8 Tips for Buying and Growing a Magnolia Tree

The magnolia tree (or shrub) is iconic because of its unusual but extremely pretty flowers. They can be small or substantial in size and as a result, they can be very easy to grow. But there are a few traps that gardeners fall into with magnolia, so we have compiled a list of 8 tips for buying and growing a magnolia tree.

Before we get into the tips, here is a bit about magnolia itself for some gardening inspiration. Magnolia is a flowering plant genus that has over two hundred different species within it. It is a diverse flower that grows in almost all parts of the world and is culturally significant for many peoples the world over too. Besides its aesthetic appeal, magnolia is also used in cooking and the flowers of most species are edible.

Magnolia shrubs and trees are extremely desirable and when in full bloom, there are few garden attractions that can compare, making it hands down one of the most popular tree and shrub selections in the UK. Now you know some interesting snippets about magnolia, here are our top tips.

Beautiful blooming Magnolia tree in the Spring
Beautiful blooming Magnolia tree in the Spring

Our Advice for Magnolia Trees

The first thing you need to do is decide if you want a magnolia tree or a shrub. This isn’t always an easy decision because some of the shrubs have spreads equal to their tree counterparts. Shrubs do have some advantages over trees –their root networks tend not to be as invasive to building work and they are easier to contain and keep to a certain height.

However, magnolia trees are somewhat more imposing with their impressive flowers, and incorporating a magnolia tree into your garden can have a far bigger transformative impact on your garden. If you do decide to go for a magnolia tree, here are the things to keep in mind.

Magnolia Tree Height

First and foremost, planting a magnolia tree is an important decision to take, not least because even small trees grow to quite intimidating heights. Over a lifespan, a small magnolia tree can easily reach upwards of 20 feet, with larger varieties standing at upwards of 60 feet. It is fair to say, opting to plant a tree is no small undertaking and you will need to ensure you have the space to accommodate a tree of that size.

Buildings and Structures

Something that is pleasant and very surprising given their height is that magnolia trees rarely cause building and foundation damage, and their root networks tend to grow around rather than into existing structures. With that said, it isn’t unheard of for magnolia trees to cause building damage, so it might be prudent to avoid planting your magnolia tree near to anything you want to keep intact.

Shrubs Are A Great Miniature Alternative

If the first two tips have put you off, a magnolia shrub is a wonderful alternative, reaching heights of up to 9 feet and still providing all the floral brilliance a tree does. Shrubs do spread as readily as their tree counterparts so you will likely need to be ready with the shears to cut them back every so often.

Deciduous vs Evergreen

This is something that is often missed but needs to be thought of. An evergreen magnolia is likely to grow to greater heights than a deciduous type, and it benefits from keeping its foliage all year round. Evergreen magnolias do tend to be very sensitive to frost though and if your garden is prone to frozen ground, you could be in for a nightmare if your tree dies prematurely.

Deciduous magnolia trees tend to be a bit hardier, but they of course look bare during the winter and given their size, this can be a bit of a depressing sight.

Spring flowers from Magnolia tree
Spring flowers from Magnolia tree


Magnolias across the range tend to be very wind-resistant, so planting your magnolia in open ground shouldn’t be much of a problem. Magnolia trees are rarely uprooted, and their root networks are sinew like, growing outwards and holding well in the ground.


Excavating a magnolia tree is not an easy task, so don’t plant one unless you plant to keep it indefinitely. The roots will spread as wide as the tree canopy spreads above, meaning that digging up a magnolia tree often means digging up a large surface area. Although the roots don’t grow deep, they are stubborn, and it can be a very difficult task removing a magnolia tree.


The amount of water a magnolia tree will need depends on where that species is native to. Picking a magnolia tree that grows well in Europe, North America, and northern Asia, will set you in good stead for not needing to water much at all. The only times a magnolia tree might need extra water in the UK is if the summer is particularly hot and dry or if it has just been planted or recovering from damage.

Most other times, native magnolia will survive on normal rainfall alone.


If you opted for the evergreen magnolia tree, then pruning is largely well tolerated, and you can cut back evergreen magnolia trees quite heavily without causing any problems. Deciduous trees are much more sensitive to pruning and a full cut back will often cause a few years of poor growth and flowering. As a rule, it is best to prune deciduous magnolia trees only as needed, rather than keeping a regular pruning regimen.

And those are our top tips for magnolia trees. They can seem a bit daunting, but as with any tree, they just need that extra bit of consideration before planting, mainly because they will be in the garden on a permanent basis. Once grown and established, your magnolia tree will look amazing when in full bloom, making it more than worth the effort.

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