Pruning a Star Magnolia

Discussion in 'Magnoliaceae' started by WashingtonGrown, Nov 19, 2005.

  1. WashingtonGrown

    WashingtonGrown Member

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    I have what I am relatively certain is a Star Magnolia that is getting too large. It is a deciduous Magnolia (not really what I would consider a tree) that blooms a white flower in early spring. We planted it about 10 years ago and it has gotten to be about 12 to 14 feet tall. I would like to maintain its height to around 8 or 10 feet. Can I take this much off the top without harming it? When is the right time of year here in Western Washington to do pruning on this shrub? Should I brush on some kind of sealant to the cut areas after pruning?

    Thanks in advance for any help you may provide.

    WashingtonGrown
     
  2. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Metro Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    pruning seal no. pruning a magnolia now, not really, wait till after it blooms. taking that much off at once, probably ok if one right. Any chance of a picture or two?
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    The right time of the year to top a star magnolia is never.
     
  4. NiftyNiall

    NiftyNiall Active Member 10 Years

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    RonB, of the previous post, put it the best. Leave it alone, and it will grow on, showering your landscape with beauty. They do not like, any kind of disturbance.
     
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Location:
    San Joaquin Valley, California
    The standard white form of stellata is like many
    of the deciduous Magnolias in that they may not
    respond very well to topping. The problem is
    that new growth may not soon come about from
    such a pruning. We can get by a little better by
    topping a ‘Royal Star’ as I've done and it grew
    back to where we wanted it to eventually be but
    it took four years to do it and all I trimmed off
    was two feet off the top.

    After blooming we can lightly snip or pinch off
    growth to help shape a tree but even here we do
    not like to severely prune the stellata and kobus
    forms as it takes too long for them to recuperate,
    produce new growth and in some cases there may
    not be any new growth to come about from areas
    right below where we made our cuts.

    You have to know in advance that for you to top
    your tree back 2-4 feet that the risk that you will
    face is that your tree may not respond well or not
    at all. Even some of the whole pruned limbs can
    later die out on you. You should have a severe
    reduction in the amount of blossoms you will
    have, perhaps for years. If the tree has to be
    topped then do it right after it blooms and then
    cross your fingers hoping your tree will snap
    out of it. One thing for sure, you will learn how
    vigorous a tree you have after a severe pruning.
    If your tree is not a strong growing plant then I
    would not prune it but lightly snip or pinch the
    growth back hoping to make it shapelier and
    fuller if that is your real preference. Once a Star
    Magnolia has been topped back a foot or more
    then foot traffic around the plant should be
    minimized for some time until you start getting
    new growth. The more times you walk near the
    plant the less likely it will behave the way you
    want it to after a major pruning.

    Pruning sealers are generally not needed for non
    seeping and non bleeding trees, nor are sealers
    or pruning sprays recommended for Magnolias.

    Jim
     
  6. WashingtonGrown

    WashingtonGrown Member

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    Thanks to everyone for all your responses. I had no idea this Magnolia is so sensitive. I've attached a photo wherein I've actually caught my daughter doing some yard work and the Magnolia (assuming I've identified it correctly) is in the background to the right.

    I have decided to refrain from the heavy pruning I had planned. But now I wonder when and how I should be fertilizing to maximize the spring blooms?

    Many thanks again to all.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Probably no need for feed, just wait for it to get older. Looks fine now, wouldn't look fine decapitated. Star magnolias aren't "sensitive", whacking the top out of a tree is always destructive. Trees (and treelike shrubs) have an architecture, a line pattern. Cutting a big chunk away is no less consequential than knocking away the upper storey and roof of a building.
     

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