How to Care for a White Star Magnolia Tree


The star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) looks like a delicate tree but is actually the hardiest magnolia. Gardeners can be easily deceived by the tree's appearance in spring, when the leafless branches are covered in star-like, white flowers with narrow petals. Consider adding the star magnolia to your landscape. With the proper site and basic care, a star magnolia will be a garden star for years to come. Provide the tree with moist, acidic soil with plenty of organic matter. Happy as a large shrub or pruned in the form of a tree, the star magnolia is successful as part of a group or as a specimen plant.

Planting and Culture

Step 1

Plant the tree in a northern or eastern part of your garden where the tree will not be encouraged to bloom early. The will prevent the flowers on a star magnolia from being ruined by a late frost.

Step 2

Put on your garden gloves and use your shovel to dig a hole 6 inches deeper and wider than the root ball. Remove the soil and place it in a wheelbarrow or on a piece of burlap. Mix one part compost to three parts soil, stirring with your shovel. Gradually replace the soil mixture in the planting hole, filling it until the tree can be placed in the hole and the top of the root ball is just a few inches below ground level. Fill in the rest of the hole and press the soil mixture in gently.

Step 3

Water the star magnolia well with your hose. Ensure that the tree has a steady supply of water. During dry weather, water the tree regularly and deeply.

Step 4

Mulch with organic matter that maintains acidic soil. Choose pine needles or other mulch and apply annually. Mulch in a 4-inch layer on the ground from within a few inches of the trunk out to the tips of the branches.

Step 5

Snip the lower branches off the maturing shrub using your pruners if you prefer a tree form in your landscape. Use your pruners on branches less than one-half inch in diameter. Do not cut into the "collar" on the trunk where it moves out to form the branch.

Tips and Warnings

  • Star magnolias are susceptible to magnolia scale. If such insects over-winter on your tree, apply horticultural oil in the dormant season.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden gloves
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow or burlap
  • Compost
  • Hose
  • Pine needles or other acidic mulch
  • Pruners


  • University of Wisconsin Master Gardeners; Star Magnolia
  • University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program; Fact Sheets; Star Magnolia
  • University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service; Star Magnolia

Who Can Help

  • University of Connecticut; Magnolia stellata
Keywords: plant star magnolia, mulch star magnolia, star magnolia scale

About this Author

Daffodil Planter's writing appears in the Chicago Sun-Times, and she is the Sacramento Gardening Scene Examiner for A member of the Garden Writers Association, she has a bachelor's degree from Stanford, a law degree from the University of Virginia and studies horticulture at Sierra College.