Ask a Question forum: Keeping Star Magnolia Small

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JV
Aug 27, 2016 7:45 AM CST
Is there a way to prune a star magnolia that will keep it small and shaped nicely? Every year I end up pruning it twice which is not the best for blooms. I cut it back in the spring after it blooms to about 5 feet, and by fall it is 10-12 feet. It is in front of the house between the walkway and house, so I don't want it to get so big. It is quite healthy and does bloom well.
Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
Aug 27, 2016 11:22 AM CST
Welcome! JV
The Star Magnolia Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

[Last edited by terrafirma - Aug 27, 2016 1:54 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Aug 27, 2016 11:38 AM CST
Hi JV, Welcome! to NGA

You are doing the only thing you can do (unless you do want to transplant the tree): Constant vigilant pruning. It is possible to keep it small but as you have discovered, its not that easy. Choose a shape and prune towards that goal. Try pruning to encourage sidewards growth and discourage upward growth. With a long term plan, you can keep your tree small and attractive and still have flowers. Prune out the branches that take off and grow several feet in a season while encouraging the twiggy growth. You are essentially creating a bonsai on a larger scale. But because you aren't doing any root pruning (as you would in bonsai) it will be a constant struggle to maintain the size and shape.

I had a full grown tulip tree in my front garden in CA that was only 4 feet tall and about 8 feet wide.

Good luck!

Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Aug 27, 2016 3:16 PM CST
Daisy ... when do they take off and grow tall ?

I planted mine back in 2011 and have kept it about 4' tall.

I have always planned to grow it as a shrub. I had read that this is common practice in England.

I just decided that I wouldn't allow it to grow taller and have been shaping the growth below.

Last year, my magnolia got severely deer pruned, which is unusual, but I had a break in my deer fence in back and when I finally got the doe that was feasting on the garden up on the house pad blocked out of the back gardens, she decided to eat every deer resistant plant out in front. Now I am working at re-shaping the shrub this year because it looks kind of ratty, but I am not letting the plant grow taller.

For me, I just take a nip here and there as I walk by when I have pruners in my hands to direct the growth.
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Aug 27, 2016 3:43 PM CST
Come to think of it, it was the tulip tree that grew those long branches. The Star Magnolia was much more restrained.

I do as you do, if I see an errant branch, it gets whacked on the spot. I'm sure doing that cuts down on next year's flowers but I can't help myself. Smiling
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Aug 27, 2016 3:49 PM CST
Daisy ...

I think it depends on when and where you take the "nip" and how deep, the cut. My major shaping is after the bloom period, then the "nipping" is after the bush leafs out, and I want to encourage smaller branching to fill in, or not to fill in as I see the leaves develop. By fall, I'll wait until next season to mess with the plant some more, but I never allow any more top growth.

That said, this is the first time I have ever grown a magnolia tree ... so what do I know ?
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Aug 27, 2016 11:31 PM CST
@JV

I got to thinking about your tree vs my tree and I think you are working with a tree with a larger root mass than mine and it is already programmed to grow taller than my tree. I started with a young tree and never allowed it to grow large.

I would not know how to begin to make a tree that has a more mature root mass stay small.

NGA does have a TREE AND SHRUB forum. I think you might get a better answer if you posted your question there.

http://garden.org/forums/view/shrubs/
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

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