Magnolia Butterflies Tree: Full Guide to Planting and Care

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The Butterfly Magnolia tree, also referred to as the Magnolia Butterflies tree, is a lovely choice for enhancing any garden or landscape with its vibrant colors, delightful scent, and graceful appearance.

With its bright canary yellow flowers and captivating green leaves, it truly captures the essence of a butterfly in bloom.

What is a Butterfly magnolia tree? The butterfly magnolia tree, scientifically named Magnolia ‘Butterflies’, is a cross between the Cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) and the Yulan magnolia. This deciduous flowering tree is known for its stunning canary yellow flowers that bloom in late winter to early spring.

If you’re looking for a gorgeous tree that offers year-round beauty and easy care, the Butterfly magnolia could be the perfect tree for you.

In the following, you’ll learn everything you need to know, including planting and care tips, propagation methods, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • The Butterfly magnolia is a cross between the Cucumber magnolia and the Yulan magnolia.
  • It blooms in late winter to early spring, producing fragrant canary yellow flowers.
  • It prefers full sun to part shade and thrives in well-drained, organically rich soil.
  • Regular care, including watering and occasional pruning, ensures a healthy tree.

The Butterflies magnolia is stunning and would be an excellent choice for your yard, but there are many other equally gorgeous magnolias waiting to be explored. Discover the most popular choices in my guide, Magnolia Types and Varieties.

Magnolia Butterflies Tree

Before we get into the care and maintenance of this outstanding tree, let’s take a moment to explore its key features so you’ll know exactly what to expect.

Botanical NameMagnolia ‘Butterflies’
Mature Height15-20 feet
Mature Width10-15 feet
Growth RateModerate
Light PreferencesFull sun to part shade
Ideal SoilWell-drained, organically rich
Watering NeedsModerate, periodic watering
FertilizationAll-purpose organic fertilizer
Bloom TimeLate winter to early spring
Bloom Color & FragranceCanary yellow, fragrant

General Appearance

The Butterfly magnolia tree is a standout in the garden. Its pyramidal form and dark green leaves provide a lush backdrop for its vibrant, fragrant, canary yellow flowers.

These flowers, with their 10-16 tepals, bloom in abundance and offer a feast for the senses.

Seasonal Beauty

Throughout the year, the Butterfly magnolia tree remains a centerpiece for every growing season. The canary yellow flowers bloom in late winter, filling the air with their fragrant scent.

The oval-shaped green leaves emerge in spring, providing a dense canopy throughout the summer. In the fall, the foliage turns a lovely shade, hinting at the cool weather to come.

Growth Rate & Mature Size

This variety of magnolia grows to a mature height of 15-20 feet with a 10-15 foot spread.

This small tree or multi-stemmed shrub is perfect for smaller gardens or as a specimen or accent in larger landscapes.

Its moderate growth rate means that in a few years, it will become a prominent feature wherever you place your tree.

Can You Grow Butterfly Magnolias in Pots?

Yes, with the right care and attention, Butterfly magnolias can thrive in pots. Ensure the pot has well-drained soil and is placed in a location with full sun to part shade.


The standout feature of the Butterfly magnolia is its radiant canary yellow flowers. This shade of yellow is rare among magnolias, making it especially prized by gardeners and homeowners.

The flowers emanate a gentle yet captivating fragrance, drawing in both passersby and pollinators.

The blooms are generally found on the tips of branches, making them prominently visible against the backdrop of dark green leaves.

The blooms have an intricate structure composed of 10-16 tepals, giving them a layered appearance. This layering contributes to the fullness of each bloom.

After the tepals have fallen, the stamen remains, adding another dimension of visual interest.

The Butterfly magnolia is known to bloom in late winter to early spring. The exact time can vary based on your location and specific climatic conditions.

Once the blooming begins, the Butterfly magnolia covers the tree in a profusion of blooms, creating a vibrant spectacle that lasts for several weeks.

The sheer number of flowers makes it a centerpiece for any landscape during its peak bloom period.


Dark green leaves cover the tree, providing a dense canopy and a stark contrast to the bright yellow blooms.

These leaves remain attractive throughout the growing season, giving the tree a fresh and vibrant appearance.

Life Expectancy

With proper care, the butterfly magnolia tree can live for several decades, serving as a long-standing feature in your garden.

Magnolia Butterflies Tree Growing Conditions

The Butterfly magnolia tree prefers a location with well-drained soil and can tolerate both full sun and partial shade.

Being cold hardy, this magnolia is resilient in the face of frost, but it’s advisable to place your tree in a wind-protected area.

Grow Zones and Hardiness

Best suited for Zones 5 through 9, this magnolia is cold hardy, making it resilient in various climates.

Sun Requirements

These trees thrive in full sun to part shade, making them versatile for planting almost anywhere in your yard.

Soil Preferences

An organically rich, well-drained soil is ideal for the Butterfly magnolia tree. Slightly acidic to neutral pH helps the tree thrive and retain soil moisture.

