and is weakly attached to the tree (not good in ice storms).

    Cut it if you like.....you've got our opinion.
     
  5. DenyseC581

    DenyseC581 Member

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    I understand. It's for an 90 year old woman and she asked me if there was any other way to trim it without hurting it. I guess, the only alternative is to take it down and plant something else that won't grow so high. Thanks for the advice.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    2 stories is quite short for a tree, she needs some tall shrubs there. Otherwise, if these are comparatively young, vigorously growing specimens a trained and experienced pruner can lower them to please her without creating a disaster (unless she wants too much taken off). And they will, of course, start to grow back immediately afterward - one of the problems with topping of all kinds of trees is that they grow back (unless too severely damaged or unable to sprout much, if at all for other reasons, like being a conifer).

    Have somebody out to look at the trees who has credentials and certifications indicating they should know something (NOT a former lumberjack!) and find out what they think will work. You're going to have to interview and hire a tree service or similar operator anyway.
     
  7. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Location:
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    The amount to be taken off the top of the tree
    has not been mentioned, nor the type of Magnolia
    as several evergreen Magnolias respond better
    to severe pruning than several deciduous Magnolias
    will.

    Aesthetics, how some people want their plant or
    others plants to look sometimes does not mean
    much when the plant is not theirs. Let others
    better determine what kind of Magnolia it is,
    present a photo or two to show the basic shape
    of the tree, see how much lower growth there
    is on the tree and the health of the lower growth
    before one decides to take the tree out due to
    them not knowing what to do with it now.

    If the tree is indeed an evergreen Magnolia
    and there is sufficient lower growth on the
    tree then we can prune back to healthy growth
    and reshape the tree later. Have a certified
    arborist come out and inspect the tree and
    give an give an estimate based on the work
    that needs to be done now to comply with
    the owners wishes and have them provide
    an estimation of the follow up work that
    will probably need to be done later to shore
    up the tree to make it look nice again as it
    tries to grow back.

    Years ago I cut my Charles Rafill on its
    own roots way back as I was losing a lot
    of top growth, with large branches dying
    on me back to the base of the truck. I
    trimmed a 22 foot tree back to 5' tall,
    gave it a severe flat top haircut. I was
    not overly concerned what anyone felt
    about what the tree looked like later,
    I was doing what I could to help save
    it. Okay, 12 years later I have a tree
    again but it was not without constant
    maintenance to help get it back to
    where I can see this tree live for a
    long time and not worry too much
    about it, not apply much more hands
    on work on the tree now. It can be done
    but we have to stay on top of the tree
    sometimes. Most people do not have
    the patience or the know how to get this
    far. That is no fault of them as they have
    to really know the plant and know what
    they can expect from that plant in order
    to work with it in hopes of achieving an
    adequate or satisfactory result. Cut a
    two story tree back to one story is not
    a big deal for some Magnolias providing
    we know what we are up against when we
    whack the tree back and we have an idea
    what to expect from both us in what we
    have to provide for the tree later on in
    compensation due to our handiwork and
    from the tree itself in what it should do,
    could do and perhaps will not do for us
    later on based on what we've done to it.

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2008

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