When to trim magnolia?

Magnolia Tree Pruning: Learn How And When To Prune Magnolia Trees

Magnolia trees and the South go together like cookies and milk. There are over 80 species of magnolias. Some species are native to the United States while others are native to the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. Magnolias can be evergreen or deciduous and can bloom in early spring or in summer. Knowing how to trim magnolia trees is important in order to maintain their continued health in the landscape.

Magnolia Tree Pruning

Although pruning magnolia trees is not necessary, young trees can be shaped as they grow. Trimming a magnolia tree when it is young will also improve the health of the tree and encourage more blooms. Mature magnolia trees do not recover from pruning and can sustain fatal wounds. Therefore, magnolia tree pruning on older specimens should only be done as a last resort when necessary.

When to Prune Magnolia Trees

Knowing when to prune magnolia trees is important. Young evergreen magnolias are best trimmed in mid to late spring only when needed. Shorten long, young branches and remove lower boughs if you desire a bare stem. Some evergreen magnolias are trained to a wall and should be pruned in the summer.

Young deciduous magnolias rarely require pruning apart from removing weak or damaged branches or long vertical shoots. Deciduous magnolias should be pruned between midsummer and early fall.

Over pruning, even on a young tree, can cause stress. With any magnolia, it is better to aim on the side of pruning too little than too much. Light trimming a magnolia tree is always preferable.

How to Trim Magnolia Trees

Once you’re ready for pruning, it’s a good idea to understand how to trim magnolia trees. Always trim trees with clean and sharp pruning shears or loppers. Be very careful when pruning magnolia trees not to tear or injure the bark.

Remove all dead, diseased or otherwise injured branches first. Remove any branches that are not in line with the tree’s natural shape. Remove branches that are crossing or rubbing and cut off any suckers. Also, be sure to stand back and assess your work each time you make a cut.

Remember to always cut branches off just outside of a branch collar, never remove more than one-third of the tree each season, and avoid pruning a mature magnolia unless absolutely necessary.

Pruning a Magnolia Tree

Magnolia trees can benefit greatly from proper pruning done at the right intervals. Like with any tree, the key to good pruning or even adequate pruning is to not overdo it and harm the plant’s growth potential. This is especially true with magnolias, as these trees can reach heights of 60-80 feet in their lifetime.

Benefits of Pruning

Pruning in its most basic definition is the removal of unsightly or unwanted tree parts. Unwanted parts aren’t uncommon with these trees. Since magnolias get so large, one of the most frequent reasons to prune a magnolia is to restrict its growth so that it is either more manageable or not an obstruction in its surroundings.

Removing unsightly parts can serve additional purposes as well. Considering blemishes on a plant are often leaves, branches, or blossoms that are dead or infirmed, pruning improves not only the aesthetic quality of the tree, but also its health.

By removing weakened or dead limbs through proper pruning, more of the tree’s energy can be focused towards cultivating the healthy branches and flowers that remain.

When to Prune a Magnolia Tree

The general consensus among experts is that the best time to prune a magnolia tree is right after the flowers have finished blooming. However, that’s pretty much where the consensus ends.

Depending factors such as variety, be it evergreen or deciduous, the age and maturity of the tree, and what shape you may be training your tree to grow into, the ideal habits for pruning vary.

The first task in any pruning job, regardless of variety, should be to remove all broken, decayed, dead, or diseased branches or anything that looks to have become a problem.


Magnolia trees of this variety grow quickly and grow tall, with species like the Southern Magnolia growing as tall as 80 feet under ideal conditions. As such, young evergreen magnolias can be pruned using conventional techniques without any detriment.

Similarly, because of the evergreen’s durability, if you wish to properly dictate the shape it will grow into, pruning must be done early and must be repeated as it grows. New growth will continue to come from the tips of the cut branches.

When pruning for shape, begin with a cut at the point of origin or back to a strong shoot or lateral branch regardless of shaping, and only then prune for shape, to fill in an open area, or to keep the magnolia tree in check.


Some botanical garden sources say that deciduous magnolia trees are best left alone to achieve their natural shape and growth. As such, shaping magnolias takes longer with deciduous varieties than evergreen ones.

