How to Plant a Magnolia Tree – Facts, Planting, Care & Pruning

How to grow a magnolia tree

Complete magnolia tree growing guides including how to plant, how to prune, how to grow, when to prune, and when to plant

The Magnolia tree is a majestic focal point that works in a variety of landscapes. Knowing how to grow a magnolia tree is contingent on knowing what species are fitting for your area. Despite being acquainted with southern regions, specific varieties of magnolias do flourish in the north.

Traditional Southern magnolia trees grow best in zones 6-10; however, hybrids such as the star magnolia can thrive in areas as cold as zone 4. It is always best to inquire about compatible species while at the nursery to ensure the tree’s chances at longevity.

Magnolia tree facts

Botanical Name: Magnolia grandiflora
Common Name(s): Southern Magnolia
Height: 60 to 80 feet
Bloom Time: Early spring
Soil Conditions: Moist soil
Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Fact: The magnolia is regarded as a very brave flower and hence, a symbol of courage.
Source: Mullany, Francis. Symbolism in Korean ink brush painting. Folkestone: Global Oriental, 2006. Print.

Fact: The Magnolia yulan is called “yingchunhua”, or the Flower that Welcomes the Spring.
Source: Chinese symbolism and art motifs. Fourth revised ed. Boston: Tuttle, 2006. Print.

Fact: In conventional flower symbolism, the magnolia is “emblematic of feminine beauty and sweetness”.
Source: Contemporary French poetics. Amsterdam/New York, NY: Rodopi, 2002. Print.

When to Plant a Magnolia Tree

Because magnolia trees are suited and typically grow in milder climates, knowing when to plant a magnolia tree is not as important as where it is planted. However, some seasons and climates will be better for planting than others. Timing should, of course, be taken into consideration.

If the magnolia tree is being planted in a location that has milder winters, it can be planted at any time of year. However, young tree saplings require ample water and not many fluctuations in temperature.

During its early months, the tree needs a safe environment during which it is establishing its root system more than it is growing above ground. Thus, planting magnolia trees during the autumn months will help the trees to solidify their position.

During this season, there will be plenty of precipitation with not many extreme temperature fluctuations. Young magnolia trees prefer moist, acidic soil, which makes planting in the summer months more difficult, as the gardener will have to ensure that the tree is getting ample water supply.

Magnolia Tree Life Cycle

Knowing the life cycle of the magnolia tree will help in deciding what time of year is best for planting. Magnolia trees typically flower in the early spring to early summer months, will continue to grow throughout the summer, and then will remain dormant for fall and winter. In this cycle, it is best for trees to gain a hold in new soil in the fall when they have the entirety of winter to settle before producing flowers in the spring. This timing will prove least stressful to the new tree and most beneficial for its first spring flowering season.

How to Plant a Magnolia Tree

Knowing how to plant a magnolia tree is vital to the tree’s survival and health. Location for the tree is just as important as the method of planting, as the tree will be spending the rest of its life in that place.

Magnolia trees require at least five hours of full sun per day and moist, well-drained, acidic soils.

These trees will handle wet to dry fluctuations in moisture well and will tolerate high moisture areas. Mature trees can reach a height of 50 feet and width of 40 feet, so plant the magnolia tree in a location where it will have plenty of room to grow without hitting other trees or nearby buildings.

Once purchased, pick a spot, preferably on the north side in an sunny area. Ensure the shallow roots aren’t in danger of being damaged by soil compaction. They appreciate a reasonably fertile, neutral soil that is well-drained, and nutrient-laden. Be sure to avoid highly alkaline soil because of diseases such as chlorosis

Planting the Seedling

The planting hole for a magnolia tree should be dug to measure at least twice the width and depth of the tree’s root ball. All rocks, weeds, and other roots should be cleared from the hole, and soil in the hole should be turned a depth of six inches to aerate for the root system.

