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I was waiting until January to prune a large Magnolia but when I went to get more detail from the RHS they said it should be pruned midsummer. Here is the advice on their site:
'Established magnolias usually do not require regular pruning; generally they do not respond well to pruning. But where damaged branches or overgrown specimens need work then this should be done when the tree is in full leaf, usually during midsummer. Pruning cuts made at this time of the year will have plenty of time to begin healing before the onset of winter, and are less prone to dieback.'

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  • Replies: 4
  • Posted: Mon. 3rd August 2009 14:17

Pruning Magnolia

Reply from Kathy C

Hi, CD,
Though it sounds like you are getting conflicting advice from two different sources, the advice to follow depends upon the extent of pruning needed. Ideally, mature Magnolias should not be pruned save removing any dead or damaged bits. In that case, it should be done when the tree is dormant as stated on Shoot. If the pruning needed is extensive, perhaps because it is blocking lines of sight on street or something like that, then the RHS advice should be followed. As they have stated, this will give the Magnolia time to recover before winter, but this does run the risk of the tree 'bleeding' excessive amounts of sap in warm or hot weather if a good deal is pruned away, which may significantly weaken the tree. So I guess the question is, how much needs to be removed. That will decide when you prune.
Kathy C.

  • Posted: Tue. 4th August 2009 19:23

Pruning Magnolia

Reply from CD

Thanks Kathy, that makes sense. It is quite extensive pruning needed as the Magnolia is too close to the house (planted by previous owner) and it's either prune or remove. I think by taking three of the largest branches (out of about 12) I can get the best outcome for the least cuts.
CD

  • Posted: Wed. 5th August 2009 17:22

Prune now

Reply from Kathy C

Hi, CD,
Since you have to remove about 1/4 of the main branches, I would go ahead and prune it now. Rule of thumb is to never remove more than one-third of all growth when pruning so you will be under that limit. Just keep an eye out for excessive 'bleeding' or running of sap.
Kathy C.

  • Posted: Wed. 5th August 2009 17:44

Re: Pruning Magnolia

Reply from CD

Hi Kathy, and anyone wanted to hear how it went. It worked.
I did the huge prune last summer and all went well. No bleeding thankfully and the Magnolia is now beautifully proportioned and no longer hitting the house walls or blocking paths. It is also a lovely shape now that really enhances it even when not in flower which brought lots of positive feedback from passers by.

As planned I removed 3 key large branches, about 1/4 of the plant. I also took out some small lower branches which opened up the shrub allowing light and rain to get through so it has transformed from a barren dry zone to an area that can sustain snowdrops in spring and, for now, a bright carpet of feverfew which has finally stopped the local cats using the patch as a public toilet!

There is one more very large branch to be removed but I've been waiting a year so as to not shock the plant all in one go. I will also be trying the same technique on another Magnolia in the area so I'll write back if there are different results as thing may go differently in the more exposed situation.

  • Posted: Wed. 9th June 2010 08:23