How to Grow Magnolias in Your Yard

Southern magnolia
Southern magnolia blossoms

What southern garden is complete without the majestic, fragrant magnolia tree? If you’ve long admired the beauty of magnolias, you’ll be happy to learn that they’re quite easy to grow. And with over 80 species native to North America and Asia, there’s sure to be one that’s right for your yard.

About Magnolias

With their glorious flowers and dramatic foliage, magnolias are a garden favorite. Magnolias:

  • Require very little care.
  • Are resistant to many diseases and pests.
  • Tolerate harsh Southern summers.
  • Provide year-round beauty.
  • Seeds and foliage are favorites of migrating birds.

As you dream about magnolias in your yard, keep in mind that there are many different species and varieties to choose from. They range in size from 20’ to 80’ tall, with both evergreen and deciduous species. A few favorites include:

Southern Magnolia

The familiar, towering Southern magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) is the state flower of Louisiana and Mississippi. It reaches up to 80’ tall, covers 40’ in width, and grows an impressive 1-2 feet per year. Southern magnolias are known for their dramatic branches and carefree pyramidal shape. Large blooms in late spring give way to cone-shaped, fuzzy fruits. In addition Southern magnolias:

    Southern magnolia blossom
    Southern magnolia blossom

  • Are evergreen trees, retaining their leaves year-round.
  • Start blooming around April and set fruits and seeds in late summer and early fall.
  • Are considered messy trees since the large leaves drop throughout the year. For best results, don’t try to garden underneath magnolias – just let the tree branches grow all the way to the ground to hide the natural litter.
  • Cultivars have been developed to fit a variety of landscapes, including the cold-hardy ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ and the smaller (20’ tall) ‘Little Gem.’

Other Popular Magnolias

    Saucer magnolia blooms
    Saucer magnolia blooms

  • Saucer Magnolia: (Magnolia x soulangiana) Saucer magnolias are known for their early pink-tinged blossoms in March and April. Unlike Southern magnolias, the tree is deciduous, and the blooms are striking against the bare branches. This hybrid grows about 25’ tall and wide.
  • Star Magnolia: (Magnolia stellata) This medium-sized tree blooms in very early spring with starlike, multi-petaled blossoms. Like saucer magnolias, these are deciduous plants that bloom on bare branches. Star magnolias are very slow-growing.
  • Sweetbay Magnolia: (Magnolia virginiana) Sweetbays can be deciduous or evergreen depending on climate. They grow up to 50’ tall and have smaller, lemon-scented flowers in early summer. If you’re would like a large magnolia with upright branches to shade a patio, sweetbay is your best choice.
Magnolia tree
Give large species of magnolia plenty of room to grow.

Magnolia Growing Conditions

Although different species of magnolia can tolerate slightly different conditions, in general they will do best with:

  • Soil: Slightly acidic, moist, loose, well-draining soil. To mimic magnolia’s natural conditions, amend heavy soil with peat moss and compost.
  • Hardiness: Grow best in Zones 7-10, depending on variety, with a few cultivars hardy to zone 5.
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade. Moist, peaty soil can help magnolias tolerate full sun. If you’re pushing the limits of cold tolerance, avoid planting magnolias in southern exposure since the leaves can be damaged by winter sun and flowers may open prematurely.
  • Water: Magnolias benefit from irrigation the first few years, then they are tolerant of moderate drought.
  • Space: Magnolias need room to grow to their full mature size and width. While looking small when first planted, over time they’ll grow to fill up the space.
  • Flowers: Some varieties of magnolia don’t bloom until 15 years old, so be sure to choose one that’s fits your needs and expectations. Grafted plants (rather than seed-grown) bloom sooner.
Star magnolia blooms
Star magnolia blossoms

