How to Grow and Care for Magnolia Tripetala

Crown of an in-bloom magnolia tripetala.

Joshua McCullough, PhytoPhoto / Getty Images

Magnolia tripetala is a small-to-medium flowering tree native to the eastern United States that is known for its stunning white blooms and enormous glossy green leaves. Sometimes known as the umbrella magnolia, the magnolia tripetala is a perfect specimen tree in landscapes that do not always get the most sun. Here's everything you need to know about caring for this stunning tree.

Common Name Umbrella magnolia
Botanical Name Magnolia tripetala
Family Magnoliaceae
Mature Size 15 to 30 ft. high, 15 to 30 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Loamy and moist
Soil pH Slightly acidic
Bloom Time May
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 5-8 (USDA)
Native Area Eastern United States

Magnolia Tripetala Tree Care

Relatively easy to care for, here are the four things that will keep your magnolia tripetala thriving:

  • Place your magnolia tripetala in an area with full sun to partial shade.
  • Plant in a location with plenty of organically rich soil.
  • Test the soil around your tree before planting to ensure it's the right pH.
  • Prune sparingly, allowing the natural multi-stemmed form of the tree to dictate its shape.


Magnolia tripetala finds its home at the edge of wooded areas in the sun or shade of larger canopy trees. Ideally, you want to mimic its natural conditions in your landscape by providing those same conditions. Giving your tree either full sun or partial shade will ensure it is in the right environment to thrive and produce its most abundant blooms.


For best results, plant your magnolia tripetala in an area with rich loamy soil that is consistently moist but not wet. Along with this, the magnolia tripetala prefers slightly acidic soil. You can easily test your soil before planting your tree to see if any amendments need to be added to adjust the pH of the soil.


Newly planted trees must be watered weekly for the first two years during the spring and summer until roots are established. Water deeply erring on the side of longer watering than more frequent, shorter watering. A long saturating soak is better than five quick spritzes.

If planting your magnolia tripetala in a dry area, supplemental watering will be needed to keep your tree thriving. While it does not tolerate dry soil, it will not tolerate wet soil, so keeping on top of a watering regime is necessary for your tree's health. Mature trees will appreciate abundant soaking every week during summer, especially in dry weather.

Temperature and Humidity

Magnolia tripetala is not particularly frost-hardy and not extremely fond of hot, humid temperatures, making it the perfect tree for temperate landscapes along the eastern United States. To achieve the longest blooming season, avoid planting in an area with high winds and avoid harsh temperature extremes, and you will have a happy tree. Keeping it with the recommended USDA zones 5-8 will ensure it thrives and provides you with beautiful blooms.


Adding fertilizer is the best way to support boosting this tree's beautiful blooms, so aim for a high Phosphorous (P) NPK formulation of 5-30-5.


The natural form of the magnolia tripetala doesn't require a lot of pruning, but doing some light pruning will remove suckers and eliminate unwanted main trunks from forming. You should also prune annually to remove dead, dying, and damaged branches.

Sucker removal should be done annually in the spring when new growth appears, and anti-growth products can be applied to deter new sucker growth.

Trunk removal should be done only when a trunk is young and when you are still determining form; if the main trunk has already established lateral branches it may not be too late to remove, but consider removing the lateral branches first and then the trunk, remembering that only 1/3 of the tree's live material should be removed at a time.

The best time to determine the tree's form is in the first few years as it establishes itself; at this point, the job can often still be done with loppers rather than a saw and will stress the tree much less than it would then if it was done later in the tree's life.

Types of Magnolia Tripetala

Magnolia tripetala is a beautiful tree, but a few selections have been raised in cultivation to bring out some of its best features. Notably, two cultivars of the species and one hybrid are most seen commercially in the nursery trade.

  • Magnolia tripetala 'Bloomfield': Has blooms as large as dinner plates with leaves as large as 30 inches.
  • Magnolia tripetala 'Woodlawn': Exceptionally bright red showy cones that lend to fall interest. Larger than flowers than the wild type.
  • Magnolia ‘Charles Coates’: Small, slow-growing variety with extremely fragrant flowers.

