Magnolias are one of those luxurious plants that you may fear ever going near with a pair of loppers.
Pruning. It seems complicated enough without throwing in technical terms. But worry not, because formative pruning is just jargon for creating a standard shaped tree – that is, a tree with one central trunk and a canopy of branches above.
Many trees naturally grow side shoots from their main stem, and garden centres will sell feathered and un-feathered maidens; young trees that come with or without side shoots. These need to be pruned properly so that your new tree grows into a beautiful specimen as it matures.
Pruning should be done respective to the tree type and the time of year. Therefore, deciduous plants can be pruned in winter, evergreen specimens in April, and plum varieties during the summer months to avoid silver leaf infection. Sharp tools should be used at all times to ensure clean cuts.
Remove all side shoots from the lower third of the tree, and reduce branches in the middle third by half, making sure to prune back to outwards facing buds to keep an open central trunk. All branches at the top of the tree, apart from diseased, dying or crossing branches, can be left in place.
Year 2 & 3
By this time your tree should have grown quite a bit, and any shoots in the bottom third can now be completely removed. Side shoots that are growing in the middle third should once again be reduced by half, whilst diseased and crossing branches should be taken out of the canopy.
Year 4 & onwards
Continue to maintain the health of the canopy by taking out dead, diseased or weak branches, whilst removing all side shoots from the trunk until it’s the desired height.