Unlike evergreens that sprout new growth from exactly where they are cut, the same technique applied to deciduous magnolia trees will result in the growth appearing up to a foot above or below where the cut was made.

Deciduous trees require more caution and precision when pruning, as severe pruning can cause long term damage.

When cutting back to lateral branches, look for branches with a 45 degree angle to the branch to be cut. Be sure to make slanting cuts on branches that grow upwards.

When to Stop Pruning

Regardless of the differences the two varieties have as they grow, at a certain age, any mature magnolia tree should no longer be pruned, as big cuts will not heal and can cause disease problems.

Tools for Pruning

Proper pruning tools must be used to ensure consistent, clean cuts. The best means of choosing the proper cutting tool is to determine the thickness of whatever piece of the plant you wish to remove.

Use conventional pruning shears for cuts up to 3/4 inches in diameter. Lopping shears or loppers should be used to cut branches ranging in thickness from 1-1 1/2 inches in diameter. Hand saws are best for magnolia tree branches greater than 2 inches in diameter.

As you can see, there are some gaps between the ranges these tools cut best at. Examine the hardness and resistance you feel in your specific branches and use your best judgement when your diameter falls between the ideal zone for two tools.

Sterilize pruning tools before using them by placing them in a bucket with hydrogen peroxide for 20 minutes.

Magnolia Trees

Did you know that Nature Hills offers more ornamental Magnolia trees than anyone else? There are about 210 varieties and while some are hard to keep in stock, we have carefully cultivated this beloved tree. Would you believe that millions of years ago, the very first flower looked a lot like a Magnolia?

Nature knows a good thing when it sees it! Magnolias have been growing for over 100 million years.

Like you, we simply love the large, fragrant flowers in a range of colors from white, purple, yellow, pink and red. The long, glossy, dark green leaves and the lovely branch structure of this ancient tree variety are also quite ornamental. You’ll even love seeing the cute orange seedpods develop, which give the Magnolia its nickname “Cucumber Tree”. (Now, don’t try to eat these “cucumbers”, instead leave them for your local songbirds to enjoy.)

Selecting a Magnolia Tree

Magnolias can be either evergreen, where they’ll hold their leaves all winter, or deciduous with an annual leaf drop. The large leaves are easy to pick up. Please know that even the evergreen varieties will occasionally lose their leaves, and that’s normal.

Read more about Caring for Magnolia trees on the #ProPlantTips blog.

No matter how large or small your lot is, or where you live, chances are there is a Magnolia variety that will work for you. Site it correctly, so it has room to spread out. You won’t want to have to prune this plant for size control and risk losing the weighty, showy, glamorous flowers.

Their massive flower displays are the reason for their popularity. This is a bold and colorful plant that gets better each year. Magnolia is a tough, disease resistant tree that can handle some urban pollution.

Large, Broad-leaved Evergreen Magnolias are Handsome Shade Trees

Known throughout the South, Magnolia grandiflora is commemorated as the state tree of Louisiana and Mississippi. If you want to make a real statement in your landscape, look at the ‘Green Giant’ and ‘D.D. Blanchard’. These large trees should be used as an anchor in a large garden border. Need something smaller? Try ‘Little Gem’.

Magnolia grandiflora’s root systems are too aggressive for use as a street tree. They aren’t the best choice for a lawn tree, as they will provide shade and make it a bit challenging for grass to grow underneath. Instead, you could mulch under the tree line and underplant with a wide variety of shade plants such as Hosta, Ferns and some Azalea varieties.

Place these amazing trees where they will command your attention. Use them as marvelous accents where you can see them from your house or street. What a gift to give your family and neighborhood as they bloom during the shift from spring to summer. The leathery, evergreen leaves will give welcome shade in summer, and provide visual interest all year.

Deciduous Magnolias Make Wonderful Ornamental Trees or Privacy Screens

We have several mid-sized Magnolias that are perfect to use as an accent tree. They make a fabulous focal point in a corner of your landscape. Try them outside your picture window, or outside the kitchen window.

Lower branched plants will put more flowers closer to the ground for your enjoyment. Magnolias grown in shrub form make excellent screening plants, too.

