Magnolia Tree Trimming Guide: When To Prune Magnolia Branches, DIY Steps

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | February 20, 2024

Woman looks at magnolia blossoms and wonders if there is a magnolia tree trimming guide that explains how to trim branches from a magnolia tree, evergreen or deciduous magnolias, as well as when to prune magnolia and how.

Regular and proper Magnolia tree trimming ensures your trees remain healthy, maintain an proper shaped, and enhance your yard.

But, before you grab a saw, there are some things to consider for safety and protecting yourself from accidents when trimming your magnolia tree.

If you’re a novice Magnolia tree pruner or someone who wants to refine their technique, this guide offers tips and tricks that can help.

It also features advice on hiring a professional to handle the Magnolia tree trimming for you.

Magnolia Tree Trimming: When Should I Prune My Magnolia Trees?

Many people wonder, when should I prune my Magnolia trees? And while the answer depends on your trees’ age and type, there are some general guidelines.

Young evergreens should be trimmed in the mid or late spring (if needed). Young deciduous trees typically don’t need much pruning aside from removing dead or sick branches.

Graphic of when to prune a Magnolia tree showing late summer as the best season for Deciduous Magnolia trees and spring for Evergreen Magnolia Trees.

Older types of evergreen trees can also be pruned in the spring unless they’ve been trained to a wall, in which case you should wait until they’re done flowering in the summer.

As for older deciduous trees, prune them in the late summer.

How To Trim an Evergreen Magnolia Tree

Follow these Magnolia tree trimming steps when caring for an Evergreen Magnolia tree:

Remove Lower Branches After Planting

When you plant an evergreen tree, use gardening tools like shears or loppers to cut off the lower branches. Doing so encourages upward growth and a pyramid shape.

Remove Dead Wood

If you suspect a limb is dead, use a sharp knife to scrape off some of the bark.

A layer of green material signifies a living branch, whereas gray or brown material typically means the branch has died and should be cut off.

Prune for Shape

Aside from getting rid of dead branches, the primary focus should be on pruning your evergreen Magnolia so that it maintains a pyramidal shape.

When cutting branches to improve the shape and avoid stripping the bark, follow these guidelines:1

  • Cut the underside first (about halfway through the branch)
  • Cut down through the branch to meet the first cut from the top

You can also start by cutting off the branch about six inches away from the fork (where it extends from the trunk or another branch). Then, when the bulk of the branch is gone, you can make a closer cut.

How To Trim a Deciduous Magnolia Tree

If you have a deciduous tree that needs pruning, follow these Magnolia tree trimming steps:

Remove Weak or Damaged Branches After Planting

When you’ve finished planting a new Magnolia tree, cut off any weak or damaged branches with loppers or pruning shears. Cut them about one-quarter of an inch above side shoots or healthy buds.

Remove Dead Wood

When caring for an older deciduous tree, identify dead limbs (ones that aren’t producing leaves) and cut them away with a pruning saw.

The same goes for broken branches. Cut all of this wood back to the fork.

Prune for Shape

Ideally, your Magnolia tree will grow up and outward and be as symmetrical as possible.

If you notice any overly long limbs that interrupt this symmetry, or any branches that rub together, trim them away to the natural fork. Use a ladder or pole shears to reach higher branches (and wear a hard hat for extra protection).

Follow the same guidelines shared above to cut branches off cleanly and safely.

Magnolia Tree Trimming: Why Prune Your Magnolia Branches?

Whether you’re growing deciduous or evergreen Magnolias, you’ll need to know how and when Magnolia tree trimming is done to ensure that they stay healthy and strong and maintain their shape (this is especially important for evergreen trees).

In addition to keeping trees healthy, pruning is also good for the humans responsible for caring for them.2 Regular trimming reduces the risk of branches breaking off and damaging property or causing injuries.

Hiring a Professional for Pruning Magnolia Tree

Don’t trust yourself to trim Magnolia trees? Want the peace of mind that comes with hiring a professional tree trimming service?

