How to Plant & Care For Magnolia Trees
Plant Guide

How to Plant & Care For Magnolia Trees


Magnolias evolved millions of years ago and are thought to be one of the first flowering trees. To see a Magnolia tree up close is to understand why they are so inspirational.  Since they evolved before modern pollinators, they rely on beetles to help them pollinate their giant, fragrant flowers. Having lasted for so long, they are extremely hardy and pest resistant once they become established.

A Magnolia tree is a perfect blend of stunning flowers, glossy foliage, and a delicious fragrance. Read on to learn how you can plant the right Magnolia for you and watch it grow for a lifetime.

5 tips to consider when planting Magnolia Trees How To Plant Magnolias

Ground Rules

Tree Lighting Guide


Most magnolia trees do best in full sun, with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. In more southern grow zones, some varieties can tolerate some afternoon shade.

Tree Watering Guide


Magnolias need to be watered 1 - 2 times a week for the first 6 months after planting, until the roots are established. After that, they will only need water during periods of extreme drought. Ensure your tree is planted in well draining soil; only the Magnolia virginiana or Sweet Bay Magnolia is considered to be tolerant of wet soils.

Tree Soil Guide


The best soil for magnolia trees is a well-drained, slightly acidic blend of organic matter. Amend your soil at planting to ensure balanced acidity and adequate drainage. Over time, you can use pine needles or other acidic components as mulch.

Tree Food Guide


Magnolias rarely need fertilizers in order to thrive, especially when planting a variety native to your area. Perform a soil test periodically to see what the soil needs before fertilizing, in order to avoid overloading the soil with nitrogen or other elements. You may want to feed Magnolias with a balanced slow-release fertilizer such as Tree-Tone by Espoma in the late spring to promote healthy growth and color. If you live in an area with alkaline soils Holly-Tone Fertilizer can be used to add a little acid to the soil. Magnolia Trees do prefer a slightly acidic soil.

Tree Temperature Guide


Magnolias vary in type significantly, so some are more cold-hardy than others (such as the Edith Bogue). Typically Magnolias will grow between zones 4 and 9.

Tree Toxicity Guide


Magnolia seeds and leaves are not considered toxic, but they are inedible. If your pet does ingest parts of a magnolia tree, observe for any signs of indigestion or discomfort and consult your vet.

Tree Mulch Guide


Mulch the area around your magnolia tree's root system. Their shallow but forceful roots make it very difficult for other plants or lawns to share resources, so mulch can help hide any bare spots created by your magnolia. Organic hardwood mulch or pine needle mulch is best.

Planting Process

  1. Choose where you want to plant your magnolia tree. Ample planning ahead of time is key, depending on the mature size of your kind of magnolia. Choose a place with full sun, adequate drainage and lots of space for the shallow root system.
  2. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the container your tree arrived in. Using the native soil, create an even mix of compost or other organic matter for drainage, and native soil. Add any starter fertilizers such as Biotone Starter Plus.
  3. If you are going to stake your young tree, is it recommended to set up your stakes now, on opposite sides of the hole. Make sure they are far enough into the ground to provide stability, and that you have enough cord to connect your stakes to the young tree. This way you don't damage the delicate roots after planting.
  4. Gently remove your magnolia from its container, and gently loosen the soil around the roots. Then, position your tree in such a way that the top of the soil it arrived in is about an 1/8 of an inch above ground level.
  5. Backfill around the rootball with your soil mixture, and pat down firmly. Don't compress the soil too much. As the hole is filled, the tree should settle and the soil it arrived in will meet ground level.
  6. If you are using stakes, secure your young magnolia tree to the stakes. Protect the young trunk from the cords by wrapping the cords in an old piece of hose or other protective material.
  7. Cover the area with a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch, such as cedar or hardwood. Keep a 1 inch to 2 inch area around the trunk free of any mulch to prevent disease and allow for growth. Mulch to just past the dripline - you can mound the mulch up around the dripline, creating a donut that will help retain water.
  8. Give your new tree a long, deep watering. Do not rush this process, as deep waterings will help encourage deep root growth. With a regular garden hose, count to 5 for each gallon size your tree arrived in - i.e. 5 seconds for a 1 gallon nursery pot, 15 seconds for a 3 gallon pot, or 25 seconds for a 5 gallon pot. Water in this manner a few times per week for the first few weeks, then once or twice a week for the next few months depending on the weather.