Have fun looking at the eye candy. There are so many sizes, shapes, and colors to look at. Each flower is a wonder, with up to 18 “tepals”, or fused petals and sepals. Each spring, they’ll develop large buds that look a bit like Pussy Willows. They will bloom before the leaves emerge, so it’s really quite a show.

Growing a Magnolia in a cold climate? When Nature grants you a great Magnolia spring, you’ll be absolutely thrilled.

Dwarf Magnolia Trees Are Wonderful Planted Near Patios

‘Ann’, ‘Jane’, and ‘Betty’ are all part of the “Little Girl Series” that were developed and bred purposely to open a bit later in the season. This makes them less susceptible to late spring frosts that could damage the flower display.

Their flowers will all resemble purple or reddish purple tulips with elongated buds as the flowers begin to develop. The darker colored petals open to expose a lighter pink color.

‘Betty’ actually opens to expose a white inside bloom with purple reflex. Imagine a woody shrub that covers itself in huge red-purple flowers for one of the most coveted displays in the world.

This series of small Magnolias can also be grown as special trees or allowed to fill in as wonderful screening plants. You might choose to plant one as a Memorial to a dear friend, family member or even pet. Each year during spring, you’ll be reminded of your loved one.

Magnolias are special trees, and you can see why we are such big fans. Need help choosing just the right one? Email us at or call our Nature Hills plant experts at 888.864.7663.

Magnolia ‘D.D. Blanchard’

Magnolia D.D. Blanchard

D.D. Blanchard Magnolia, (Magnolia grandiflora ‘D.D. Blanchard’), are perfectly suited for a cottage garden or any type of Southwestern landscape. This grafted variety features striking, extremely dark leaves that contrast nicely with the attractive, orange-toned brown undersides. This variety can grow to be a medium to large sized tree with a canopy spread that can provide a generous amount of shade.

The famed Magnolia flowers are large, fragrant, showy white, and sure to impress in both beauty and aroma. It thrives in full sun environments and has a moderate growth rate. Due to its moderate growth rate, buy a tree as large as you can to enjoy the generous shade and beautiful flowers. Moon Valley Nurseries offers mature, large D.D. Blanchard Magnolia trees for sale.

Its handsome pyramidal shape makes it an ideal tree to plant on both sides of an entryway. This evergreen makes a great lawn tree, too. Waterwise, heat tolerant and cold hardy, this D.D. Blanchard Magnolia tree will provide year-round shade and gets bonus points for its pest and disease resistance.

Like the Little Gem Magnolia, the flowers of this D.D. Blanchard Magnolia tree are one of its main attractions. Powerfully fragrant, pure white flowers bloom throughout the summer and fall, attracting hummingbirds and a variety of pollinators. These large, pure white flowers will bring beauty and a pleasing aroma to any type of landscape. Women might be tempted to pluck one of these beautiful, large flowers and use them as a bridal hairpiece or use the flowers for wedding bouquets.

This D.D. Blanchard Magnolia is sure to be a focal point tree in your landscape. Homeowners will love the beauty and benefits this tree provides. Moon Valley Nurseries offers vibrant, healthy specimens for sale. You buy it and we can deliver and plant it!

Varieties we offer: Grandiflora, DD Blanchard, Russet and Samuel Summers

Magnolia Trees

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  • How to Prune Little Gem Magnolia Trees
  • My Little Gem Magnolia Tree Is Losing Leaves

The Little Gem Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’) is a variety of the Southern Magnolia that is smaller and more compact. It has an upright shrubby form, rather than a tree form. It grows 20 to 30 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The showy fragrant flowers of the Little Gem Magnolia are creamy white and measure 3 to 5 inches across. They appear in the spring and sporadically throughout warm weather. The Little Gem Magnolia is a slow-growing evergreen tree and needs little pruning.

Use lopping shears to cut limbs that measure ½ to 1 inch in diameter. Use a bow saw or pruning saw to cut larger limbs. Saw off large branches just outside of the branch collar, a region of raised bark at the base of the branch.

Prune out crossed or bent limbs with the lopping shears or saw.

Remove dead, damaged and diseased limbs and branches with the lopping shears or saw.

