Pruning Mature Magnolia Trees

Discussion in 'Magnoliaceae' started by Gerrard, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. I have read some contradictionary information about pruning Magnolia Trees here in the Pacific Northwest.

    We have several mature Magnolia Trees, although they are very healthy, some branches have crossed or are crossing and are pulling down if the lower branch (typically newer growth) Any opinions on which branch should be pruned the newer or older?

    Also I'm assuming the growth spores on the primary limbs should also be pruned.

    Thanks in Advance for you help opinion/suggestion
  2. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Hi Gerrard:

    We prune an evergreen Magnolia much differently
    than how we prune a deciduous Magnolia. Also,
    we have to prune various forms of deciduous
    Magnolias different from each other also. We
    simply do not prune a Campbellii or Sprengeri
    like we would a Stellata, Kobus or even a Liliflora.

    The evergreens will respond to conventional pruning
    and shaping, even shearing in some cases, whereas
    most deciduous simply will balk at such methods.
    The main difference is that evergreens will grow
    back from the tips of the branches once cut but a
    deciduous in most cases will not respond at the
    terminals at all but may send out new growth up
    to a foot or more below where the cut was made
    depending on the form and sometimes the variety
    of deciduous Magnolia.

    I suggest you join the UBC forums and post some
    photos of your trees and tell us what you want from
    them or contact an ISA arborist to come in and give
    you an evaluation of your trees and recommendation
    of their pruning needs.

    Ideally, we want a nice full head on our evergreen
    Magnolias if we can get it or we at least settle for
    some sense of shape or we can have an upright,
    spreading form. If left alone the trees will more
    likely, depending on whether they are common forms
    of Southern Magnolia or not, develop into an upright,
    spreading form. Round headed shaped trees here
    have been popular but they will require pruning to
    shape them when they are young and later or severe
    pruning when they are older with intermittent shaping
    about once every year or two.

    We generally leave a deciduous Magnolia alone,
    leave it like it is unless we have to prune it or
    we want a particular shape such as giving a Star
    Magnolia a nice, round headed shape but that
    takes a while longer to accomplish than dealing
    with an evergreen Magnolia. With some forms
    of deciduous Magnolias a round headed tree is
    just not going to happen no matter what we do.

    Crossing branches can be trouble when the brittle
    branches are touching one another. For many
    Magnolias this is something rather common with
    more likely seen supple branches crossing and
    touching and are not usually a big problem at all
    for several years. Supple branches for the most
    part do not cause damage to the wood but brittle
    older branches can and do cause wood injury. It
    is the wear from the rubbing of the crossing brittle
    branches that will cause concern and will either
    need to be cut back or perhaps removed altogether.


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