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Care & Planting of Magnolia Trees

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017

Magnolia trees are often thought of as Southern trees, but in reality they can grow as far north as USDA hardiness zone 4--which includes parts of Minnesota. There are more than 100 cultivars available. They range in size and hardiness, with Southern magnolia being one of the most well-known. There are steps you should follow in care and planting of your magnolia tree.

Buy a magnolia that was grown in a container. The tree doesn't survive well if the roots are disturbed, which occurs when you try to ball and burlap or bare-root the tree.

Choose a planting location that is in full sun. Magnolias can grow in light shade but the blooms will not be as profuse. For best results and a more symmetrical tree form, choose a sunny, protected spot. The tree prefers to be kept out of the wind.

Make sure the soil holds moisture well. Magnolias need water to survive. They do not grow well in highly alkaline soil.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the magnolia's root ball. Use the container as a guide while you dig because each tree is sized differently. Make sure the hole is as shallow as the container, because you don't want the tree sitting below the surrounding ground.

Set the magnolia tree in the hole and center it. Fill in around the roots with the removed soil and tamp it down to remove air pockets.

Water the magnolia tree immediately until the soil is moist. After that, water the tree whenever the climate turns dry to keep the leaves from wilting.

Apply fertilizer in the spring after planting. Use a balanced fertilizer with an equal ratio of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium. Sprinkle a granular, slow-release food around the base of the tree once a year. This will nourish the magnolia as it grows.


Things You Will Need

  • Tree
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Fertilizer


  • Wear gloves when caring for magnolia trees.


  • Do not try to grow anything underneath most magnolias. The leaves fall and take a long time to break down, so other plants do not do well around the tree trunk.

About the Author


Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.