Trim wayward branches or limbs that spoil the shape of the tree with lopping shears.

My Little Gem Magnolia Tree Is Losing Leaves

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Little Gem magnolias, which reach up to 20 feet in height and grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, require full to partial sunlight. If a tree is not getting enough sunlight, its leaves may fall off. Magnolia trees are drought-tolerant, so lack of water is not a likely cause of leaf drop.


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Magnolia trees are susceptible to leaf spot disease, which is caused by a parasitic alga. Leaf spot begins as a round and fuzzy colony on the leaf’s surface, but the spots turn gray and the leaves die and fall off.


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Leaf spot most often affects weak magnolia trees, so trees that are properly watered and fertilized will be less susceptible. The application of a copper hydroxide fungicide every two weeks during wet and cool weather may prevent the disease.

  • Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ flower in profile
  • Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ flower close up
  • An unopened flower on a Magnolia ‘Little Gem’
  • Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ tree in situ

Don looked at a new dwarf variety of the evergreen or Bull Bay magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). ‘Little Gem’ was developed by Warren Steed of Steed’s Nursery in North Carolina in the U.S.A. It has many of the attributes of its parent, including large white fragrant flowers, but it is a smaller, more compact plant.

Like the evergreen magnolia, the underside of each leaf on ‘Little Gem’ is a rich, reddish-brown. When you look up at mature trees the undersides of the leaves are clearly visible, and you can sometimes achieve charming effects by coordinating those colours with other things in the garden. The fence behind the dwarf magnolias shown in our segment has been painted a reddish brown colour, which matches the rusty reverse of the magnolia leaves.

Plant details

Common name: Dwarf magnolia

Botanic name: Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’

Description: Dwarf variety of the evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), but only a quarter of its size. ‘Little Gem’ will reach approximately 4m (12′) in height and 2.5m (8′) in width. It has a dense growth habit, glossy leaves with a rusty reverse, and creamy white, perfumed flowers in spring and summer.

Best climate: ‘Little Gem’ will grow well in most parts of Australia from Rockhampton in Queensland, around the southern coast to Geraldton in Western Australia. It is frost tolerant once established.

Best look:

specimen plant in lawns, garden beds or parks hedge large decorative patio pots

Good points:

large white perfumed flowers shiny green leaves with a rust coloured reverse compact growth habit


None to speak of – ‘Little Gem’ is relatively insect and disease free.


‘Little Gem’ needs a well-drained soil and a position in full sun or part shade. Mulch to keep the roots cool and moist, and give an occasional deep soaking in prolonged dry periods. Remove seed heads after flowering to encourage new growth and more flowers.

Getting started:

Available in Victoria, New South Wales, southern Queensland and Tasmania, but may be hard to find in other areas. Expect to pay from $25-$40 for plants in 200mm (8″) pots.


SERIES 18 | Episode 30

There can be no better sight than the delicious petals of Magnolias from late winter to spring, when they’re in full bloom. At this time you can see why they’re called the queen of the forest.

Ron Boekel has been growing Magnolias in the Dandenongs in Victoria for the past 20 years.

He became interested in Magnolias when he saw one flowering and thought it was one of the most magnificent flowering trees. “I read about the new varieties that weren’t in Australia in all my books and thought they had to come in the country – and that’s what I did,” he says.

Magnolias originate from Asia, Western China and from the United States of America. Magnolias range in habit from small shrubs to large trees. Most are deciduous, although there are some evergreen varieties.

A favourite is a pink Magnolia called ‘Caerhays Belle’. It’s got a very narrow, fastigiate shape and it’s excellent for a small garden because it needs almost no pruning and has a beautiful fragrance.

Another favourite is a vivid purple Magnolia called ‘Phillip Tregunna’. Ron says the first year flowers on some of the hybrids are never true to size and colour, but the following year they improve and have a beautiful fragrance.

Ron says that a Magnolia that has been field-grown, freshly potted-up and is planted in the garden, will go through severe transplant shock. It will require extreme levels of watering all spring and summer. If one watering is missed, it will go into shock and may even die. He suggests the Magnolia be potted up and settle for a further six months which should be time enough for a healthy root system to develop.