How To Plant a Butterfly Magnolia Tree

Planting a butterfly magnolia tree in your garden is an exhilarating experience. This magnificent flowering tree serves not only as a statement piece for your garden but also as a testament to your gardening prowess.

Though the Butterfly magnolia is relatively low maintenance, ensuring it gets the right start during planting is crucial.

Here’s a comprehensive step-by-step guide to planting your butterfly magnolia tree correctly:

  1. Select the Right Spot: Choose a location with well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Consider the tree’s mature height and width to avoid future landscaping issues. Ideally, place your tree in a wind-protected area where the blooms and foliage can be appreciated without obstruction.
  2. Prepare the Ground: Start by digging a hole that’s twice the width of your tree’s root ball and just as deep. If your soil is heavy clay, consider amending it with organic matter to improve drainage. Organically rich, well-drained soil ensures the best growth.
  3. Inspect the Root Ball: Before planting, inspect the butterfly magnolia’s fleshy root system. Untangle any circling roots to prevent them from choking the tree as it grows. If roots are densely packed, make gentle cuts on the sides of the root ball to encourage outward growth.
  4. Position the Tree: Place the tree in the center of the hole, ensuring it’s standing straight. The top of the root ball should be level with the ground surface. Adjust the soil beneath the root ball if necessary.
  5. Backfill the Hole: Fill the hole half full with the excavated soil, and then water thoroughly to settle the soil and remove air pockets. Once the water drains, fill the rest of the hole with soil, gently patting down to eliminate any remaining air pockets.
  6. Watering: After planting, water the tree generously to help establish the roots. The soil should be kept moist but not soggy. This initial deep watering promotes deeper root growth.
  7. Mulch: Mulching is essential for retaining soil moisture, suppressing weeds, and regulating soil temperature. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree, ensuring it doesn’t touch the trunk.
  8. Staking: If your butterfly magnolia tree is tall and thin or if the area is particularly windy, consider staking the tree for the first year to provide additional support.

How To Care for Magnolia Butterflies

Caring for the Butterflies magnolia is a labor of love that rewards you with spectacular blooms and lush green leaves every year.

This tree, while relatively low maintenance, requires periodic attention to ensure its longevity and health. Here’s a detailed guide on ensuring your magnolia Butterflies thrives:


The Butterflies magnolia prefers consistent moisture, especially during its initial years. It’s important to water it deeply once a week, ensuring that the water reaches its roots.

Applying a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the tree helps retain soil moisture. Ensure the mulch doesn’t directly touch the trunk to prevent potential rot and deter pests.

While the magnolia tree loves moisture, avoid waterlogged conditions. Well-drained soil ensures that the roots don’t sit in water, thus preventing rot.


Fertilize the Butterflies magnolia in early spring, just before the new growth begins. An all-purpose organic fertilizer twice a year, in spring and mid-summer, is ideal.

Opt for a slow-release granular fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K ratio, like this one. A fertilizer formulated specifically for flowering trees and shrubs can be beneficial.

Follow the label’s recommended rates, sprinkling the fertilizer around the tree’s drip line, and then water thoroughly.


  • Best Time: Lightly prune your plant right after the flowering in late spring. This ensures the tree retains its natural form and promotes healthy growth for the next year.
  • Remove Dead or Diseased Branches: Regularly inspect the tree for any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Removing these helps the tree direct its energy toward healthy growth.
  • Shape Maintenance: While the magnolia Butterflies naturally has a pyramidal form, occasional pruning helps maintain its shape. However, avoid heavy pruning as it may hinder the tree’s growth and bloom production.

Pests & Diseases

The magnolia Butterflies, like many magnolia species, is generally resilient but can sometimes fall prey to certain pests and diseases.

Addressing these issues promptly ensures your magnolia remains a robust specimen in your garden.

For both pests and diseases, regular inspection of your magnolia tree is essential. Early detection and treatment can prevent significant damage.

Utilizing organic or chemical treatments, depending on the severity and personal preference, can assist in managing these threats.

However, maintaining a healthy tree through proper watering, fertilization, and pruning is the best defense against pests and diseases.


  • Scale: These tiny pests attach themselves to the stems and leaves, feeding on the plant’s sap. Their feeding can weaken the magnolia, making it susceptible to other issues.
  • Weevil: Weevils can cause damage by feeding on the magnolia’s leaves. Regular inspection and early intervention can help mitigate their impact.
  • Thrips: These tiny insects suck out the tree’s sap, which can lead to discolored and distorted leaves. They often thrive in hot, dry conditions, so keeping your magnolia well-watered can deter them.
  • Snail: Snails can feed on young leaves, leading to visible holes and damage. They prefer moist environments, so avoiding waterlogged soil can deter them.


  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease manifests as a white powdery substance on the leaves. It thrives in humid conditions. Ensure good air circulation around your magnolia to prevent it.
  • Canker: This is a fungal disease that can cause sunken spots on the tree’s branches and stems. Over time, these spots can grow and girdle the branch, causing it to die back.
  • Anthracnose: Another fungal disease, anthracnose, can cause brown spots on the leaves. In severe cases, it can lead to premature leaf drop.
  • Dieback: This is usually a result of multiple stress factors, from pests to diseases or even environmental factors. The tips of the branches brown and die, progressing backward toward the trunk.