Magnolia Planting Tips

  • Timing: Plant container-grown and balled-and-burlapped magnolias in fall or spring. Plant field-grown or transplanted magnolias in early spring. Avoid fall planting if you’re pushing the limits of cold tolerance.
  • Spread Roots: When planting, be sure to cut any roots that are circling the root ball. Magnolias have a tendency to girdle (or become rootbound) if the roots aren’t spread out.
  • Water: Give your new magnolia one inch of water per week.
  • Fertilizer: Don’t fertilize your newly planted magnolia until next growing season. Then for the next three years or so, feed your magnolia with a balanced organic fertilizer every other month between March and September, cutting back to once or twice per season after that.
  • Support: Use stakes and lines to stabilize your new magnolia since it will be top-heavy.
Saucer magnolia bloom
Saucer magnolia blossoms

Magnolia Growing Tips

  • Problems: Magnolias are generally trouble-free, and in most cases, minor problems – such as scale or leaf spots – can be left untreated.
  • Pruning: If you want to prune or shape your magnolia, do it while the tree is very young since large branches don’t heal very well from pruning.
  • Bark Damage: Magnolias are susceptible to bark damage and breakage, so avoid hitting them with the string trimmer or lawn mower.
  • Propagating: You can propagate magnolias by collecting the seeds, or take semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer. Cuttings can take up to a year to root.
  • Transplanting: Magnolias have an enormous, rope-like root system. They don’t usually tolerate transplanting once the trunk is 4” or larger in diameter.

Further Information

47 COMMENTS

  1. Hello,

    We have a beautiful saucer Magnolia in our yard and we would like to know if we can “grow” another plant from it? If so, how do I go about doing it?

    Thanks.

    Ron

  2. I have a saucer magnolia that is about 50 Years old. This last winter was so mild that it bloomed out early. Now I noticed the tree is dropping the seed containers, if that is what you call them. This is not the first time this has happened. The first time the seed things were large, and very hard th pick up. Many pounds were disposed of. Do you know why this happening. We have suffered a drought the last three years, but not so severe as to kill the trees.
    Thanks
    Missy

  3. Hi… We have a young magnolia that we planted this spring. We live in Northeast Kansas and have had a very hot summer with drought of course. Our baby is losing her leaves and we just need to know if this is normal, because she’s lost quite a few. Her leaves are still shiny, with no spots, just lots of curling and falling off…. Can you help???
    Thank You,
    Angie

  4. We planted a Southern Magnolia five years ago in our back yard and we are wondering if we are able to move it to our front yard without killing the tree. Its trunk measures 8 inches around it and it is about 12 feet tall. Thank you for your help.

  5. I feel upset that I decided to prune my mature magnolia before learning not to. How and when will I know if damage is done? Is there a remedy? I took off 5-10% of the branches, the lower branches were dead or suckers. I took off one larger branch, ~2 inches in diameter, and then covered larger cuts with pruning seal.
    I feel terrible about this.

  6. I live in northern Florida. I have two Magnolia trees that were planted 7 years ago,don’t seem to be growing.Almost the same size as when planted.What could be the problem.
    Thanks

  7. i planted 2 magnolias in my yard about 3 yrs. ago. there only about 2 feet tall with many green leaves but no flowers. could you tell me whats going on or how can i promote faster growth?

  8. We have a Bracken’s Brown Beauty about 7 years old, and about 10 feet tall. It sits inside our fence about 2 feet. The neighbors recently replaced their fence which sits about 4 feet away from our tree. Since then, our tree appears to be dying. There are spots on every leaf, and even the new leaves turn black around the edges. Could it be: 1.) they’ve damaged the root system, or 2.) Their wooden fence planks have brought a disease to our tree.

