Pruning Magnolias by “Stumping”

Happy plants grow: too large, too dense, too crowded. It seems impossible that in just a few years that one gallon tulip magnolia will shade out neighbors and push out into the paths and driveway. Poor planning on my part has resulted in a “situation.” Euthanasia? Too extreme. Pruning? Too much distortion. Rerouting the path and drive? This isn’t the Biltmore. Moving the darn thing? Too daunting.
Since magnolias respond very well to pruning, I took the tree almost to the ground (a process called STUMPING) when she was in active growth, just after the big flush of blooming in spring. In only one week, buds began to break around the stump. With my thumb, I rubbed off all but three well spaced buds. Ten weeks later I have three feet of new growth that should harden off by first frost. Next year I might even have some blooms, but the third year I can count on a display. If in fifteen years I have to do this again, well, that’s gardening. It’s best to acknowledge that you are not REALLY in control here.

Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

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