How to Trim a Star Magnolia Bush

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The star magnolia bush is a delicate flowering magnolia. This tiny magnolia originated in Japan and grows 15 to 20 feet tall, producing a cloud of white blossoms in the springtime. If left unpruned, the star magnolia retains a dense, compact shape; you can train it into a tree with serious pruning. The star magnolia blooms in late winter and produces seed pods in early summer. The soft wood is easily damaged, so learn the proper pruning techniques before you begin.

Inspect the branches of your star magnolia shrub before you begin. If you see any branches that are dead, dying or diseased, you will need to remove these right away.

Clip off dead or diseased branches using your anvil pruning shears. You need to remove these branches at their intersection with the main branch, but you must also take care not to damage the main trunk. Some gardeners prefer to leave a small nub of about one inch when removing infected branches, thus making certain they do not damage the main trunk.

Snip away any overgrown branches that rub up against other branches. Since the star magnolia wood is delicate, overlapping branches will grow brittle and break. It's best to remove them before the tree splinters.

Cut back any suckers or water sprouts. You can also trim branches to shape the tree at this time. Trim lateral growth to encourage upward movement.

Thin out the interior canopy of the star magnolia if you feel it is growing too bushy. Simply clip branches off at their intersection with the main trunk, and trim back new growth spurts if the area is already too crowded.

Remove any remnants of flowers. Rake the area underneath the tree so that the blossoms don't rot into the ground.

Tips & Warnings

  • The best time of year to prune your star magnolia is spring, after the blossoms have fallen and before new growth develops.
  • Disinfect your anvil pruning shears after you remove diseased or dead wood by spraying them with an organic cleaning solution and thoroughly drying them. You don't want to pass disease on to other healthy limbs.

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