When to prune an Ann Magnolia bush dying from girdled trunk branches

Asked May 17, 2016, 9:51 PM EDT

I have a 5-year-old Ann Magnolia bush that appears to be very wounded by rabbits in our neighborhood having chewed on its bark over the winter. It managed to flower on schedule, but the buds on some branches never developed into blooms. Now several smaller branches are completely without leaves, and the leaves that have come in are smaller, shriveled, and have brown patches. I have included some photos that show the overall plant, a close-up of the leaves, and a close up of the two main trunk branches with the damaged bark. The left branch was not fully girdled (maybe 7/8ths girdled?) but the right branch is fully girdled. I know it may be a lost cause, but I would like to chop it back to about 3 inches from the ground (to remove all girdled bark) and see if it can re-generate. My questions are: 1. When is the right time to do this pruning? Since it's dying, do I do it right away, or do I need to wait until it goes dormant next fall? 2. If my aim is to cut below the girdled bark, there's not much left. I'm unclear on what might be a node that far down the trunk. What is the best way to cut to encourage new growth? 3. Will an application of plant food before or after the pruning help? Thanks for any information you can offer!

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Go ahead and prune now. Aim is to cut below the girdled bark or lower if you wish, however, there man be dormant buds you cannot see. There is no reason to wait since this is such a beautiful Spring and plants really want to live. At this point do nothing besides the pruning and wait to see what happens.

Good luck and have a great Spring!