The Q&A Archives: Dwarf Southern Magnolia tree

Question: I purchased and planted a Monrovia Dwarf Southern Magnolia tree in the year 2000. I knew at the time that these trees did not grow very fast. When I purchased it, it was approx. 5-6' tall. It is now about 9-10' tall. It sustained some ice damage a couple of years ago, so it's newer growth has made the tree look lopsided. In our yard, it is somewhat heavy clay soil, which I think has inhibited the faster growth of this tree. It also seems as if the branches on this tree are very limber. When I planted the tree, I did amend the soil with a compost/mulch mixture. The tree also is now only receiving about 8 hours of good sunlight a day, as it has been outgrown significantly by an Arborvitae hedge I planted around the same time.

I am considering relocating this tree to a sunnier southern location in our yard, so my question is if you think that would be a good thing to do. Or would it be to risky. Also, if I did this, what time of year would be best to do this. I was considering pruning the tree back a little prior to doing this, do you think that would be a good or bad idea? And do you have any other tips for transplanting this tree?

Thanks for your time,
Tim Schoffstall

Answer: Your Southern Magnolia is about half-grown and will grow equally well in a partly sunny spot as it will in one that receives full sun. If you want to move it only because of the exposure to shade, it won't be necessary. Although it has been in the ground for six years, it may have taken 2-3 years for the root system to become established before it was ready to put out lots of new top growth. The winter damage it received probably set it back some, too. I'd leave it where it is and do some pruning to balance the branching system out, and to encourage healthy new growth.

If you decide to move it, winter or early spring is the best time. Expect the root system to be quite extensive (growing well beyond the canopy). Sometimes trees react well to transplanting, other times they can take 2-3 years to become re-established. It all depends upon how distressed the root system becomes during and after the move. Prune it in late winter or early spring at the same time you move your tree.

Best wishes with your landscape.

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