How To Grow Magnolias In Containers

Can magnolias be grown in containers? Which magnolia trees can be grown in pots? Yes, you can plant and grow a magnolia tree in pots as I am growing in Australia. The dwarf magnolia varieties can easily be grown in containers. But the  normal magnolia varieties can also be grown is pots, if grown in a very large pot having a drainage hole at the bottom. 
Potted Little Gem Magnolia
Little Gem Magnolia in a Pot
Magnolias are small trees which produce beautiful flowers. They are evergreen type and deciduous type. The evergreen magnolia has dark green leathery foliage on one side and and brownish on reverse side. The deciduous magnolias drops all the leaves in winter but produce beautiful flowers.

The planting and growing magnolias in containers give flexibility in terms of temperature needs. We can move around the pot in or in shade during very hot temperature or indoors when it is too cold.

Magnolia Plants Suitable for Pots : Best Magnolia For Pots

Only magnolia trees that grow to small height are suitable for growing in containers. Little Gem magnolia is the best for growing in containers. The Star magnolia, Ann magnolia, Southern Little Gem magnolia and Saucer magnolia are also small trees and grow well in containers and also indoors.

How fast a magnolia tree will grow varies with the growing conditions and the magnolia cultivar. A cucumber tree (Magnolia accuminata) can grow over 25 feet tall in 10 years.

Southern magnolias grow from 1 to 2 feet a year, reaching 60 to 80 feet tall with canopies spreading 30 to 50 feet wide.

The dwarf magnolia tree variety grows to 9-12 feet (3-4 meter) high, whereas the the normal type of southern magnolia will reach 20 feet high in 20 years. But as many normal magnolia varieties are slow growers, they can be planted and grown in containers.

Growing Magnolia in Containers

The magnolias can be grown in pots because of the following 2 reasons:
  1. Then magnolias are slow growers.
  2. The roots of a magnolia tree do not go deep down in the soil. The magnolia trees roots are large and flexible like thick threads, which grow horizontally quite close to the soil surface but spreads to large distances.

Whether you have grown your own magnolia tree from seed (how to grow magnolia tree from seed) or from a cutting (how to grow magnolia tree from cutting), you can grow it in a pot easily, following the magnolia care tips given below. I am growing magnolia trees in containers of which a few magnolia deciduous and ever-green trees were grown from stem cuttings in Sydney, Australia.

Potted Magnolia Care Tips

Looking after potted magnolias is very easy. The magnolia tree care tips for growing in containers are good for all types of magnolias including Little gem, teddy bear, saucer, brown beauty, southern magnolia trees, Susan, Jane, and all other magnolia trees (how to care for magnolia tree).

Position: Lighting For Magnolia

Place your Magnolias in full sun, sheltered spot. However, move the plant in shade in hot afternoon sun. Protect the plant from freezing temperatures, and very cold and icy winds or early-morning frost.

Pot Selection For Growing Magnolia Tree in a Pot

  1. The pot size will restrict the growth of the tree. The pot should be about 10 times the size of the trunk expected at maturity. If you plant your magnolia tree in a container that is 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep, the tree trunk will grow to about  2 inch in diameter at its maturity.
  2. I planted my magnolia in a smaller pot and transferred it into a bigger one when the roots began to emerge out from the bottom holes of the pot.
  3. The pot should have many drainage holes at its bottom to allow excess water to drain quickly to avoid root rot.
  4. When planting the magnolia in a pot, keep a space of 6 inch on the top free for adding compost/cow manure and mulch on the surface every year.

Soil Mixture For Magnolia Tree in Pot

Proper soil mixture is very important for growth of the magnolia and to produce flowers. It needs free-draining, slightly acidic and nutrition rich soil. If the soilis water retaining, then the root of the plant can rot and the tree can die.

Mix 25% compost or composted cow manure and 25% coarse river sand in the garden soil. The compost will make it nutrition rich and acidic and the sand will make the soil free-draining. 

Watering For Magnolia Tree in Pot

Watering is the most important part of magnolia tree care as the roots of magnolia tree are shallow that can easily dry out. It will need daily watering in spring and summer, specially young trees until they become established. Any dry conditions will damage the plant (Little Gem Magnolia tree diseases and treatment).

Fertilizer For Potted Magnolia Tree

Re-potting Magnolia Tree

  1. If you see that the roots of the tree are coming out or crowded on the surface, then it is time to re-pot the plant. If the magnolia is not transferred to a bigger pot, then it will stop growing further and will not produce any flowers. 
  2. To take out the magnolia from the pot, stop watering your plant before 2-3 days. Tap or press the pot all around to loosen the roots and carefully take out the plant.


Put a stake in your new tree for support to protect it from wind and to keep it straight.

Mulch For Magnolia Tree in Pot

Magnolia trees have roots on the surface, so mulch well on the soil's surface to keep the roots cool.  Put a thick inch layer of organic mulch in spring after flowering and in autumn.;
Make the mulch by mixing compost or aged cow manure, blood and bone powder and sulphate of potash. This magnolia mulch is best for producing magnolia flowers.

Pruning Magnolia Tree in Pot

Magnolia does not need pruning. However, you should remove damaged, diseased or dead branches. The deciduous magnolia can be cut in late winter or early spring after flowering.

Keeping magnolia Tree Small
You can keep your magnolia tree small by pruning regularly during the first few years of its growth to train it into a smaller shape. I have done this to keep my little gem magnolia very small in a pot. 

The size of the pot will also limit the magnolia tree small. When your magnolia tree needs repotting to a larger pot, do not repot it in a larger pot but repot it in the same pot after trimming its 25 % of outer roots. This will help in keeping the size of your magnolia small.

Deciduous Magnolia Flowers

When Magnolia Will Flower?

  1. The evergreen magnolias flower in summer. The deciduous magnolias produce flowers in winter and autumn, they look stunning when in full bloom. Your magnolia tree will produce more flowers it becomes more mature.
  2. Magnolias flower best in full sun.
  3. Incorrect acidity of the soil may be the problem for your magnolia not blooming.
  4. Magnolias need a nutrient-rich feed and mulch to produce beautiful large flowers.
  5. A fertilizer high in potassium will promote promote flowering.
Ever Green Magnolia Flowers

Care for Magnolia Tree in Winter

  1. Magnolia tree needs extra care in winter, especially when the tree is young. To protect the magnolia from frost, shift the pot in an unheated garage or indoors and 
  2. water the tree in the evening. 
  3. Cover  your magnolia with a blanket in the night and remove the blanket in the morning, if you cannot move the plant.

Video on how to grow magnolias in containers

How to grow magnolia from cutting
How to grow magnolia in a pot
How to repot magnolia tree
magnolia propagation
Magnolia propagation from cutting, flowering in 2 years
Potted magnolia care
How to prune magnolia tree youtube
How to fertilize Little Gem magnolias
How to plant magnolia tree