En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 11, 2007

From: Plano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Trees
Title: Transplanting Magnolia grandiflora
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We just moved to Plano TX and there's a magnolia tree planted between our house and the driveway. (The tree is 7ft tall and it's about 7ft from the side of house and 4ft from the driveway) I always thought Magnolias got to be a pretty good size. Is that location okay for it? Do you think it would stand a chance if we transplanted it elsewhere or are we better off just getting rid of it?


You did not mention the type of magnolia you have, but since it is in Plano, TX, I'm guessing it is the Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora. I'll go a little further out on a limb, and guess it's the cultivar "Little Gem", which has been developed as a compact, upright version of M. grandiflora, more suitable to the smaller lots in urban residential areas. The leaves on a Little Gem are small, about 4" long, narrow, dark green with a bronze reverse. They bloom at an early age and sporadically during Summer. All that having been said, it still would appear your tree is not in a good location. Magnolias grow at a rate of about one to two feet yearly, and once they've been planted, they don't like to be disturbed. Their roots spread wider than most trees, and for that reason transplanting is difficult, as it is necessary to trim the roots quite a bit to made the move manageable, and a lot of root system is lost. If the tree is left where it is, you can expect it to be about 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. This is going to get it too close to your house, but an even greater problem is going to be the roots and the driveway. At four feet from the driveway, those roots are probably already under the driveway, and that's not good for either the tree or the drive.

Magnolias are magnificent trees; traditionally, the classic picture of them was of a corridor of trees leading up to a Southern mansion. Unfortunately, very few people live that way now, but the magnolia remains a tree that should be planted out in a fairly wide area, away from structures. Your tree might very well be all right where it is for a few years, but it's only a matter of time until branches are going to be against the house and over the driveway, and roots are going to be reaching both underground.

All that having been said, you may well want to make the effort to save your Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia). If you have an open space large enough to accommodate it in its mature form, it would be a wonderful addition to your landscape.

For more information on transplanting trees, use this link to Michigan State University.


From the Image Gallery

Southern magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora

More Trees Questions

Propagation of maple tree in Canada
July 08, 2008 - I have a gorgeous maple tree in my front lawn and I want to plant more like it. The tree gives off very few keys a year so I want to make sure this works. How do I go about planting a maple key?
view the full question and answer

When is the appropriate time to prune pecan trees in Hewitt?
September 07, 2008 - Labor Day Weekend my husband decided to trim all the low branches on a big pecan tree in our back yard which I thought should had been done at the first of the year, our temprature is in the mid 90's...
view the full question and answer

Red oaks that didn't drop leaves in Austin
April 04, 2012 - I have a number of Red Oaks on land that did not drop leaves this past fall. Now these same trees seem to be dead? It seems there's some type of mold/fungus on the trees. Some trees have small patche...
view the full question and answer

How do you stop the bark from peeling off the tree in Amarillo?
May 07, 2012 - How do you stop the bark from peeling off the tree? I live in Amarillo, TX. If you can't stop the progression, how do you keep the tree alive?
view the full question and answer

Stressed Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana
September 12, 2009 - I planted a 5' Texas Persimmon last May..it is watered by drip irrigation and has done well, putting on lots of new leaves and looking healthy as can be. That is, until several days ago when it began...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center