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Pruning a magnolia?

Busy Bee2Busy Bee2 Posts: 1,005


 This magnolia was a freebie with a plants order a couple of years ago.  When it arrived, it was like a short bamboo cane with a side shoot, so I stuck it in a pot, cos I had no idea what to do with it.  Last summer, I wanted the pot for something else, so 'potted on' into a tree bucket.  Now it's looking quite happy, and I wonder about the four branches at the bottom, because the ones at the top make an attractive habit, but the four lower ones are a bit random.  Should I prune them off, and if so, when?  Thanks all - Bee x



  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 16,695

    I think you could cut them off after it has flowered. The sap is rising now so it may bleed if you cut it now, although as they are small branches you  would probably get away with it.

  • Busy Bee2Busy Bee2 Posts: 1,005

    Will it flower though?  It hasn't the last two years, and what's coming through now is definitely leaves rather than flowers.  When it came it was described as having 'red' flowers.  I am happy to leave it if next winter would be safer with the sap and everything?  But if you think it would grow better if I got rid of the low branches now, I would cut them off.  Flowers would be lovely, but I'm not expecting any till it's a bit bigger. 

  • Lupin 1Lupin 1 Posts: 8,916

    BB2 I think Magnolia's need to be in the ground. Doubt it will do much or ever flower even in a big pot. They don't like being pruned and I would only prune for access underneath or to remove dead / diseased growth.

  • Busy Bee2Busy Bee2 Posts: 1,005

    KEF, with regard to the ground, I am between the devil and the deep blue sea.  If I describe to you what we've got on offer, and what I decided to do, maybe you can help me decide.  This is definitely one of those cases where someone has a plant, and not the ideal conditions - would never had bought it, but now that they have it, wants to do the best.

    We live in a barn which faces south at the front, and north at the back.  The whole front and back are covered by about 2ft of fused iron ore, laid down by the farmer in the 1870s, who had connections at the Scunthorpe iron works - it was literally brought here still steaming hot, and poured all around - it is a hideous, undiggable crust of blue rock, with rusty rivulets running through it.  The frontage and back are ideal in the sense that they are protected on 3 sides, a sun trap, etc.  But not good for trees.

    Beyond the iron ore at the back, is 1.5 acres about of wild paddock, to make into a garden.  I am really excited about making this into garden, as opposed to the raised beds you can see in the picture, because the soil goes down!  But it is exposed, and windy in the winter, the placing of the tree would leave it very exposed, and I don't think a magnolia would like that.  So I had thought I would put it in a very large pot, in the front, south facing, well sheltered garden.  Like a really mega-pot?  But do you think that wouldn't be enough to make it happy? 

    I have bought a fig about which I will be posting in the next few days - which I am more culpable for, because I did actually buy it, but the magnolia came without me even realising it was on its way.  Should I give it away do you think? 

  • TonksTonks Posts: 54

    I have a well established Magnolia and have pruned it each of the last 3 winters removing a lot of the lower growth, crossed branches and so on.  So far it seems to have taken it all in its stride.

  • SupernoodleSupernoodle Posts: 954

    I thought magnolias didn't flower until 5year+ old.  So you may have to hang on in there, whether ground or pot.

  • Busy Bee2Busy Bee2 Posts: 1,005

    Maybe I should prune next winter then Tonks?  Perhaps try in a pot out front in south facing sheltered courtyard garden, and if it doesn't work, risk the paddocky garden in five years time?  I have to accept I am never going to be able to offer a magnolia the perfect living conditions, but I can try the best I can offer. 

  • davids10davids10 Posts: 894

    magnolias are wonderfully adaptable-fussy about neither soil, exposure nor wind-good drainage and never standing water-if you wait too long to plant it the roots will never break out of the ball-sort of like daphnes-i say into the paddock with it-i prune my magnolias to keep them off the deck-they are 15' tall-good luck

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,890

    BusyBee - the meadow may be windswept at the moment, but if you plant some shelter belts around it now you'll have a wonderful garden in a few years' time - the gardens at East Ruston are on a spot which was exposed to the worst of Norfolk's North-east winds, but with shelter belts they have a virtual tropical paradise  

    So, plant that magnolia in the meadow as soon as you can - it's too small to suffer too much in the wind at the moment, and by the time it's big your shelter belts will be giving it the protection it needs.  

    And I'd leave those little lower branches - one of the things I love about magnolias is their rather asymmetrical form and the way they look when underplanted with spring bulbs and flowers - as in the 7th pic on this link  If the magnolia was more 'upright' it wouldn't look half as good - in my humble opinion image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Lupin 1Lupin 1 Posts: 8,916

    BB, thanks for full description of options, bet you are blessing the farmer imageI would also say plant in the meadow. I know Magnolias supposedly don't like exposure to wind but I've seen them do well in such places. I still believe they don't like being pruned, but others have posted about successfully doing so. I'm with Dove about the shape of them.

    Hope yours matures and flowers for you. image Picture below is to show shape of one that has only had minimal pruning.



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