The magnolia tree’s root ball should be placed in the center of the hole with the top of the root ball at the same level as surface soil. Before filling in the hole with the remaining soil, break apart dirt clods and make sure soil is well separated and sifted to ensure maximum airflow around the new root ball. Soil should not be packed firmly but gently around the root system at the base of the tree.

The sapling should be secured with two stakes and twine to help it stand up to wind and establish a firm position in the ground in maturity. The area should be mulched to prevent weeds and watered with ample moisture to develop and solidify the ground soil.

Continued Maintenance

To maintain, always water deeply, without water-logging. If you see weak or significant dieback, despite otherwise sufficient conditions, your tree may be in need of fertilizer. Controlled-release fertilization products are best to prevent excessive application and leaf damage.

When to Prune a Magnolia Tree

Pruning is an essential part of caring for any young tree, but knowing when to prune a magnolia tree is critical to achieving successful results. If pruned at the wrong time or seasons, magnolia trees may not be able to recover from the damage and can become susceptible to weather and parasites that may lead to the trees’ death.

Prune Younger Trees

Only young magnolia trees should be pruned to help the tree grow in a straight, vertical line. Pruning mature trees can lead to irreparable damage that the tree may never recover from. In addition, mature trees do not require pruning to maintain their health. Thus, only magnolia trees that are a few years old should be pruned. After the tree has established its course and position, it will be better left to its own devices to maintain longevity.

Seasonal Pruning

Magnolia trees require to be pruned on a different schedule than other trees. Instead of waiting until late fall or early spring, these trees should be pruned at the end of their flowering season. In most Southern climates, this means late spring to mid-summer are prime pruning seasons for magnolia trees.

Magnolia trees will cease flowering around April to June. This is when they are at their healthiest and most resilient to the pruning process. Waiting too late into the summer and fall seasons may result in pruning off buds that would become flowers the following spring and inhibiting the tree’s growth for the coming year. Pruning magnolia trees should always be done sparingly, allowing the tree to regrow over its dormancy before the next flowering season.

How to Prune a Magnolia Tree

Because magnolia trees are different from most trees, they require a specific method of pruning. Knowing how to prune a magnolia tree correctly will ensure the tree’s longevity and healthy development year after year. Pruning is an essential process for disposing of diseased branches and making sure the tree grows straight and tall.

Different Pruning for Magnolia Trees

First, magnolia trees should be trimmed in sections, not the entire tree at once. About one-third of the tree should be trimmed each season, and following years different parts can be pruned. Pruning only specific sections will allow the tree to recover from the pruning process and focus on healing only one section at a time. Pruning the entire tree at once can make the magnolia tree more susceptible to disease as they do not recover from pruning as well as other trees.

How to Prune Branches

Secondly, magnolia tree branches should be pruned right to the trunk, not halfway up the branch. Cutting closer to the base of the tree will allow the tree to continue growing straight and vertical.

Magnolia branches, which are cut further from the tree or at the tip of the limb, will not heal properly and can endanger the life of the entire tree. The goal of pruning magnolia trees is to keep the tree directed vertically so that it can reach its maximum height.

Some branches may be too thick for pruning shears, as they need to be cut so close to the trunk. A decent handsaw or electric pole saw will make this process easier and allow for a cleaner cut. Some tree sealant can be used to cover wounds, preventing leakage of sap and the intrusion of pests and parasites.

About Seth 58 Articles
Hey, Seth here! As a homesteader and self sufficient farmer, my main interests are in gardening, tree care and lawn care. There is nothing I appreciate more than having a beautiful and healthy home garden. I spend most of my days gardening, caring for my small orchard and a few animals that I keep. I thoroughly enjoy working on my garden as well as sharing tips and experiences with people who have the same passion. My education in environmental science and technology has also led me to explore agriculture from a different perspective and exchange information with people from around the world.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the information to
    How to plant a Magnolia Tree to me those threes are from Heaven in the springtime and delight to sit under it during the other seasons.

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