How to Transplant Magnolia Trees

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Things You'll Need

  • Square-tipped garden spade

  • Compost or other organic material

  • Wheelbarrow or large tarp

  • Mulch

In many respects, magnolia trees are relatively low maintenance. Unlike many flowering trees, most of the 80 or more varieties of magnolias are relatively pest-free. Many are evergreen and all produce large and showy flowers.

They can, however, be tricky to transplant. This is because the roots do not branch as prolifically and compactly as other trees but, instead, tend to run in long ropes far beyond the circumference of the canopy.


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With some advance planning, a little extra hard lifting, and some follow-up coddling, small specimens may be transplanted successfully.

The Process

Step 1

Only attempt to transplant magnolias that have trunks smaller than four inches in diameter. Older trees are less likely to survive.

Step 2

Use your garden spade to slice deeply into the soil in a circle around the tree the size of the largest root ball you feel you can remove for transplanting. Do this as much as a year before attempting to transplant the tree in order to give the severed roots time to branch. At a minimum, make the cut as far in advance of the tree's dormant period as possible.


Step 3

After the growing season has ended, repeat the cut in the same place to sever any roots that have grown beyond your intended root ball.

Step 4

Prepare the new location by digging a hole twice as deep as the root-ball you expect to remove with the tree.


Step 5

Fill the bottom half of the hole with dense organic material.

Step 6

Free the tree taking with it a wide, shallow root ball. Transfer to a wheelbarrow or a tarp for transporting the tree.


Step 7

Water the hole before planting, transplant the tree and water well.

Step 8

Tamp well and form a berm of soil around the transplanted root ball in order to hold water close to the roots for future irrigation.

Step 9

Trim off any suckers to help the tree conserve energy.


Keep all pruning tools clean and sharp to avoid infecting or damaging the tree.

Recruit assistants for digging and transporting the tree in order to minimize handling and degradation of the root ball.

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