Pruning magnolia tree

(Question)

 

A saucer magnolia tree, ,about 20 years old,  has cracks at its base and on limbs. Can the limbs be pruned to help the tree regenerate? It blooms well each year.

(Answer)

Saucer Magnolia Magnolia x soulangeana  is a multi-stemmed, spreading tree, 25 feet tall with a 20 to 30 foot spread and bright, attractive gray bark. Growth rate is moderately fast but slows down considerably as the tree reaches about 20 years of age. Large green flower buds are carried through the winter at the tips of brittle branches. Blooms open in late winter to early spring, often before leaves, producing large, white flowers shaded in pink, creating a spectacular flower display.  It is hardy to zone 5.

As magnolias age they produce less gowth at the tips of each shoot and only slowly increase in overall size. Because the wood is brittle they are often damaged by strong winds and remedial pruning should be carried out in stages over 3 or 4 years.

Since this is a specimen tree valued for its appearance, the cracks in the bark of many of the branches are understandably an aesthetic conern. As the tree continues to bloom well the cracks are likely due to changes of temperature during the winter rather than disease. Since much of the appeal of a fully developed saucer magnolia is the curving branch structure, pruning away part of it significantly reduces its value as a landscape feature.

It may be best to consult a professional arborist or gardener to see if pruning is a viable course of action to improve the tree’s appearance and maintain its health.  You did mention the possibility of replacing it which seems a shame if it is still a healthy tree but this is certainly  an option.

References: ww.magnoliasociety