If so, these tips can help you hire a skilled arborist to do the job for you:

  • Ensure They’re Certified: Look for an arborist who is part of the International Society of Arborists (ISA).3
  • Be Wary of Door-to-Door Salespeople: Door-to-door salespeople often lack the advanced training and skills needed to handle more complex tree trimming jobs.
  • Ask for Proof of Insurance: Request proof of insurance, including proof of liability for personal and property damage and worker’s compensation coverage.4
  • Request Multiple Quotes: Getting more than one quote allows you to compare rates and service types to ensure you are treated fairly and aren’t overcharged.
  • Look Up Reviews: Find reviews from third-party sites to learn about previous customers’ experiences and ensure you’re hiring a reputable arborist.
  • Find Someone with Magnolia Tree Experience: Ask if the arborist has trimmed Magnolia trees before. If they have, they’ll be more likely to handle the pruning process correctly and produce good results.

Deciduous vs Evergreen Magnolia Trees and Flowering Magnolia Tree

Magnolias come in numerous varieties, but they fall under two primary umbrellas: Deciduous and evergreen.

Deciduous Magnolia trees shed their leaves every year.5 Evergreen trees, on the other hand, retain their leaves year-round.

Graphic of Deciduous Magnolia Tree types which include, Saucer Magnolia, Star Magnolia, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Anise Magnolia, Bigleaf Magnolia, Ashe's Magnolia, Cucumber Tree Magnolia, Lily Magnolia, Kobus Magnolia, Loebner Magnolia, and Umbrella Magnolia flower images in circle frames. (Loebner Magnolia Image: David J. Stang9; Bigleaf Magnolia Image: Plant Image Library10)

Tree SpeciesDeciduous or Evergreen?
Saucer MagnoliaDeciduous
Star MagnoliaDeciduous
Sweet Bay MagnoliaDeciduous
Anise MagnoliaDeciduous
Ashe’s MagnoliaDeciduous
Cucumber Tree MagnoliaDeciduous
Lily MagnoliaDeciduous
Kobus MagnoliaDeciduous
Loebner MagnoliaDeciduous
Umbrella MagnoliaDeciduous

Graphic of Evergreen Magnolia Tree types which include, Bigleaf Magnolia, Southern Magnolia, Little Gem Magnolia, Kay Parris Magnolia, Teddy Bear Magnolia, Fairy Magnolia, and Banana Shrub Magnolia flower images in circle frames.

Tree SpeciesDeciduous or Evergreen?
Bigleaf MagnoliaDeciduous; Evergreen in warm climates
Southern MagnoliaEvergreen
Little Gem MagnoliaEvergreen
Kay Parris MagnoliaEvergreen
Teddy Bear MagnoliaEvergreen
Fairy Magnolia8Evergreen
Banana Shrub MagnoliaEvergreen

The chart above breaks down some of the most well-known types of Magnolia trees and clarifies which are deciduous or evergreen.

Knowing which type you have can help you determine when is the best time for Magnolia tree trimming.

Frequently Asked Questions About Magnolia Tree Trimming

How Far Back Should I Prune My Trees?

Generally, you should avoid cutting away more than one-third of the tree. Err on the side of under-trimming instead of over-trimming so you don’t accidentally make your tree more susceptible to diseases or ruin its shape.

Where Should I Cut Magnolia Branches?

Cut Magnolia tree branches about a quarter of an inch from the side shoot. Remove suckers (miniature shoots that sprout near the bottom of the tree) and water sprouts (shoots that grow on the branches and trunk), too, as they can prevent your tree from growing as healthfully.6,7


1Welsh, D. F., & Janne, E. (2008, November). Follow Proper Pruning Techniques. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

2University of Florida. (2015). Why and how trees and people benefit from pruning. University of Florida | Landscape Plants. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

3International Society of Arboriculture. (2023). International Society of Arboriculture Home Page. ISA. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

4Cornell Law School. (2023). workers compensation. Cornell Law School | LLI. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

5Dillion, D. (2022, February 7). What Are Deciduous Magnolias? NC Cooperative Extension. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

6Steil, A. (2022, October). Managing Suckers on Fruit, Ornamental, and Shade Trees. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

7Ask UNH Extension. (2021, February 26). Can water sprouts and suckers be prevented on trees? UNH Extension. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

8van der Ploeg, R. (2023, September 6). Magic happens with Fairy Magnolia. AIPH. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

9Magnolia x loebneri Spring Snow 1zz Photo by David J. Stang / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

10Magnolia macrophylla ssp. macrophylla (Bigleaf Magnolia) Photo by Plant Image Library / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

11Michelia ‘Fairy Magnolia White’ in Belgium Photo by Wouter Hagens / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

12Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem 13zz Photo by David J. Stang / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>