  9. September 2nd 2014
    15 years ago I was given a Magnolia Soulangeanna,and now stands 20ft tall.This year I noticed a mold on the trunk and bigger branches, some of the buds are deformed.
    I’D APPRECIATE YOUR HELP.
    RISTOL.UK

  10. Hey gang,
    We have a beautiful 30ft Southern Magnolia, we’ve recently had an ice storm and many large branches have broken off. Beyond pruning the necessary branches what needs to be done? I can’t find any relevant information.
    Thanks

  11. I dug up a baby southern magnolia in 2003, from my grandmothers 50 acres in Savannah,Ga. I brought the tree to the mountains of West Virginia that year.The first winter I kept the tree inside.In the spring of 2004 I planted the tree in the ground. The following two winters I made small tree sized “green house” to acclimate the tree and protect it from snow. After those two winters I let the tree go on its own. It’s about 25ft. tall now (it came from mother trees 80-100ft tall). This is proof southern magnolias can grow at 2000 ft. above sea level, it came from 40ft. above sea level. The ‘wet’ snows in winter are the most damaging factors to the leaves as wet snow sticks to the leaves. I try to shake the tree so the snow falls off, then its fine. The tree flowers all summer long here in WV.June,july,august. The mother trees in Georgia flower april and may. So this southern magnolia is alive and well after 12 years of being right at 2000 ft. above sea level.

  12. I planted 2 Southern Magnolia trees in my yard 10 yrs ago and they haven’t grown 1 foot in 10 yrs. One puts off flowers and the other lost all its leaves last summer and puts off no flowers. They look healthy but just don’t grow. What I am I doing wrong?

  13. Hi, I think we have a southern magnolia, by your description. It has an abundance of new leaves and odd cones. Would this be the flowers coming or could it be the fuzzy fruits that you described? Son and Daughter in law brought it for me about two Mothers day ago, it is in a very large pot and well watered.

  14. We have 3 saucer Magnolia trees on the east side of house. All are about 25 feet tall and I guess planted by the birds. How should I move them to front lawn where they will get sun. Any advice is so appreciated; as I don’t want to kill them.
    Thank You!

  15. got my magnolia this July4 for 46 wedding anniversary from youngest daughter. wants to know how much to water. it rains nearly every day in south louisiana

  16. We’ve had a baby magnolia tree growing for 5 years now, and has been doing fine (it’s approximately 5 feet tall now). However, through about half of its branches were accidentally cut off while an older tree was being cut down. Is there any way to tell whether it will survive and continue to grow? This is a saucer magnolia and we are in Massachusetts.

  17. I have purchased 3 potted Mongolia trees. it is Late August in Colorado Springs. is it to late to put in ground here?

  18. My Jayne magnolia tree was planted 2 years ago. This year my tree has not stopped blooming. It is end of September in Minnesota and it still has 4 flowers on it. What causes this?

  19. Hello. I plan to gift Magnolia Grandiflora seeds to my guests for my 50th Magnolia-themed birthday party in Louisiana. The information I’ve found on your site and in the comments has been most helpful! However, I haven’t been able to find anything here or anywhere else that tells me how many seeds are needed to grow a Magnolia plant or tree. What is the minimum number or recommended number of seeds per tree/guest? Thanks for your help!

  20. Can’t to seem to get mine to grow in black clay I’ve have every little soil but I’ve got plenty of pecan trees. Whats up with that????

  21. I lost a couple lower branches on a newly planted magnolia from transport and planting. They were cracked and a large wind storm yesterday broke them. Will this permanently dictate that shape of the tree? They are about 8′ tall and it was a lowest limb and one above it on south side of tree. I’m hoping the tree will fill the gap since it’s the sunny side. Thanks!

  22. The top half of my tree looks dead the leaves are very pale, purchased in 2010 has not bloom this year and only 2 blooms last year including the dead growth the tree is about 12 ft tall.. What is wrong and how can we save it we live in Lubbock, TX and we see plenty of trees around

  23. I am getting ready to plant a southern magnolia tree and I was looking for information on how to plant and where to plant it. This was helpful

  24. I have a plan to open a big hotel and call it Magnolia
    and I want to name the restaurant,bar,and other parts of this hotel names to go with it
    Can you give me idead?

