Using Magnolia Trees in Your Landscape

Magnolia trees provide a stately presence when used in a landscape design. These trees, however, which can grow to heights of 40 to 100 feet and from 30 to 50 feet wide, need specific growing conditions. They should never be planted in an area that isn't sufficient to allow their natural growth.

Specimen Trees

Since magnolia trees mature to great heights and widths, they make fine specimen trees, providing a focal point to the landscape, given appropriate placement. If your overall landscape dimensions can support such a large tree at maturity, magnolia trees may be a good design choice.

How many magnolia trees should you plant in your landscape? If you have a small lot and a dwelling that takes up most of the lot, magnolia trees probably shouldn’t be in the overall landscape repertoire. With a medium-to-large size lot and appropriate dwelling situated on it, and adequate spacing to support them, one or more magnolia trees may add the symmetry and overall look you seek.

Magnolia Design Points

Keep these design considerations in mind when adding magnolia trees to your landscape.

  • Shape—Envision how the mature magnolia trees will look. Saucer magnolia trees, for example, have a mature height of 20 to 30 feet and a spread of about 25 feet and are rounded in shape. A Southern magnolia will grow 60 to 80 feet tall and spread 40 feet wide, with an oval shape. A cucumber tree magnolia is a good choice for large properties, grows 50 to 80 feet tall and spreads 40 feet wide, with a pyramidal shape. Star magnolia makes a good specimen or foundation tree, growing 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet in width, with an oval shape.
  • Evergreen or deciduous—Evergreen makes for stability and provides screening. Deciduous offers change throughout the seasons. Use deciduous for shade trees. After the leaves are gone, the rays shine through branches to provide heat and light.
  • Bark/Leaf Texture—Generally speaking, the larger the leaves of magnolia trees, the darker they are in color. Garden experts say the leaf color should take precedence over flower color.
  • Balance—Are you looking for formal or informal landscape design?
  • Proportion—Place magnolia trees in proportion to dwelling and plot size.
  • Repetition—Thematic elements that are repeated tie the landscape design together.
  • Transition—This refers to gradual change in design characteristics. There should be no abrupt height, texture, color or shape changes.
  • Keep it Simple—Simplicity is the best practice in landscape design.

In summary, if your landscape dimensions and dwelling size and placement are appropriate, get creative. Use landscape design software to plan where to locate the tree. With more than 100 species to choose from, you have a great many options. Remember, it may take 10 or more years before they’ll flower.