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I live in Fort Worth, Texas.

The previous owners of my house grew a dwarf magnolia in the front yard. The tree itself is lovely, but it's water hungry and really struggles in the summers we've been having. I know that, all other concerns, removing a tree is really expensive; but, even setting that aside, that tree provides the only shade in the front yard, and, for even the fastest growing trees, that means I'd be spending years before getting a significant amount of shade again.

I could just plant another tree somewhere else, but the landscaping is such that the dwarf magnolia is really in the only suitable place for a tree in the front yard. Are there any reasonable solutions beyond the obvious "deal with no shade while a new trees grows" or "use the huge amounts of water needed to keep it alive"?

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  • Why is there no other spot in the front yard for a tree? You could easily plant one in the middle or edge of a lawn, regardless of the rest of the landscaping. This would allow you to plant the replacement tree now (something fast-ish growing, I'd assume) and then remove the magnolia later.
    – Jurp
    Jul 7, 2023 at 21:57
  • @Jurp, re, my lawn has a steep grade in the middle that angles towards the house running west to east. On the west, there's enough room near the house for the magnolia. On the left, it seems like it'd need to go closer to the curb, and I assumed (but didn't check) I couldn't grow trees significantly overhanging the public street.
    – LSpice
    Jul 7, 2023 at 22:11
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    Check. In many locales so long as you keep the lower limbs clear of traffic, and the tree is in good health (not in notable danger of falling and blocking the street without significant outside forces in play) trees over streets are quite normal in most places, though local rules, as always, may vary.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 7, 2023 at 22:34
  • The problem is one that the magnolia will figure out. If you water, you tease the roots up and train them to rely on your charity forever. If you don't, the roots will bury further and further down where there is water. They will find it. Or, prune artfully each year so you have a smaller tree. Jul 7, 2023 at 22:57
  • @YosefBaskin, re, I'm not completely sure the roots will find water. The tree is from a different, rainier climate, and it's used to abundant rain and not having to dig deep for it. Last summer, its response to underwatering was to burn to a crisp; maybe it was digging deeper, but it didn't seem to help.
    – LSpice
    Jul 9, 2023 at 13:26

2 Answers 2

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I would replace it with a native tree or tall flowering shrub that won't mind your conditions. In the meantime you could create a fence, trellis, teepee or arbor for temporary shade (using a decorative vine like coral vine-- native to your area-- or showy heat-lover like manzanilla.)

Unless you're getting a rare, super new, very heat-tolerant variety, magnolia is only going to thrive in cooler areas.

To relocate or remove it, you'd search for an arborist or licensed-bonded-insured tree company with tree spade; an expensive airspade service will keep the tree intact from tip-to-root for relocation. Since it will likely die anyways if you try to move it, a regular chainsaw man with stump grinder will be most cost-effective.

A big mature tree often (not always, but often) can't realistically really be "re-homed" unless you have somewhere nearby with a really perfect site (the "knee" side of a pond, along a drainage ditch rise with afternoon shade, north or south side of a building near a downspout or pool etc, even then, it may die)

If you have it taken down, the wood is dense, insect resistant, and smells absolutely divine when chipped. Handles made from magnolia smell incredibly good. Some crafters value the flexible limbs and flowers-- those could go up on your local online marketplace.

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Spend money on a service with a large truck-mounted tree spade to remove your tree (ideally to someone who wants one and doesn't care about the watering, and who will pay for it) and plant a large & more suitable tree in its place.

Whether that's reasonable or not depends on your fiscal state and the cost of that service in your area, neither of which I know, but other than the one-time cost, it solves the problem. Or it may serve to put the cost of watering the tree in a different perspective.

Depending on your local rules regarding rainwater collection, another option might be to install a cistern to store rainwater to water the tree with - or that may not be allowed (varies by area.)

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  • Thanks! Do you know where, if at all, I should start searching to find a service that might not just remove, but help to “re-home”, the tree? Or places where I could search to find someone who might be interested in being its new owner? I did do some casual Googling and found people who are willing to remove it (though not anyone willing to tell me the price without a formal quoting process), but not anything about people helping to find a new home.
    – LSpice
    Jul 9, 2023 at 20:50

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