Extra Tips:

When you receive your Magnolia Tree from Garden Goods Direct, it is possible it has gone through a bit of shock during shipment from being in a dark box - trees don't usually enjoy travelling. This is perfectly natural, and it should recover once in the ground. Symptoms of shipping shock in a tree include mild wilting or mild leaf drop. If this persists after a day or two, take photos and email our customer service team so they can help assess the situation.

When the box arrives, unbox your tree as soon as possible and place it in a shady area outside. You can wait a day to plant so the tree has time to settle somewhat after shipping. If you cannot plant within a day of arrival, make sure to keep your tree hydrated and in enough sunlight. With adequate care and watering you can extend the time between arrival and planting somewhat, but we don't recommend waiting for long.

Deciduous Magnolias are best planted in early spring or early fall, when the weather has cooled and they have time to establish themselves. Evergreen magnolias are best planted in the spring but they can be planted in the fall, as long as there is at least 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost. They need time to become established before their roots can handle the cold.

What kinds of Magnolia trees are there?

Do Magnolia Trees need to be staked?

Should I prune my Magnolia Tree?

What do Magnolia Flowers Smell Like?

Types of Magnolia Trees

Botanical Name


Why We Love This Magnolia

Mature Size

Grow Zones

Magnolia virginiana Semi-Evergreen Also known as: the Sweetbay Magnolia. This was the tree first recorded by Charles Plumier and named after botinist Pierre Magnol, father of the botanical family system. Sweetly scented, great for smaller yards that can accomodate a 30 foot area. Tolerates moist soil and full sun. Height:
10' to 30'

10' to 20'
Grow zones: 4-9
Magnolia grandiflora 'Bracken's Brown Beauty' Evergreen A popular variation of the Southern Magnolia. A Bracken's Brown Beauty Magnolia will need a lot of space above and around, and it is less prone to drop leaves in the summer as other Southern Magnolia varieties. Height:
30' to 60'

15' to 35'
Grow zones: 5-9
Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' Evergreen Little Gem Magnolias are a great option for smaller yards, sporting smaller leaves and flowers than their grander cousins. Not quite a dwarf tree - it still needs 20 feet of clearance above and 15 feet on all sides. Longer bloom cycle so you can enjoy the sweet fragrance further into the summer. Height:
18' to 20'

10' to 12'
Grow zones: 7-9
Magnolia grandiflora 'Claudia Wannamaker' Evergreen Claudia Wannamaker Magnolias are considered very fast growing, capable of three feet a year in their younger years, eventually reaching above 60 feet high. A grand choice, great for creating privacy and shade around your home. Huge creamy flowers make a statement every summer. Height:
50' to 60'

25' to 30'
Grow zones: 7-9
Magnolia grandiflora 'Southern Charm' Evergreen The Teddy Bear Magnolia - a Southern Magnolia cultivated to stay small and compact but still have great big flowers. Best in warmer zones and full sun. Height:
16' to 20'

10' to 12'
Grow zones: 7-9
Magnolia grandiflora 'Edith Bogue' Evergreen One of the most cold-hardy Southern Magnolias. Edith Bogue Magnolias can thrive in zones 6 to 9. Doesn't grow too tall, good for creating privacy or as a specimen in smaller yards. Height:
20' to 30'

15' to 20'
Grow zones: 6-9
Magnolia liliflora 'Jane' Deciduous Cold-hardy even for deciduous magnolias, Magnolia Jane blooms later than others so it can do well in areas with a later frost. Brilliant dark pink flowers decorate the branches before the foliage emerges.  Height:
10' to 15'

8' to 12'
Grow zones: 4-8
Magnolia 'Butterflies' Deciduous A very popular hybrid in the deciduous Magnolia family. Magnolia Butterflies are prized for their rich, creamy yellow flowers. The flowers sport a unique upright shape, similar to tulips. Perfect for adding both height and early spring color to your landscape. Height:
20' to 25'

15' to 20'
Grow zones: 5-9
Magnolia x 'Ann' Deciduous Magnolia Ann Trees are a great option for smaller spaces where you want a big impact of color in the spring. Cold hardy with a later bloom cycle, keeping the delightful purple-pink flowers safe from any frost. Deliciously fragrant, compact, and deer resistant. Height:
8' to 10'

8' to 10'
Grow zones: 4-8
Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star' Deciduous Beautiful white flowers resemble stars with their many, many elongated petals. Royal Star Magnolias are early bloomers, and their flower buds are very cold hardy. Their clouds of soft white flowers and lovely scent are some of the first harbingers of spring. Height:
10' to 15'

10' to 15'
Grow zones: 4-9