How to Trim Magnolia Trees


Magnolia grandiflora, the southern magnolia tree, is loved in the south for its large white flowers and heady fragrance. A mature tree can reach 80 feet tall, spreading its branches to a 30 to 40 foot radius. Minimal trimming to support the tree's health and maintain the strong natural shape is recommended. Take care to avoid overpruning; remove only what is necessary to maintain a healthy tree.

Step 1

Clean pruning tools in alcohol before use to sterilize and avoid spreading disease.

Step 2

Trim away dead, diseased and damaged limbs immediately. Cut back to a healthy branch or to the trunk. Make a clean cut just above the branch collar, leaving no stubs. The branch collar is the swelling where the branch attaches to the trunk.

Step 3

Do routine pruning in the early spring while the tree is still dormant. Maintain the natural shape of the tree, trimming branches growing outside the pattern only as necessary.

Step 4

Remove branches that rub together or against other landscape structures. Make clean cuts and avoid damaging the tree bark.

Step 5

Remove trimmed branches and debris from the area.

Step 6

Trim flowers for indoor use by cutting the branch below the flower. Handle by the stem to prevent bruising the flowers. Cut flowers just before using; magnolia flowers turn brown and spoil quickly.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand saw
  • Rubbing alcohol


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
  • Texas A&M Agrilife Extension: Proper Pruning Techniques
  • US Department of Agriculture: Southern Magnolia
Keywords: trim magnolia trees, prune magnolia trees, magnolia tree care

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.