Magnolia Tree Not Thriving? 15 Possible Reasons & Top Tips

Is your Magnolia tree not thriving?

Nothing is worse than taking care of your Magnolia only for it not to thrive as you had hoped. Luckily, there is always an explanation, and it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what you’re doing wrong.

Most of the time, a Magnolia will not thrive due to a lack of sunlight, improper soil, or due to competition from nearby plants or grass.

Keep reading to learn 15 possible reasons so you can get your Magnolia thriving exactly how you want it to.

15 Common Reasons for Magnolia Trees Not Thriving

Fifteen potential reasons might sound like a lot and even overwhelming, but the reality is that it’s only going to be one or two of these issues that are causing the problem in each case.

1. Improper Watering

One common reason why my magnolia tree might struggle is improper watering.

Overwatering can lead to root rot, while under-watering can cause dehydration.

It’s essential to strike a balance, and I like to water my Magnolia once every two to three weeks or sometimes more if it has been particularly dry.

If your Magnolia is in a pot, make sure it has good drainage.

Also, new Magnolias need to be watered weekly to help them develop their root system. After six months to a year, you can start watering them less.

2. Poor Soil Conditions

Magnolia trees need well-draining soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0 (slightly acidic to neutral).

They also require soil that is packed full of nutrients, which is why I like to add mulch, compost, and fertilizer to ensure that the nutrient requirement is being met.

Poor soil quality will result in slow overall growth and infrequent blooming.

3. Lack of Sunlight

Magnolia trees require ample sunlight for proper growth, so if your tree isn’t getting enough sun exposure, it won’t thrive.

Make sure to plant or move the tree to a location that receives adequate sunlight. Magnolias love direct sunlight during the day, so choose a brightly-lit spot with plenty of sunlight to help your plant thrive.

4. Improper Pruning

Pruning is an essential skill to learn if you want your Magnolia to thrive.

Pink Magnolia leaves up close

Deciduous varieties should be pruned in late summer, while evergreen varieties need to be pruned in Spring (learn more about the varieties here).

Large branches bigger than 1.5 inches in diameter need to be cut each year, as well as any injured or broken branches.

Pruning in this way allows the tree to focus its energy on remaining healthy branches, promoting a stronger and fuller bloom.

5. Wrong Hardiness Zone

Before you purchase any Magnolia tree, you need to check which hardiness zone it thrives in.

There are over 200 varieties of Magnolia, and they all have a preferred hardiness zone for optimal growth.

Magnolia stellata, for example, thrives in USDA zone 4 through 8, while Magnolia virginiana grows in zones 5 to 10. You can learn about different Magnolia varieties and which zones they thrive in here.

6. Pests

Pests like scale insects, aphids, and spider mites can harm a Magnolia tree’s health and stop it from thriving as it once did.

Pest infestations can happen quickly, so it’s important to check over your Magnolia for signs of infestations every week or so.

If you suspect that your Magnolia is infested with pests, you can use an insecticide to treat it.

7. Disease

Just like pests, diseases like crown gall, powdery mildew, or fungal leaf spots can weaken Magnolias and stop them from thriving.

With diseases, you need to prune affected leaves and treat the rest of the plant with a fungicide.

I highly recommend reading this resource if you are concerned about diseases affecting your Magnolia.

8. Cold Weather Damage

Certain types of magnolia trees, and especially their blossoms, are sensitive to cold weather and sudden changes in temperature.

If the temperature approaches 20 F, you should take steps to protect your Magnolia, like wrapping the trunk with a blanket or surrounding it with leaves.

Others, like Magnolia Ann or Jane, are more hardy, and you don’t need to worry about them.

9. Lack of Fertilizer

There are arguments for and against using fertilizers for Magnolias, but I personally like to fertilize mine once every month or so during the summer to help boost growth.

If your soil is not particularly rich in organic matter and your Magnolia is not thriving, fertilizing can make all the difference.

10. Weed Killer

Weed-killer chemicals can damage or even kill a magnolia tree if applied too close.

