Sweet Bay Magnolia Tree Planting Guide


The flowering sweet bay magnolia is a hardy evergreen known for its white highlighted underside leaves that give the appearance that the tree is shimmering in the wind. Its beauty makes the sweet bay magnolia tree a popular choice for commercial and home landscaping. Long-term health of the tree starts at planting by selecting the proper placement and soil. When properly planted, the sweet bay magnolia can reach heights between 40 feet and 60 feet.

When and Where to Plant

  • The sweet bay magnolia tree grows in most areas throughout the United States, with the exception of states that have harsh winters, such as Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. The evergreen can be purchased as a two-foot, branched tree from a garden center or nursery, or can be propagated from softwood cuttings taken from a mature tree in the summer. Once the cuttings take root, plant them into quart-sized containers. They can be planted in the ground in early spring one year after rooting.

    Native to North America, the sweet bay magnolia functions best as a landscaping tree. As such, you have numerous choices when deciding where to plant your tree. A popular planting spot for the blooming tree is near a deck or patio where its white, lemon-scented flowers can be enjoyed. Flowers bloom annually from June through September, followed by red seeds that attract birds, squirrels and other wildlife.

    The wide columnar tree is also ideal planted as a shrub border or as an ornamental tree to accent a front lawn or backyard. Wherever you choose to plant your sweet bay magnolia tree, be sure to leave enough room for its 15- to 25-foot spread.

Proper Light and Soil Conditions

  • A sweet bay magnolia tree has few requirements when it comes to light and soil. It thrives in full or partial sun, as well as in shade. While the tree grows best near coastal areas where the soil is rich and moist, it can also tolerate soil that is acidic or has a high mixture of sand, clay and loam. The sweet bay magnolia likes moist growing conditions, so additional irrigation may be needed if your area has dry temperatures and little rain.

Caring for a Sweet Bay Magnolia Tree

  • What makes the Sweet Bay Magnolia tree so popular is its low maintenance. It requires very little attention and care throughout the year. Only minimal pruning is necessary and very little pest control is needed. It is also resistant to most tree diseases.

    Because sweet bay magnolia trees tend to grow multiple trunks, some pruning may be needed to train your tree to grow a single, strong trunk. You should also prune any damaged or dead branches following the tree's blooming cycle.

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