Proper planting of a tree is the key to its successful development. At first glance, it does not seem difficult, but you need to know the ins and outs to succeed.
Tips on how to plant a Magnolia tree
- Dig a planting hole twice as deep and wider than the root ball of the magnolia.
- Mix the native soil with a soil conditioner or compost.
- Carefully remove the magnolia from the pot and place it in the planting hole. The top of the rootball should be 1 inch above the surface of the garden soil.
- Fill the prepared soil around the magnolia’s roots and firm it gently with your foot.
- Mulch the root zone of the magnolia with 2 inches of pine bark.
- Water it with 2 gallons of water. In the first year, water the magnolia as soon as 1 inch of soil is completely dry.
- Protect the newly planted magnolia from rabbits with chicken netting.
- Place a stake near the magnolia and tie it to it to prevent wind damage.
In the following, I will tell you in detail how to plant a magnolia. I also recommend that you read the General Guide to Growing Magnolia Trees.
When to plant?
The best time to plant magnolia is early spring. This is true for both deciduous and evergreen magnolias.
In late winter or early spring, wait until the ground has already thawed but the magnolia is still in dormancy. This is the most favorable period for planting.
As for the weather, it is better to have cloudy weather. It will also be an advantage if it has rained the day before. If it has not rained, water the magnolia with 1 gallon of water the day before planting, but only if the ground is dry.
Avoid planting in hot, sunny weather. Otherwise, it will be much harder for the magnolia to take root in its new location.
The end of spring, and even more so in summer, is not the best time to plant. This is when the magnolia is in its active growth phase and disturbance to the root system can lead to negative results.
Autumn is the second best time to plant. But here it is important for you to plant the magnolia at least 30 days before the first frost. This period is necessary for the magnolia to grow some new roots.
Where to plant?
The best place to plant magnolia is where there is no stagnant water. The soil can be wet but not muddy. So do not plant it where water accumulates, for example from the roof.
As for soil, magnolia can tolerate a wide range of soils. This means that it can grow in both clay and sandy soil, that is, almost anywhere. But to get a good result, the soil should still be improved with organic matter.
The place where you intend to plant magnolia should be sunny. Avoid full shade as it will not bloom there.
On the other hand, the full sun in the southern U.S. can be too harsh. So provide the magnolia with direct sun in the morning and afternoon shade.
It is also important not to plant magnolia too close to buildings because it has rather aggressive roots. Depending on the variety, the distance will vary but should be at least 7 feet.
How to plant?
For magnolia to take root faster, it needs loose and nutritious soil around its roots in the first year. To achieve this, dig a planting hole twice as large as the magnolia’s root ball.
Mix the soil you took out of the hole with the same amount of nutrient compost. A soil conditioner made from pine bark also works well. The main thing is that these materials must be of good quality.
Carefully remove the magnolia from the pot and place it in the planting hole without delay. Beforehand, fill the bottom of the pit with some of the prepared soil mix.
The surface of the magnolia root ball should be 1 inch above the surface of the garden soil. This is to ensure that the trunk is not buried an inch in the ground.
Next, fill all the free space in the hole with the soil mixture and lightly tamp it down with your feet. Do this very lightly so as not to damage the roots.
Water the newly planted magnolia with 1 gallon of water and water again after an hour. Or use a drip hose to slowly and evenly saturate the soil around the roots with water.
Immediately after planting, mulch the root zone with organic mulch. Pine bark or wood chips are best for this.
The layer of mulch should be at least 2 inches. Avoid so-called volcano mulching, i.e. do not cover the tree trunk with mulching material.
For the first 2 years, keep an eye on the moisture content of the soil. Use your fingers for this. Once the soil is more than one inch dry, water the magnolia.
In case you planted the magnolia in sunny weather and it has already started to unfurl its leaves, shade it for 1-2 months. Use a garden umbrella to do this.
If deer or rabbits have been spotted in your area, place a chicken mesh around the magnolia. To do this, stick four poles around the trunk and wrap the chicken mesh around them. Attach the mesh to the poles with ties.
It is also good practice to tie the magnolia to the stake. This is to support the trunk and branches in bad weather.
Stick the pole close to the trunk but don’t damage the roots. Tie the magnolia trunk to the pole with staking tape. After rooting, this can be removed.