Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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

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11 Comments on “How to Grow Magnolias in Your Yard”

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  1. Rob Keshav Says:
    March 24th, 2012 at 5:18 pm


    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?



  2. missy Says:
    May 18th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    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.

  3. Angie Hays-Rake Says:
    August 30th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    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,

  4. Tina Says:
    April 20th, 2013 at 9:37 am

    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. Michael Says:
    April 28th, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    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. Vincent Vigilante Says:
    May 6th, 2013 at 6:37 am

    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.

  7. edward przybylski Says:
    August 29th, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    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. Ray Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    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. Jenny Says:
    September 2nd, 2014 at 11:21 am

    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.

  10. Felton J.Handy Says:
    November 16th, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    What is the best time to grow a Magnolia Teddy Bear Tree?

  11. Steve C Says:
    February 20th, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    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.

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