Teddy Bear Magnolia: All You Need to Know

If you are looking for an evergreen tree perfect for your garden, the Teddy Bear Magnolia will do the trick. Also known as the Southern Charm, this tree is a magnolia variety that grows in areas classified as zone 7 -9 by the U.S Department of Agriculture.

The fast-growing tree has characteristics that are suitable for your yard. As a native North American species, it’s ideal for more miniature home landscapes and gardens.

Let’s take a closer look at the attributes of the Teddy Bear Magnolia.

It’s Origin

The Southern Magnolia originally grew wild in the forests. It grew in areas such as Florida and North Carolina. The tree was later bred as a seedling by Robert and Lisa Head at Head Ornamentals Inc in South Carolina.

The plant-breeding nursery cross-bred two forms of the Southern Magnolia to come up with the Teddy Bear Magnolia in 1985. This specific variety stood out because of its dense, dwarf form combined with upright and rapid growth.

Physical Characteristics

What makes the Teddy Bear Magnolia perfect for your yard or driveway? Here are its characteristics.


The tree is a dwarf tree in comparison to other Southern Magnolia varieties. At maturity, it grows up to approximately 20ft tall and 12ft wide. Because of its lower canopy, it’s suitable to plant under power lines.

The size of this tree also means that it can fit in tiny spaces such as a planter box or a large pot.


The Teddy Bear Magnolia has large oval-shaped leaves 5 – 8 inches long and 3 – 4 inches wide. The leaves are glossy and dark green on the top surface and have fur-like reddish-brown undersides.

During fall, the leaves tend to turn bronze. These features make the tree’s foliage richer in color compared to other trees.


Getting this tree for your garden comes with extra beauty. This beautiful accent tree bears fragrant white cup-shaped flowers.

First appearing in early summer around May, the flowers bloom until October. The well-perfumed flowers grow up to 8 inches wide and will populate your tree all summer.

The tree is a fast-growing variety and will begin flowering one or two years after planting. It also grows fruits appearing as red pods that get displayed around early to late fall.

Planting and Growing the Teddy Bear Magnolia

Growing this tree requires a small space due to its size. However, it’s a very adaptable species that needs little care as long as the conditions are right.


Teddy Bear Magnolia can grow on any soil type. It doesn’t necessarily require any soil type but thrives well in acidic soils.

The tree also grows better in evenly moist, well-drained soil. Once it gets established, it becomes drought-resistant and can survive most weather seasons. Besides, it’s also tolerant to road salts and can thrive in coastal soils.

When planting your tree, add plenty of rich organic material. The tree thrives well in soils with high organic content. In addition, the tree feeds on tree and shrub food.


If you have a partial shade or area exposed to the full sun, your tree will survive and grow well. However, if you live in a colder microclimate during the winter season, apply a thick mulch to the root system to protect your tree.

Because of its size, you get to enjoy the beauty of the tree even if you have a small garden. The dense evergreen foliage provides a perfect shade for your home or patio and makes your garden elegant. If the conditions are right, Teddy Bear Magnolias can survive up to 70 years or more.


Initially, after planting, water the tree regularly. As it grows, its water needs are moderate because its drought resistant.

However, if you are in areas with hot climates or during summer, you need to water it frequently to prevent the tree from drying up. It’s critical to make sure you don’t overwater the tree because it might die in standing water.

Planting Structure

Teddy Bear Magnolias have very dense foliage. Depending on the landscape you want to create, and how thick you need them to be, you can plan how to space the trees out.

For example, you can plant them in rows 8 to 20 feet apart. If you prefer to grow them in planters, you can place them along your driveway or patio where they can get partial or complete sunlight.

How Do You Prune Your Teddy Bear Magnolia?

These trees produce dense foliage that can become very heavy. To manage this, you can prune annually around midsummer to late summer when your tree finishes flowering. Pruning helps improve their appearance by increasing the airflow and reducing limb weight.

Using pruning loppers or a saw, cut off the dead branches just above the node. Carefully cut them at an angle to make sure you don’t leave a stub. You can also target individual branches by cutting the long ones to maintain the shape of the tree.

