The magnolia is an ornamental tree native to different parts of the world between North America and Asia. Deciduous or evergreen, the magnolia blooms generously from early spring to mid-summer. Its large calyx-shaped flowers range from pure white to purple and all shades of pink. Some varieties are also very fragrant. The magnolia likes mild climates and rich soil. In some regions, you can observe magnolias over 20 meters high. On the shores of the great lakes of northern Italy, there are long roads lined with high magnolia hedges, in bloom from May-June, a wonder appreciated by tourists. Fortunately, there are also medium-sized magnolias that are very suitable for small gardens.
The magnolia is a particularly elegant ornamental tree that has its place in every garden and on every terrace. There are dozens of varieties of magnolias, deciduous or evergreen, fragrant or not, very large or small. Check for cold hardiness before choosing your variety. Our practical advice will help beginners and experienced gardeners alike to grow magnolia successfully in their garden and on their terrace.
Magnolia trees like rich soil – neutral to acidic – with good drainage and sunny locations. Prepare the soil well before planting so that you can enjoy your tree for many, many years. Once you’ve chosen a location that is sheltered from drafts, dig a large pit at least three times the size of the tree’s root ball. If your soil is not too calcareous, add a good layer of decomposed manure or garden soil. Spade the edges of the pit well, place the tree in the middle of the hole, making the surface of the root ball flush. Install a stake to support the tree, fill the hole with potting soil mixed with the soil of the hole, do not pack too much and water very copiously. Then mulch the soil with bark or pine needles. If your soil is chalky or too clayey, dig a large pit at least 70 cm deep, add garden soil enriched with compost and peat before installing the tree. Fill in with potting soil and do not use the soil from the pit. Do not overpack, water and mulch the soil around the tree.
Magnolia in a pot
Some small magnolia varieties are very well suited to growing in a pot. Use a large tub or pot, place a layer of clay balls at the bottom and use a potting soil enriched with compost and peat, allowing the magnolia to grow harmoniously.
Pruning and maintenance of magnolia
Magnolia does not require much pruning. Wait until flowering to rectify the tree’s silhouette. Remove dead or broken branches. Magnolia is a hardy tree that does not require much maintenance. Remember to renew the mulch at the foot of the tree, especially if your soil is calcareous.
Watering and fertilizing the magnolia
Water well the first two years of planting, especially from spring onwards and in very dry weather. If the weather is very hot and dry, spray the foliage to avoid water stress. In autumn, bring decomposed compost to each shrub, spread it at the foot and lightly scratched.
Diseases and pests affecting the magnolia
Magnolia is resistant to disease and pest attacks. If you notice spots or holes in the foliage, remove the damaged leaves and spray with nettle or horsetail manure.
To know about the magnolia
The name of the magnolia comes from the botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), doctor to the king, famous director of the botanical garden of Montpellier, the oldest French botanical garden.
Varieties of magnolias to choose
If your soil is not a problem, choose a ‘grandiflora’ magnolia with dark green, varnished deciduous leaves. These white, calyx-shaped flowers have a delicious fragrance in summer.
- For spring blooms, try ‘soulangeana’ magnolias whose flowers appear before the leaves.
- The variety ‘liliflora nigra’, with purple flowers is very suitable for small gardens, as it does not exceed 2 meters.
- The magnolia ‘Sundew’ has beautiful pale pink flowers with a dark pink heart.
- And for a firework display of flowers in the spring, adopt a ‘Stellata’ magnolia with star-like flowers.
- The ‘rosea’ variety is a late winter bloomer.
If your soil is chalky or very clayey, choose ‘loebneri’ magnolias, which handle heavy soil better than others.
Gardener’s tip on magnolia
Magnolias hate drafts. In cold and humid regions, plant it facing south and mulch the soil abundantly.
How often should the magnolia be watered?
Magnolias have a fairly high water requirement, which, as flat-rooted plants, they cannot meet on their own, especially in hot summer months. Therefore, you must make sure that the plant is kept constantly moist in the summer. Even in winter, the magnolia should be watered from time to time, but only on frost-free days.
Is it useful to mulch magnolia?
For the same reasons, it is advisable to mulch the magnolia tree in the root zone, for example, with a layer of bark mulch. Magnolias in any case should not dry out.
When and how best to fertilize the magnolia?
Magnolias planted out in the garden do not usually need fertilizing, provided they are planted in soil rich in nutrients and humus. Basically, it is sufficient to spread some finely shredded grass clippings or humus-rich compost in the root zone in spring. If, on the other hand, the magnolia is in a container, regular fertilization with a fertilizer rich in minerals is essential.
When and how to prune a magnolia tree?
Since magnolias grow very slowly, annual pruning is not necessary – on the contrary, because it can even cause drastic damage. It is enough to carefully prune the magnolia tree about every three to five years, removing dead branches and twigs regularly, of course. Coat the cut surfaces with a fungicide. The best time to prune, as with all flowering trees, is when all the flowers have bloomed off. This should be around the end of June. To allow the tree to recover from the intervention, you should refrain from pruning in the fall.
Do magnolias also thrive in tubs?
Some types of magnolia, such as the purple magnolia or the rare, yellow-flowered Magnolia Daphne, are wonderfully suited to being grown in a tub. The tub should be as wide as possible so that the plant’s shallow roots have enough room to spread. Potted magnolias need regular watering and fertilizing, and in winter it is advisable to wrap the tub with a warming fleece.
How to propagate the magnolia?
Propagation is mainly done by cuttings, cuttings or by mossing. Propagation by seed, on the other hand, is not recommended, as these magnolias are very lazy about flowering.
What diseases can occur in magnolias?
Magnolias are quite susceptible to both forms of powdery mildew. Black spots on the leaves indicate leaf spot disease.
What is the best way to winter magnolias?
The younger a magnolia tree is, the more susceptible it is to frost. Therefore, you should wrap the trunks of planted, young trees with a fleece and cover the root area with a thick layer of mulch (13,00€ at Amazon*) (e.g. brushwood, bark mulch). Magnolias in containers overwinter best under cold house conditions. With age, the plants become more robust.
Tips & Tricks
Propagate your magnolia only by cuttings or by mossing if possible, as cuttings are very difficult to root. For the same reason, do not transplant the plant.