Our southern magnolia has greatly suffered due to the drought of the last two years. It dropped nearly all its leaves, so we now have long, skinny branches with a few new leaves on the very end. Can we cut the branches back (they are about 1 inch in diameter at the thickest point) to stimulate new growth of leaves closer to the tree’s trunk? It sure is ugly in its current condition. Thanks.
Yes, if it has gotten unsightly, you can prune it to your desired appearance. Just take no more than a third of the plant at one time. Keep in mind that the leaf drop is just a natural response to the drought-like conditions and the tree will regrow its leaves once the stress is relieved, so giving it a bit of extra watering should also help.