Apart from the dead branches, also prune the longest and heaviest branches to make the tree less dense. Also, cut the branches that hung too low on the trunk.

This process shapes up your tree and maintains its natural appearance. Once the pruning process is complete, you can either burn, recycle or use the wood as a mulch.

How to Design Your Tree for Your Yard

Depending on how you prune your tree, the Teddy Bear Magnolia can be a small tree or a large shrub. For smaller gardens, this tree is a perfect option. The tree is much narrower than the other species of Southern Magnolia, forming a conical, upright shape.

Because it’s an evergreen tree, it stands out from other landscape plants with more refined foliage. If you chose to have the trees on your driveway or patio, it’s essential to prune immediately after the flowering season to improve the tree’s appearance.

Planting some of these trees in rows provides privacy and shade if you have a low fence or wall in your home. Furthermore, it also provides shade for other shrubs and plants in your yard or garden.

The tree is relatively low maintenance and recommended for accent landscapes. Teddy Bear Magnolias are well suited for urban parks. If you live in an area with wildlife such as deers, the tree remains safe as they target other tastier foods.

What Are the Problems with the Teddy Bear Magnolia?

As much as these trees are low maintenance, a grower can encounter some challenges in taking care of them. Let’s take a closer look at some of these issues and how to solve them.

1. Problems with the Root System

This variety of the Magnolia tree grows shallow roots that are high risk. Because they are surface feeders, the roots are prone to damage without proper care. This makes the roots very sensitive to any extensive gardening or mowing.

To prevent weed growth around the root system, apply organic mulch. This technique is beneficial in keeping the soil moisture, protecting the roots during harsh weather climates, and preventing weed growth.

When planting, consider using enough space that allows for the tree to spread out its root system when it matures. Due to the extensive root system might be a challenge to transplant the tree once it’s fully established.

2. Scale Pests Attacks

The magnolia scale gets its name from this tree species. These scale pests attack the tree by sucking the sap, which wilts the leaves and makes them fall off prematurely. The attacks eventually affect the appearance of the tree.

When scouting for these pests in your garden, look out for the immobile insects that look like little bumps on the tree about half an inch long. These scales might destroy the foliage, but the tree tends to thrive normally despite the attack.

If magnolia scales have attacked your tree, you can use horticultural oil sprays to eliminate them. Plan the spraying session during periods with no rain for effectiveness. Once you mix the oil with water according to the label specifications, completely cover the branches and leaves with the solution.

You can repeat this process after 30 days to ensure the scale pests get eliminated. Before you get on with the spraying, it’s advisable to wear protective gear such as long-sleeved clothes, eye goggles, waterproof gloves, and shoes to protect from any irritation. Also, keep off the area until the solution dries off.

3. Problems with Litter

As a flowering species, Teddy Bear Magnolia drops leaves and sheds flower petals in the spring. The leaves drop to allow for new foliage to form. During the blooming season, petals will fall off the tree and seed pods in the summer.

If you don’t want to deal with lots of litter around your pool or patio, avoid planting this tree in such areas. These areas may become tasking to clean up and messy during the shedding season. However, you can choose to have your trees in a yard or garden with other plants where the litter acts as mulching material.

4. Problems with Leaf Growth

Teddy Bear Magnolias don’t require a lot of water after they become well-established. However, during the growing season, the trees need proper irrigation to keep the foliage growth healthy. Once the tree experiences stress, especially during summer, it will suffer from sparse leaf growth.

During the initial phase, it’s best to have a weekly irrigation system to develop strong roots. However, as the tree matures, you can water it three times a month to ensure that the soil is moist. Having a proper watering system keeps your roots and leaves healthy.


This native North American canopy makes a perfect tree for your yard or a small garden. Teddy Bear Magnolias are adaptable and grow in different soil conditions. They are suitable for your home as an evergreen variety if you need a green screen for privacy or shade for your home or patio.

They bring some elegance to your yard with their dense foliage, making them a good choice for landscaping. Within one or two years, the trees begin flowering, which adds to the beauty of your gardens. Teddy Bear Magnolias require little maintenance and are a perfect variety if you are looking to grow a garden with trees.

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