Magnolia Bush Vs Tree: Comparing The Differences

Number of stems branching out and the height of the plant are the two main differences between a magnolia tree and a bush

Difference Between Magnolia Bush Vs Tree

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Magnolia is both evergreen and deciduous, depending on where they are grown. When you compare magnolia trees, some species are multi-stemmed shrubs, while others are upright trees quite massive in size.


When it comes to magnolia bush vs tree, the difference boils down to the height and the number of stems emerging from the base of the plant.


Sometimes the spread of the plant can also help you differentiate between a tree and a shrub. Whether tree or shrub, Magnolias prefers bright sunlight, well-draining and slightly acidic soil. A spring-feeding or slow-release fertilizer is best for them to flourish.


About Magnolia Trees

Though it originated in North and South America, nowadays it is grown everywhere around the world. Its stunning large saucer-shaped flowers and glossy green leaves make it a show-stopper in any home landscape.


They bear fragrant flowers in spring similar to jasmine or tuberose. Magnolias come in at least 200 varieties. Its variety of sizes makes it a tough call to spot the difference between a tree and a bush.


If you are confused about whether the grown variety of Magnolia is a shrub or tree, we will tell you the major differences between the two.


Magnolia Tree Vs Magnolia Bush

Some characteristics that are significantly different between a Magnolia bush and a tree are their height and the number of stems.




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If your Magnolia is over 13 feet and is extending upwards, you can define it as a tree.


On the other hand, if your plant is extending from the ground and has an irregular round shape, you can say that they are bushes or shrub between magnolia bush vs tree. They will almost touch the ground because of their thick foliage. This is not the case with magnolia tree.


However, there are some varieties like Magnolia Acumenata that reach a height of 30 feet tall but have the canopied shape that is mostly associated with trees.


Another variety, Magnolia Liliflora, has the size of a shrub that grows to only 10 feet. It does not grow tall but has a distinct tree-like appearance.


Magnolia Soulangea, which only grows to 12 feet tall, has an upright tree shape when young but spreads to a more open shape as it matures.


Stem Count

Stem Count

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The next difference when it comes to magnolia bush vs magnolia tree is the number of stems extending from the base of the plant.


If the tree is single-trunked, then you must know that this comes under Magnolia tree. Your Magnolia is a shrub if the trunk has multiple stems giving it a multi-branched and fuller look.

Some varieties of magnolias spread luxuriously from the base giving them a more shrub-like appearance. Shrub varieties can be used as privacy screening or hedges for dividing property.


Related: Magnolia Tree Lifespan | Where magnolia grows best?|Why is My Magnolia Dying?


How Tall Will A Magnolia Bush Grow Compared To A Magnolia Tree?

Magnolia bushes grow up to 13 feet as compared to the tees that can grow up to 60 to 80 feet. This is one of the major differences between magnolia tree and bush.

How Big Is A Magnolia Bush Spread-Wise – Is It The Same As A Tree?

Magnolia Bush

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Magnolia trees and bushes both have somewhat similar spread. They can grow and spread up to 40 feet outwards at maturity.


Which Are The Best Magnolia Varieties For A Bush?

Some of the Magnolia varieties that are best to be grown as bushes:

  1. Ashe’s Magnolia
  2. Lily Magnolia
  3. Loebner Magnolia
  4. Saucer Magnolia
  5. Star Magnolia
  6. Sweetbay Magnolia
  7. Umbrella Magnolia


Can You Make A Magnolia Tree Into A Bush?

Magnolia Tree Into A Bush

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You can transform a magnolia tree into a bush through regular trimming and shaping it up. But, we suggest that you allow the tree to properly settle down and establish first. Then, cut the small branches of this tree annually or until it expands from the base.


Make sure to prune it in late winter or early spring as normal deciduous trees are done. Magnolia trees won’t grow quickly, so a little patience may come in handy. However, you can purchase small cultivars ideal for hedges.

Summing up…

Magnolias need regular pruning and maintenance. Whether it is a bush, or a tree depends on two things – plant height and the number of stems. You must know that Magnolia requires proper care to thrive well.


Looking at the physical appearance of the tree will help you decide whether it is a magnolia bush vs tree. The good look at the tree will help you decide whether it’s a tree or a bush.