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

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Monday - June 11, 2007

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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

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