Planting a Magnolia Tree in my front yard


I’d like to plant a Magnolia tree in my front yard in East York. I haven’t been able to find anything about city requirements or bylaws (I have a fire hydrant on my lawn). 311 wasn’t helpful.

Are there species that are best to plant (Cucumber Magnolia seems to be the only native ones to Toronto)?

Any other tips would be welcome and appreciated.

Thank you!


Hi Ali:

Thanks for writing the Toronto Master Gardeners. To start right off, I will address your interest in cucumber magnolia trees. It is the only native magnolia but I don’t think it is suitable for your front yard. It is one of the hardiest magnolias but also one of the largest (25 m). The flowers are not showy, a yellowish green that blends in with the leaves. It requires full sun and soil which is moist to wet. The fruits are interesting looking as they ripen from green to pink to red and then open showing red-orange seeds dangling on a thin threads. The Cucumber tree is threatened by deforestation, and poor reproduction and seedling regeneration in isolated stands. Flowers require cross-pollination, so to get seeds, you would need 2 trees. It is also not recommended as a street tree because it is sensitive to road salt.

You said that you have a fire hydrant on your front lawn. I looked up what the City of Toronto has to say about fire hydrants. You need to leave 1.2 m of space around fire hydrants, keeping them clear of snow, trees and other vegetation. If fire hydrants are obstructed in anyway, the city will come and remove the obstruction and then charge the homeowners for the expense.

You didn’t say how big your front yard is or what direction it faces. Trees should be planted as far away from the house as possible, at least half the spread of the tree.

The star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, is one of the smallest magnolias, easy to grow and hardy in Toronto. The flowers are lovely, with many delicate strap-like petals. The species has white flowers but there are cultivars in different colours.

See this link for more information:

The City of Toronto has a program where they will plant a front yard tree for you free of charge. They will consider your request regarding tree species, but they also have a street tree brochure to choose from. Most of the trees are large, but there are a few medium sized trees. One of them, the Katsura, is a beautiful tree, at certain times it smells faintly of marshmallows, good spring and fall colour and the leaves dance nicely on their stems the way they are attached. I think it’s still too big for your space.

Here is some info on the city’s urban Tree Planting Program.

Here is the link for the Street Tree Guide.

Here is a link to a similar question that another Toronto Master Gardener answered: Specimen tree for front yard

It’s hard to give specific advice as I’m not sure how much space you have behind the fire hydrant.

If there’s room, I think the star magnolia is a lovely choice.