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How to Prune Southern Magnolia

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017

Southern magnolia is found in many parts of the warmer and subtropical climates in North America, growing predominantly in Florida and the Carolinas. It also goes by the names evergreen magnolia and bull bay. The species can grow up to 80 feet high and 40 feet wide. It thrives in rich soil and along moist river swamps. The southern magnolia is easily recognized because of its large flowers that bloom throughout the summer. They are creamy white in color, with bright purple centers and a pleasing aroma. Pruning southern magnolia

Prune southern magnolia in the off-season, when it is not blooming. Pruning in the winter will allow you to better see the structure of the tree and prevent pruning damage.

Use pruning shears on the thinnest of branches and graduate up to a pruning saw or chain saw for thick limbs. Achieve a clean cut to prevent bark damage.

Make all pruning cuts at the collar, which is the thick section next to the joint shared with another branch or limb. The tissue will heal in this area.

Climb a ladder and look through the tree's canopy for branches that are dead, broken or damaged. Remove them immediately.

Prune tree branches that have formed weak, tight crotches with the tree trunk or other branches. Ideally, a 60 degree angle provides the best strength in limbs.

Remove the bottom part of the southern magnolia's canopy because it tends to droop downward, blocking vehicles or pedestrians beneath. Cut off the limbs that are bent downward at the joint they share with other limbs.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Chainsaw
  • Gloves
  • Ladder


  • Don't leave stumps when pruning southern magnolia.
  • Don't attempt to prune southern magnolia that has grown close to power lines. Call the utility company.

About the Author


Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.