  25. I inherited a magnolia in a large pot from a friend 4 years ago
    It is now almost 6 ft tall .
    Each year it puts out 4 or 5 leaves at the top and nothing else
    what can i do to get it to flower
    i believe it has been in this pot about 6 years
    I can’t say what type it is
    Any help would be most welcome

  26. Our tree was starting to bloom this spring but then will had a week or more of very cold weather. The tree never bloomed a few green leaves the bark is started to split on some if the barks. Love this tree old but always had beautiful flowers Can we save it. We did put some tree spikes for fertilizer

  27. We bought a house that has a magnolia tree next to the driveway. It is about 8-10 ft tall. How can i determine the species?

  28. I just found a flower at the top of the tree so I know it is a southern magnolia. It is about 2 ft from the driveway. I’m in central Texas. Should I be concerned that there is not enough space for the tree to grow?

  29. My sister has a magnolia tree her husband planted for her in the back yard. Today he ask her to weedeat, and she almost cut the tree down with the weed eater, will it heal itself and continue to grow, or is it going to die? Her husband says its going to die. She is very upset and would like an answer to this as soon as possible.

  30. Hi. I was given a magnolia flower yesterday, and currently have it with the stem in water. We live in GA, in a rental house, and I was wondering if I could grow it outside as a plant in a pot. If so, what is the setting and growing process (rooting powder, potting soil, depth, fertilizer etc). Thank you.

  31. I know a magnolia tree will grow 12-24 inches in height each year. But how many inches does a magnolia trees limbs usually grow outward each year? Judging by the one in our yard it’s probably around 4-6 inches but need to know before we plant anymore. Thank you.

  32. I planted a saucer magnolia last year from Lowes. It only had a couple blooms. I now see only one flower at the very top of the tree which hasn’t opened yet. I’ve never had such lack of success with this tree. Is it just because it’s new? How do I get more blooms next year?

  33. I have a magnolia in my front yard that has been there about four years. It has been very pretty all these years, but this year it dropped all its leaves and is not producing more. It is blooming some, but no leaves. Why has this happened and what do I need to do to get it to replenish its leaves?
    Thanks

    • Hi, Karen!
      If the tree is otherwise healthy, a magnolia losing its leaves is normal. Unfortunatley, there’s nothing you can do about this. We recommend waiting for new growth, which could take a few months. If the situation seems dire, contact your local Master Gardeners, who provide free advice and may even visit your home for tailored recommendations.

  34. While doing military duty near Shreveport as a reservist about 35 years ago I bought what I believe to be a Southern Magnolia. I brought it to southern Kansas just north of Wichita and planted it and it grew great. I liked it so much that when I moved 35 miles north 27 years ago I dug it up and transplanted it. It was about 8 foot tall at the time. The transplant worked great. Then several years later we had a wind storm that broke off the main trunk of the tree at about the 20 foot level but the tree recovered nicely. Then in winter of 2017 we had a drought in Kansas and apparently it didn’t get enough water and it and one of my Walnut trees lost all their leaves and branches were easily broken off as they had died. I cut down the Walnut tree but didn’t cut down the Magnolia hoping it would recover. In June branches started growing at the bottom of the tree. There are about a dozen shoot/branches that have started with the highest being about 5 foot up from the base of the tree. The tree from that point upward has no new shoots and no leaves. The question is should I at some point cut the main trunk of the tree above the area where the new shoots/branches have started and if I do how far above should I make the cut? Should I not cut the main trunk and just trim off the branches above the growing area? Any advice would be most appreciated.

    • Hi, Jack. Thanks for your military service!
      Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. We would suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Here’s more information: https://hnr.k-state.edu/extension/master-gardeners/
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  35. I bought a magnolia tree from a nursery last fall and it stayed green until January when we got below 0 weather and all the leaves turned brown . Now all the leaves have fallen off . The tree is still alive and has green bark . My question is how long will it take for the leaves to grow back . When I talked to the guy at the nursery he said it never would . Can you help me ?

    • Hi, Sharon,
      Some things you can only determine in person (and this is one of ’em)! We suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association for a quick visit. Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

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