How to Grow and Care for Magnolia Trees

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Everyone’s familiar with the fragrant blossoms of the magnolia tree. This is a truly majestic plant that’s surprisingly easy to grow in your own yard. Magnolias have a bold look thanks to their exotic flowers and dramatic foliage. They’re native to East Asia and North America. Some specimens can reach 80 feet in height and spread up to 40 feet. In this article, we’ll take a look at some essential growing and care tips so you can enjoy the beauty of magnolia flowers in your landscape.

1. Magnolia Types

With more than 200 species, magnolias are prized in the entire world for their spectacular qualities. Depending on the type of magnolia, there are evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous varieties. You need to take into account several factors when deciding what kind of magnolia tree is right for you but the area where you live is by far the most important. There are magnolia species adapted for all kinds of climates though the plant generally grows best in USDA zones 7 through 9. Check out the most popular magnolia types to consider for your garden.

Southern Magnolia

This is the most familiar magnolia tree that can reach impressive heights and offers large blooms with fuzzy fruits. It’s an evergreen tree that boasts a striking pyramidal shape easily making it a point of interest in any garden. You can expect to see the characteristic magnolia flowers around April as that’s the blooming period. The southern magnolia is a fairly messy tree but you can let it grow big branches that conceal the fallen leaves underneath.

Saucer Magnolia

Another popular type of magnolia tree, this one stands out for its earlier blooming period. You can admire its pink-tinged blossoms as early as March. The saucer magnolia is a deciduous tree and doesn’t grow as tall as the southern type. It can only reach a maximum of 25 feet tall. The blooms of this tree have a mild fragrance and they have a characteristic saucer-like shape.

Star Magnolia

Showing off some of the most elegant flowers, star magnolias are very popular among those who prefer small trees or shrubs. Native to Japan, this magnolia type is easy to take care of and produces blooms with lovely shapes and alluring colors. There are lots of cultivars that grow taller and some that are particularly appreciated for their fragrance.

2. Planting a Magnolia Tree

It’s essential to find a good spot for your magnolia tree. These plants prefer full sunlight with a bit of shade. If your climate is drier, it’s a good idea to plant the magnolia tree in a more protected location so it can take advantage of some afternoon shade. Magnolias like moist soils that are slightly acidic. While the trees have some difficulties thriving in poorly drained soils, they can still adapt to clay or sandy soils.

When it comes to irrigation requirements, magnolias benefit from decent watering initially but they can handle some drought periods without problems. It’s important to choose a spot with enough space for the magnolia to be able to grow to its full size. While the plant is very small in the beginning, it will grow very large in size and width. Deciduous magnolias should be planted in late fall in warm zones and early spring if you live in a cold area. Evergreen varieties should always be planted in early spring.

3. Caring for the Magnolia Tree

Pruning isn’t absolutely necessary for magnolia trees, but it can make an important difference to obtain an attractive shape as the tree matures. This process will help the magnolia develop more blooms and generally improve its health. The secret to a successful pruning lies in the timing. Make sure you only prune young magnolias in the spring. Pruning works best for evergreen magnolia types so you should most likely skip this process for deciduous varieties.

Magnolia plants shouldn’t be affected by too many pests or diseases. Sometimes you can notice leaf problems but minor spots don’t require treatment. The bark of magnolia trees can be considered vulnerable to breakage so you need to be careful about accidental damage. While magnolias can’t be transplanted once their root system and trunk develop, the plant can be propagated easily through seeds and late-summer cuttings.


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