How to Take Care of Magnolia Trees

How to Take Care of Magnolia Trees

Magnolia Tree in Bloom

Magnolias. Oh, how they make the first weeks of spring shine! Coveted for their GORGEOUS flowers, these trees are staples in USDA growing zones 3-9. 

Loving these trees and growing them are two different things though. Follow along as we cover the basics of keeping magnolia trees happy and healthy.

How to Plant a Magnolia Tree Infographic

How to Plant Magnolia Trees

1. Select Your Magnolia

Pick the right Magnolia variety that fits the space in your yard. There are magnolias that’ll work anywhere from zone 3 to zone 9 so be sure to check the Plant Highlights on every product page for the hardiness zone to ensure it will grow where you live.

Take into consideration the area you’re hoping to plant in. If you’re working with more space, go with a Magnolia grown as a single stem. If you’re wanting to create a privacy screen, or are limited in space, try planting a Magnolia grown as a multi-stem.

When ordering, make sure to check the plant size of your desired tree. This is where you’ll find multi-stemmed listed if it is being grown as one. 

A few of our favorites are:

2. Find the Right Site

Site your Magnolia in a spot that gets full sun or partial shade. While many of these trees are fairly cold-hardy, they’ll appreciate some protection from the chilly winter winds if possible. 

It’s important that the soil you are planting in drains well. If it doesn’t drain well, consider raising the planting area by adding more soil in a raised berm or raised planting bed to improve drainage. Good drainage is required to make Magnolias work.

Not sure if you’ve got ideal growing conditions? Check out our blog on all things well-drained soil!

3. Dig Your Hole

Bareroot Magnolias should be planted in the early spring but container-grown trees can be successfully planted throughout the growing season. 

You’ll want to dig your hole as deep as the roots--NO deeper--and twice as wide to allow the root ball some space to grow once planted. 

4. Remove Magnolia from Container

Once you’ve got a good-looking hole dug, grab your tree and carefully remove it from the container it’s in. Once it’s free, gently tease the roots to facilitate new growth.

This might change the height of the root ball, we highly suggest placing your plant--without the container--in the hole to measure one last time. Don’t be afraid to set your tree aside for a couple of minutes to adjust the size of the hole. 

One of the quickest ways to tick off a new tree is to plant it too deep or not deep enough!

5. Place in Hole and Backfill With Soil

Once you’ve determined the hole is the correct size, go ahead and place the tree and backfill with soil. Only fill to the soil line, planting your Magnolia too deep can kill your plant.

6. Water in Well and Mulch

Once the dirt is in place, give it a quick pat down with your shoe and grab the hose. Newly planted trees LOVE a thorough watering after being transplanted. It gives them a much-needed drink and gets rid of any lingering air pockets next to the roots. 

Magnolias have fleshy roots that are in particular need of protection. Adding a 3-4 inch layer of mulch, starting an inch away from the trunk, is a great way to offer that protection. Plus it conserves water and decreases competition for nutrients by decreasing weeds. 

Do you have access to mulch? Many times local tree services who do tree trimming grind up the leaves, branches and trunks of the trees they trim. These arborist chips are fantastic to use as mulch over the top of the roots of your landscape plants, in your shrub and perennial borders, and in large and small gardens. 

Be sure that you keep that mulch away from the trunks of trees, and from the stems of the plants coming from the ground. Just like with dirt, it does not need to be piled up against the trunks and can actually kill the plants if done so.

#ProPlantTips for Magnolia Tree Care

Ok, once the tree has been planted, what’s next? Always check our #ProPlantTips for care in the product description for specific instructions. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Pay Attention to Watering

Magnolias do not like to have the soil baked by the hot, drying sun. So not only mulch but additional watering may be needed especially during the hot and dry spells of summer and fall to keep your plants stress-free. Plants, like people, are more susceptible to insect and disease issues when under stress. 

It is important is to keep your newly planted plants healthy and happy. Pay close attention to the water. Too much water is just as detrimental as too little water. Check out our top watering tips!

Use the trusty “finger test” to know if your Magnolia needs more water or not. Stick your finger into the soil and feel. If it is moist, then skip watering. As soon as it begins to feel dry to the touch, be sure to water deeply and thoroughly. 

Pruning Magnolias

Most Magnolias will surprise you as to how quickly they grow after they have been established in your yard. You’ll find it hard to want to prune your Magnolias because the bigger they get the more flowers are produced. 

While most magnolias are fairly small trees, some can grow to be over 40 feet. A light pruning can be done if necessary, but only after the flowers fade. 

Pruning in late winter, before flowering, will remove the coming spring blooms. So it’s best to be patient, enjoy the flower power, and prune after the show is over.

The overall form of these magnificent plants is quite formal, especially when young. Most grow pyramidal in outline with very little pruning required. Magnolias are robust growers and can add two feet or even more in a season. 

Some of the very first flowers looked a lot like Magnolias. Add one of these historical trees to your front yard as an accent or buy a bunch to create your own magnolia grove.

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