The magnolia is an ancient genus of tree that has been around for over 20 million years. The distinctive goblet or star-shaped flowers are some of the first to appear each spring, turning the small trees into a riot of pink or white blooms.
A magnolia tree is a perfect choice for a novice gardener; these trees rarely suffer from pest or diseases and require little or no pruning whatsoever. Grow this deciduous tree in almost any reasonably fertile garden soil with minimal work or fuss, provided it is not alkaline.
Quick Magnolia Tree Facts:
- Latin name: Magnolia
- Hardiness: Fully hardy. Suitable for growing across the UK and Ireland
- Height: Dependant on variety, usually no larger than 15ft
- Spread: Dependant on variety, usually no larger than 10ft
- Flowering: Early spring
- Ideal for: Planting in a pot or the garden.
- Difficulty: Easy
How to Care for a Magnolia Tree
Autumn and early winter (October - December) is the ideal time to plant your magnolia as there is less risk of damaging the roots when the plant is dormant. If you receive your magnolia in summer, remove all packaging immediately and place the potted tree outside in a sunny spot. Keep well watered and plant when the tree goes into dormancy.
Magnolia Tree Planting
Choose a sunny, sheltered site to plant your magnolia tree to minimise the risk of early spring frosts and wind damage.
An hour before planting, water the tree thoroughly. Dig a hole roughly twice the width of the plant's container in the sunniest spot in your garden, somewhere with well-draining soil that won't become waterlogged. If the soil is poor quality, it's advisable to add a layer of compost to the subsoil and Rootgrow according to packet instructions, which will help the tree to develop a second root system.
Remove the entire plant from its container and gently tease out the roots. Prune any that are damaged or broken, then plant before back filling any gaps with the soil you removed earlier.
Pot Growing Magnolia Trees
Smaller varieties of magnolia such as Susan Magnolia Tree can also be grown in large containers and are great for adding a pop of colour to a small garden space, especially on a patio.
Some tips for repotting:
- Always use soil or compost designed for ericaceous plants, or with a PH balance of 4.5-5.5.
- The soil around the plants should be slightly moist; water thoroughly an hour before repotting to achieve this.
- Loosen the soil around the edge of the pot and pull the magnolia out by the base of the main stem.
- If you're moving the plant to a bigger pot, add some extra soil into the bottom of the pot before you insert the plant.
- Fill with your chosen soil or compost.
- Water the plant thoroughly and keep it well watered for several weeks.
We advise that you repot your magnolia regularly, as peat free compost tires quickly. Look out for the following signs that your magnolia needs repotting:
- Does the plant look less healthy than it used to?
- Does it seem to dry out quicker?
- Are there roots growing out of the holes in the bottom of the pots?
Remember to always choose deep pots with drainage holes! Once the plant is fully grown, repotting it may be a big job. Instead, you could think about refreshing the nutrients by replacing 30-50% of the compost every other year, so the tree doesn't exhaust its supply of nutrients.
Feeding Magnolia Trees
Magnolias grown in the ground don't require much when it comes to feeding, however, a layer of mulch every year will go a long way. Adding a layer of mulch like described below will help to improve the texture of the soil and keep it nice and nutrient rich for your tree.
If you are growing your magnolia tree in a pot then make sure to feed it throughout the growing season. Use a liquid ericaceous fertiliser, such as Miracle-Gro Liquid Ericaceous Plant food.
Mulching around Magnolia Trees
Mulching is the term used for the layer of organic material that's placed on top of the soil around your plants every year. It has a whole host of benefits, including keeping the soil moist throughout summer and discouraging blackspot and weeds. The best time to do this is in late spring (April-May) or autumn (October).
First, prepare the ground by removing debris and weeds and water the surface of the soil if it's dry. If mulching in spring, apply the spring feed if this has not been done, then hoe the ground lightly to mix in.
Apply a thin layer of well-rotted manure or good garden compost all around the plant - we suggest using John Innes No. 3.
How to Water your Magnolia Tree
We advise you to water your freshly magnolia regularly until the plant has a chance to become established. Once this point is passed, the plant will only require watering through spring and summer. When the weather is temperate, water only if the soil around the roots feels dry, but if temperatures are over 20°C water deeply once a week.
When plants are grown in containers, they will have more restricted access to water than those growing in the garden so will need watering regularly. As a rule of thumb, stick your finger into the first inch of topsoil and if it feels medium-dry, water immediately.
How to Prune a Magnolia Tree
Pruning of magnolia trees should rarely be required as they naturally grow in an open bushy habit. The only routine pruning will involve removing dead wood and water shoots to keep the tree in good health.
When it is time to conduct some pruning, try and cut branches back to a natural fork to ensure an attractive shape.
When to Prune a Magnolia Tree
The best time of year to prune your magnolia is between mid-summer and early autumn. Pruning in winter or spring can result in the cuts bleeding.
Magnolia Trees in Winter
All the magnolias in our range are deciduous trees; they will lose their leaves in winter and go into dormancy. Magnolia trees are fully hardy, but as they flower very early in the year, the flowers are particularly susceptible to late winter frosts.
The best way to prevent this is to plant the tree in a very sheltered and sunny location. Younger plants can also be protected with horticultural sacking or even some bin liners.
We have plenty more tree and plant care guides for floribunda roses, citrus trees and more.