“A Magnolia stores all its energy from the season before, so that instead of the new roots coming out with new growth, the new growth comes out first and is followed by the roots. So, once it’s planted in the garden, the new growth is out and often collapses on extremely hot days,” he says.

Ron’s other tips for planting Magnolias include adding at least 2 litres of chicken manure pellets and at least 2 litres of dolomite limestone. “You can never give them too much.”

A full sun position is preferred because then you have more flowers and if you’ve got clay soils and they’re very tight and badly-draining, you mound up high.

In spring the snails and slugs love them. But apart from slugs and snails, nothing gets to them and they look after themselves.

Another favourite to look out for is Magnolia ‘Ruby’ which is a beauty because of the beautiful, exquisite shape of the bud and also a white edge around each of the petals. It blossoms out into sheer magnificence and, if you’ve got a small garden, ‘Ruby’ certainly fits into a smaller size – and you can prune it to shape.

Ron reckons that when you’ve gone through a dull winter where there’s nothing flowering and it’s all looking pretty ordinary the Magnolias come out and bring joy and life to spring. He says, “when you see all the different colours, you know spring’s in the air. It’s a kind of joy.”


How to grow them

Climate Deciduous magnolias like a chilly, moist winter followed by a warm, moist summer. They thrive along the Great Dividing Range and in south-east Australia – anywhere rainfall is reasonably generous (or adequate irrigation is available) and where winters are cool enough to induce dormancy. They’re not for the tropics or the steamy sub-tropical coast.

Aspect Full sun is most suitable, but they’ll grow with a little shade and enjoy the shelter of other large shrubs or small trees. Strong winds will damage the flowers and break the brittle branches, so try to plant in protected areas.

Soil The most important feature of a suitable soil is that it holds moisture but not wetness. Average garden soil will suffice as long as it drains freely. Magnolias grow naturally in soils that are deep and rich in rotted organic matter. Slightly acidic soil is ideal but magnolias will tolerate alkaline soils containing plenty of humus. At planting, dig a hole about 1m wide and add compost or rotted manure to the excavated soil before returning it to the hole.


Water Young magnolias need plenty of water, but once established and deeply rooted (their root system can span four times the overhead canopy!) they’ll tolerate short dry spells. If watering is needed, soak slowly so water sinks deeply into the soil. Do this fortnightly until regular rain returns.

Fertiliser If soil is deep, dark and rich in organic matter, feeding isn’t necessary. However, spraying the leaves of young plants with soluble fertiliser helps them establish. Spray fortnightly from the time flowering ends until autumn and repeat the following year. When the plants are established, use a controlled-release fertiliser for trees and shrubs. Apply immediately after flowering finishes, topped with a compost mulch.

Pruning In general, pruning isn’t necessary, but you can always remove dead or damaged branches and prune out others to encourage a more desirable shape. Prune deciduous magnolias straight after flowering, cutting back to the raised ‘collar’ found at the base of larger branches. Be careful not to cut past this collar, as this will discourage further flowering and growth.

Magnolia soulangeana gives you the best of both worlds. A deciduous tree, it is covered in lush lime green leaves through summer, then drops them in winter to present dramatic large tulip-shaped flowers on elegant, interesting bare branches.

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Magnolias come in all shapes and sizes so can be integrated with any garden design. There is nothing more delightful than seeing its buds burst into a profusion of blush pink blooms as the winter chill sets in. Most popular are varieties with flowers that are white inside, with dark pink to port wine purple outside of petals, however it also comes in varieties with all-white flowers.

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With size ranging from small shrubs to large trees up to 8m tall, the magnolia prefers a position in full sun, so is an excellent choice of small tree for your front garden – its winter-flowering blooms last into spring and with a magnificent display in an often otherwise bare winter garden.

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Of course, a magnolia will work well anywhere in full sun, so if you’re exploring ideas for your back garden, your backyard landscape design might incorporate it as a magnificent feature, particularly when viewed from inside the home.

Best suited to a slightly acid soil, the flowers are softly fragranced and form a striking display when brought indoors as cut branches.

Chris Warnes

Caring for your magnolia tree is straightforward – with regular water when young, they require a regular dose of mulch to feed surface roots.

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