A white Magnolia flower up close

This happens a lot more often than you would think, especially if your Magnolia is planted near your lawn or another area that is susceptible to weeds.

11. Root System Not Developed

A lot of Magnolias are sold in a root-bound state, and if you want it to thrive long-term, it’s a good option to loosen the root ball. To do this, simply loosen up the roots with your hands or use a sterilized knife to cut into the roots and loosen them.

This is a great way to promote healthy root growth right from the start, as a root-bound Magnolia will struggle to grow properly.

12. Competition for Nutrients

This is another point that not a lot of people consider, but if your Magnolia is planted next to several other plants or even grass that demands a lot of nutrients and moisture, this can create competition and make your Magnolia struggle to thrive.

Before you plant your Magnolia, consider its placement and try to give it plenty of space. If your Magnolia is already planted, fertilizing regularly can help to make up the difference.

13. Make Sure You Know What Type of Magnolia You Have

Different magnolia tree varieties have specific care requirements, so make sure you know exactly what type of Magnolia you have and what specific care it needs.

Some Magnolias prefer colder weather, while others thrive in warm climates with lots of direct sunlight, so it’s important to know what you’re dealing with.

If your Magnolia isn’t thriving, there’s a good chance that it isn’t suited for the climate you live in.

14. Transplant Shock

Another common reason for Magnolia not thriving is transplant shock.

This happens when you move your Magnolia from one place to another, specifically taking it out of the ground or a pot and planting it somewhere new in fresh or new soil.

It can take upwards of a year for your Magnolia to settle into its new environment, develop roots, and get used to the humidity, temperature, and sunlight, amongst other things.

If your Magnolia has only been planted for a short time, don’t expect it to thrive right away, and practice patience.

15. Age

Magnolia trees typically take several years to mature and start producing blooms.

Young trees may not bloom until they reach a certain age, which can vary depending on the species and cultivar, so don’t worry if your young Magnolia is not thriving how you want it to.

Tips To Help Your Magnolia Thrive

Planting And Soil Preparation

Before you plant your Magnolia, there are a few things to consider to boost the chances of it thriving further down the line:

  • Loosen the root ball to ensure the roots can develop quickly and healthily
  • Plant with organic, nutrient-rich soil that contains compost and is slightly acidic to neutral in pH
  • Choose a location that provides the right type of sunlight and other growing conditions for the specific type of Magnolia you are planting

Preparation is absolutely vital if you want your Magnolia to thrive, so make sure you take the time to do this.


Proper watering is an essential aspect of Magnolia maintenance, and if you water too much or too little, it can have a big impact on how well it grows.

White Magnolia tree leaves

Young trees especially require more attention to watering, as their roots are still developing. Once mature, you can settle into a more laid-back watering routine.

I water my Magnolia once every two to three weeks, but it depends on the climate where you live – as long as the soil isn’t getting saturated with water and there aren’t symptoms of overwatering, you can experiment with your schedule.

Fertilizing And Nutrient Management

Not all Magnolias need to be fertilized, but it can be beneficial if your Magnolia isn’t planted in nutrient-rich soil.

My advice here is to experiment with a small amount if you are confident that all of the other care requirements are being met.

I like to use a complete fertilizer once every month in the summer, but again it depends on where you live. Alternatively, you can repot your Magnolia in fresh soil or add compost to the soil around it to boost the nutrient content.

In Summary

Hopefully, this article has cleared up any doubts you had about your Magnolia tree not thriving.

I highly recommend going through each point carefully to make sure you are not missing a key piece of information and then remedying the areas where your care has been lacking.

In rare cases, you may have a variety that simply doesn’t bloom or grow as much as you would’ve hoped (like Star Magnolia), so it’s important to rule out this possibility as well.

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About Me

Hi, I'm Joe! I'm the head of SEO and content management at Bloom and Bumble. I'm a huge plant lover and over the years my home has become more like an indoor rainforest. It has taken a lot of trial and error to keep my plants healthy and so I'm here to share my knowledge to the rest of the world.

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