Propagating Magnolia Tripetala

Propagating the magnolia tripetala is a great way to get another specimen for your landscape while removing some of those unsightly suckers growing at the base of your tree. There are several ways to propagate your magnolia tripetala, but taking cuttings is by far the easiest way, which also allows you to save those suckers that you'd otherwise just throw away. You'll need garden clippers, a sharp sterilized knife, a pointy object rooting hormone, potting mix, and some pots. Here's how to propagate magnolia tripleta:

  1. Trim a sucker about 1/8 inch in diameter and off the tree, then find an area with some nice new growth and cut about 5 to 7 inches off of the sucker.
  2. Tear the leaves from the bottom of the cutting, around 2/3 down, and scrape away the bark exposing the fleshy part of the sucker.
  3. Cut the end of the sucker at a 45° angle. This is now your new cutting.
  4. Make a hole in your potting mix for the cutting.
  5. Following the product's instructions, dip your cutting in your rooting hormone and let soak, then insert into hole in potting mix.
  6. Keep the potting mix moist and in a cool, indirectly lit area. Check the bottom of the pots around the three-month point to see if roots have established.
  7. When roots have been established, transplant the plants into larger individual pots and let roots establish in those pots for one to three months.

How to Get Magnolia Tripetala To Bloom

The leaves on magnolia tripetala are amazing, but most people grow magnolias for the flowers. Magnolia tripetala has large white blooms that usually open at the beginning of May.

When it comes to appearance, the tree's flowers are stunning and worth the little effort and time you need to invest before your magnolia tripetala blooms. A newly planted tree will not start flowering for 10 years, so some patience is required for the payoff.

Bloom Months

A magnolia tripetala typically starts to bloom in the very end of April or beginning of May depending on the weather.

How Long Does Magnolia Tripetala Bloom?

Expect the large flowers of each bloom to stick around a week or so depending on the weather conditions. A cold snap or windy day might hasten the blooms exit to only a few fleeting hours if the timing is particularly bad.

What Do Magnolia Tripetala Flowers Look and Smell Like?

The flowers of magnolia tripetala are attractive but not entirely pleasant smelling. They are large, at times dinner plate sized, white blooms, with six-to nine petals. The smell of magnolia triplete flowers is comparable to burning rubber or an electrical fire.

How to Encourage More Blooms

On its own, magnolia tripleta is a profuse bloomer, but to encourage more blooms, ensure the tree gets plenty of sun; is protected from strong, direct winds; and receives a good amount of water. Fertilizing with a high phosphorous (P) fertilizer will also help boost flower production. Aim for an NPK formulation of around 5-30-5.

Common Problems With Magnolia Tripetala

Luckily the magnolia tripetala is known to be easy to take care of and, most importantly, low maintenance. While it suffers from a few issues, most are relatively benign and easily fixed with just a few easy maintenance tasks.

Leaf Spots

Leaf spots on the magnolia tripetala are usually caused by a fungal issue. You will notice circular brown or black spots with yellow-ringed patches. The issue is spread by rain, dirty tools, people, animals, and insects, so it is hard to control but easy to manage. Remove infected leaves, water the soil, not the tree, rake fallen leaves from beneath the tree, and treat the tree with a general tree fungicide if infected.

Late Frosts

Unfortunately, late frost can cause flowers to drop prematurely. Worse yet, not much can be done to prevent this from occurring once a tree is planted. But suppose you live in an area where late frosts are known to occur and plan to plant a tree that is not particularly frost-hardy. In that case, you can plant it in a well-protected site that creates its microclimate, such as the corner between two walls or a depression protected by elevations on two or three sides.

  • What is the most beautiful magnolia tree?

    This is a hard question to answer because the answer is a matter of taste. Look at your own local species and compare them to non-native species. You will have a lot to choose from; there are over 300 magnolia species in the genus.

  • What is the rarest magnolia tree?

    Easily the rarest magnolia is Magnolia ashei. It is located only a few sites in the Florida Panhandle with its numbers being unknown.

  • Which magnolia is the most fragrant?

    The most fragrant magnolia in the world is an Asian native called the Champaca Magnolia. Overwhelmingly sweet-smelling, the aroma of one tree can stretch way past the tree on a warm breezy day.