Magnolia – Pruning?

Q: I have a tulip magnolia that’s gotten too big. Can I cut it back to about five feet tall like I do with my crape myrtle?

A: Tulip magnolia blooms on branch tips produced the previous year. That means that if you prune the tree down to five feet, you’ll likely remove all of the buds for next spring’s flowers. Since most tulip magnolias are tree-form plants, even if you waited to prune until after blooming they will spend a lot of energy next year growing vertical branches, which don’t produce many flowers. If you like the plant, I recommend you remove it completely and plant another one in a place where it can grow to maturity. There are several good new varieties, including ‘Jane’, Black Tulip, and ‘Lennei’.