Propagating Magnolia Butterflies

Propagation is the process of creating new plants from a parent plant. The Magnolia butterflies can be propagated through various methods, allowing gardeners to produce new magnolia plants for their garden or to share.


The magnolia Butterflies produces seeds that can be harvested once the tepals have fallen. Ensure the seeds are mature before collecting. Clean them and store in a cool, dry place before sowing them in well-drained soil.


This is one of the most popular methods. In early summer, take semi-hardwood cuttings from the current year’s growth.

Dip the cut end into rooting hormone (I use this one), and place it in a pot with a mixture of peat and perlite. Keep the soil moist, and place the pot in a location with indirect sunlight.

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Once rooted, the cutting can be transferred to a larger pot or directly in the garden.


This is a method where a branch that is still attached to the parent plant is encouraged to produce roots.

Bend a low-growing branch to the ground, and where it touches the soil, make a small cut. Bury this part of the branch in the soil, ensuring the cut section is in contact with the earth.

After some time, roots will form at the cut, and the new plant can be severed from the parent and transplanted.


This method involves joining a piece of the magnolia Butterflies (the scion) onto a rootstock of another magnolia. The joint is bound tightly until the scion establishes itself on the rootstock.

This method is more technical but can produce magnolias true to the parent plant’s characteristics.

A single flower of a Butterfly magnolia tree.

Landscape Ideas

The Butterfly magnolia tree, with its radiant canary yellow flowers, is a centerpiece for every growing season, deserving a special place in the landscape.

Here are some landscaping ideas to make the most of this flowering tree:

  • Specimen Planting: Place your tree as a specimen or accent in a central part of your garden where its early spring flowers can be appreciated. Given its pyramidal form, it serves as a majestic focal point, especially when surrounded by low-growing perennials and shrubs.
  • Border Liner: Line the edges of your driveway or property with a row of Butterfly magnolia trees. Their pyramidal form provides structure, and their spring flowers offer a spectacular welcome.
  • Woodland Garden: Integrate the Butterfly magnolia into a woodland garden setting. Amidst other deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, its blooms pop, offering a contrast to the dark-green leaves of its companions.
  • Patio Backdrop: Place your tree in a wind-protected spot behind a seating area or patio. The tree’s fragrance can enhance the ambiance, and its shade provides respite during the warmer months.
  • Mixed Border: Mix Butterfly magnolias with other ornamental trees, shrubs, and perennials to create a dynamic and multi-seasonal border. The varying heights, colors, and textures will ensure your garden remains attractive throughout the growing season.

When positioning your Butterfly magnolia tree or any other element in the landscape, always consider mature sizes to prevent overcrowding in the future.

Companion Plants

When choosing companion plants for the Butterfly magnolia, it’s essential to select those that won’t overshadow its beauty but rather complement and enhance it.

Always consider water, light, and soil needs to ensure compatibility. The goal is to create a harmonious landscape where each plant contributes to the garden’s overall beauty and health.

Here are some great companion plants:

  • Hostas: With their broad green leaves, hostas contrast beautifully with the slender foliage of the magnolia. They thrive in similar conditions of partial shade and can form a lovely underplanting.
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons: These shrubs share the magnolia’s love for acidic, well-drained soil. Their vibrant spring blooms harmonize well with the magnolia’s yellow flowers.
  • Ferns: Ferns can create a lush, green carpet around the base of your magnolia. Their delicate fronds contrast with the more substantial leaves of the magnolia.
  • Hydrangeas: With their large, rounded blooms, hydrangeas offer a different floral shape that contrasts with the Butterfly magnolia’s pyramidal form.
  • Spring Bulbs: Plants like daffodils, tulips, and crocuses can provide a burst of color in the garden just before the Butterfly magnolia starts to bloom, setting the stage for its grand entrance.
  • Boxwood: This evergreen shrub can act as a border or frame for the Butterfly magnolia, highlighting its shape and blooms.

Where To Buy

Nurseries and local garden retailers often stock the Butterfly magnolia. When purchasing, ensure the plant is healthy and free from pests and diseases.

A fantastic option is to purchase your tree from a trusted online nursery. a few I personally use and recommend are:

Related Questions:

What’s the Difference Between Butterfly Magnolia and Elizabeth Magnolia?

While both are magnolias, they differ in color and bloom time. The Elizabeth magnolia tends to have lighter-colored blooms and may flower at a slightly different time.

How Big Does a Butterfly Magnolia Tree Get?

A mature Butterfly magnolia tree can reach heights between 15 and 20 feet with a spread of 10-15 feet.

Final Thoughts

The Butterfly magnolia tree is a testament to nature’s beauty. From its fragrant canary yellow flowers to its rich green leaves, it remains a favored choice for gardeners seeking a blend of aesthetics and ease of care.

Ready to discover more magnolia favorites? You’re sure to be impressed by these magnificent magnolia trees: