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Pruning a Magnolia Shrub

Posted by debinontario (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 12, 12 at 12:00

I live on a rural property in Ontario, Canada. The winters here are fairly harsh but have been getting warmer in recent years. My problem is a rather large (8-10 foot) Magnolia shrub that seems to be doing well in its sheltered location. It generally blooms in March or April but this year the weather was so strange it got confused and barely bloomed at all.
Someone in this shrub's history has done a dreadfully bad pruning job so now it is horribly shaped and most of the branches fork near the tips and in very awkward places. I am willing to either drastically prune this shrub OR 'renovate' it over a few years but cannot figure out the best time to do so. Nor do I know the correct technique to avoid creating a worse mess. If the pruning sacrifices a season of blooms, I don't mind. My objective is to end up with a healthy shrub that is about 4 or 5 feet tall and branches nicely from the bottom. Any advice you could offer would be VERY MUCH appreciated!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Pruning a Magnolia Shrub

the general rule.. is to renovate prune.. just after enjoying the flower show.. BUT BEFORE NEXT YEARS BUDS ARE SET ...

can you see the new buds... i bet not ... so you might be able to do it ...

i suppose you are going to say.. you cant post a picture.. if you can.. check out the link ..

the best suggestions ... will come by 'seeing' the plant ...

have you googled 'renovation pruning of flowering shrubs'?? and found a page that gives you what you need???

BTW.. which z5 mag.. saucer.. or star??? ...


Here is a link that might be useful: how to post pix

RE: Pruning a Magnolia Shrub

it may also be helpful to identify what kind of magnolia it is. Mostly Magnolias are trees that want to be 15-20' tall, so attempting to keep it at 4-5' tall will be onerous.

RE: Pruning a Magnolia Shrub

Magnolias are included in that rather 'select' group of trees/shrubs that require minimal pruning and with good reason - they tend to respond poorly to pruning, as you have noted. They tend to produce a lot of long water shoots, can experience a lot of dieback and are slow to recover. Rejuvenation pruning should be staged over a period of years so as not to overly stress the tree.

I agree with wendyb that attempting to maintain at 4-5 feet is going to be both big burden on you as well as the tree. Even the quite small star magnolia that is generally grown as a shrub will want to triple that size. Maybe best to relocate the tree to where it can be allowed to grow without the need to prune or just simply replace it with something more size appropriate.

RE: Pruning a Magnolia Shrub

Someone in this shrub's history has done a dreadfully bad pruning job so now it is horribly shaped and most of the branches fork near the tips and in very awkward places.

===>>> are you guys missing this part..

it was improperly pruned .. AT HEIGHT.. causing it too become to large ...

she wants to retrain it to proper size ... rather than its monstrous size

regardless.. we need to ID it


RE: Pruning a Magnolia Shrub

C'mon Ken - 8-10' is not "monstrous" for any magnolia. In fact, it is pretty darn small for the vast majority. Second, the bad past pruning is hardly the reason it is so big - that's genetics - but IS the reason it looks so awful now. Magnolias - like dogwoods - do not respond well to hard pruning.

btw, the "proper" size is what the shrub/tree is genetically programmed to achieve, not what we as homeowners/gardeners deem it should be. Pruning to maintain a size significantly smaller than what the plant wants to grow to is never a good reason for pruning. Pick a more size-appropriate plant.

RE: Pruning a Magnolia Shrub

if its a city garden that is 20 by 50 .. its huge.. lol ...

you know i am not disagreeing with you ... all i want to express.. is that she should not worship it.. on her knees every morning.. if it is bugging her..

she has two options ..

1 -- prune it any darn way she wants.. and see how it responds ...

2 -- get rid of it.. since its a prior owners nightmare.. and plant .. as you note.. a named variety.. that will 'fit' the space ...

i get so frustrated when peeps mess around and frustrate themselves.. with plants.. that basically gal and i would have removed.. in the time it takes to type the first post.. i will yell

GET RID OF THE PRIOR OWNERS MISTAKE.. and make yourself happy .. and then go plant your first mistake.. lol .. life is too short to worry about the garden.. if it bugs you.. GET RID OF IT ...


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