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How to Care for a Magnolia Plant: The Ultimate Guide


Are you thinking about adding a magnolia plant to your home and garden? These stunning, fragrant plants are perfect for almost any outdoor space. Growing a Magnolia tree or shrub in your home isn’t tricky at all. However, there are some things you should know before purchasing and planting one in your garden. For instance, they require plenty of sunlight and humidity to thrive. They also prefer soil that is slightly acidic with a pH of 6 or 7. Additionally, they have specific watering requirements so that their big leaves don’t get overwatered and begin to rot (which can happen if you don’t water them from the bottom). Below is more information on how to care for a magnolia plant.

How to Care for a Magnolia Plant

What to Know Before Buying a Magnolia Plant

There are two species of magnolia most grown in gardens: the Southern Magnolia, and the Japanese Magnolia. They are both beautiful but have very different care requirements. If you aren’t careful when purchasing a magnolia, you could end up with a plant that dies.

Southern Magnolia

Southern magnolias are native to the southeastern United States. They have large, fragrant leaves and produce substantial, showy flowers. They require well-drained soil and plenty of sun.

Sothern Magnolia

Japanese Magnolia

Japanese magnolias have smaller leaves and flowers than Southern magnolias. However, they have a more interesting bark and more interesting texture. They also tend to grow better in colder climates, ideal for the UK.

Japanese Magnolia

How to Grow a Magnolia Tree from Seed

The best way to start a magnolia tree is by planting seeds. There are two methods to growing a magnolia tree from seed. You can either stratify the seeds or you can germinate the seeds.

Stratifying seeds

If you live in a warmer climate, growing a magnolia tree from seed may be a challenge. Magnolia seeds need to experience some freezing and thawing in order to break dormancy. If you live in a warm climate and want to grow a magnolia tree from seed, you may want to try stratifying them in the winter. To stratify seeds, place seeds in a paper bag and leave them outside in the cold. Check the bag every few weeks to see if they have thawed out. Once they do, you can plant them.

Germinating seeds

Growing a magnolia tree from seed can be easier if you live in a warm climate. Simply place the seeds in a moist paper towel and leave them in a warm, sunny location until they sprout. Once they sprout, plant them in individual pots and place them back in the sun.

Tips for Growing a Magnolia Shrub

When growing a magnolia shrub, make sure you don’t overwater it. Magnolias prefer soil that is slightly on the dry side. To ensure your magnolia gets enough water and isn’t over or underwater, plant it in a large planter or a raised bed.

If you live in a cold climate, you will want to protect your magnolia from winter injury. You can do this by wrapping the trunk of the shrub in burlap or some other material that will protect it from cold temperatures.

If you live in a warm climate, you may want to prune your shrub during the winter to avoid over-growth. Make sure to wear protective gear when pruning magnolias since their leaves are very sharp.

Care for a Magnolia Plant to Keep it Healthy

If you want to grow a healthy magnolia, you should start by choosing a place in your garden that receives plenty of sunlight. In fact, a magnolia prefers lots of sunlight to partial shade.

Next, you’ll want to make sure the soil you plant your magnolia in is slightly acidic. Use a soil test kit to check the pH of your soil. If it is too basic, you can use something like crushed oyster shells to lower the pH.

You will also want to make sure you provide your magnolia with plenty of water. However, you don’t want to overwater it. The easiest way to check if your magnolia is getting enough water is by sticking your finger in the soil. If it is dry, water the plant from the bottom.

When Something is Wrong with Your Magnolia Plant

If you notice aphids, spider mites, or other pests on your magnolia, you can use a strong spray of water to wash them off. Once they are off, you can use an organic pesticide to kill them.

If your magnolia has wilted leaves, you can water it from the bottom to rehydrate it. Or if the leaves are wrinkled, you can try applying a balanced fertiliser to give it a boost.

If your magnolia tree’s bark begins to crack and peel, you can apply a sealer like clear wood sealer to prevent it from falling off completely.

Our Top 5 Magnolia Plants

Magnolia Yellow Lantern

Beautiful Large lemon-yellow flowers that are the classic Magnolia tulip shape, appear in May all over the plant at the branch tips. The leaves when they appear are mid green and oval and may provide some decent autumn colour at the end of the summer.

This Magnolia requires a sheltered south or westerly position and can grow in partial shade but prefer full sun. They are tolerant of most soils except heavy ones that tend to sit drenched, their preference is a good rich loamy substrate.

Magnolia George Henry Kern

Magnolia George Henry Kern is a very special form of magnolia being a hybrid between the more well know ‘Stellate’ and a Lili flora magnolia which bring the best of both.

Masses of flowers cover the shrub in Spring like a stellate Magnolia, but they are also large blooms like a Lili flora type and in a lovely colour. It is compact growing too, so easy to manage for the smaller garden reaching just 6ft in around 10 years in the average garden – which makes it great for patio growing if you want some thing a little different in your planters.

Magnolia Susan – Large Plant

A bushy, upright shrub with large mid-green leaves. From mid-spring to mid-summer, narrow goblet-shaped, fragrant flowers emerge from slender, dark purple-red buds. These open to slightly twisted petals of purple-red on the outside and paler on the inside. A glorious deciduous magnolia ideal for a small or larger garden. 

Magnolia x Brooklynensis ‘Black Beauty’

This is a fantastic late Spring blooming Magnolia with stunning near-black, tulip-like flowers, and one of the darkest available on any magnolia!

The near black blooms are actually, a very dark purple with contrasting chalk-white interiors. Black Beauty flowers later than many other varieties, meaning it’s blooms are less likely to be affected by late spring frosts which can sometimes cut the lifespan of traditional varieties blooms if we get a chilly Spring.

Masses of flowers cover this large shrub or small tree, and they are also large blooms like a liliflora type and in a lovely colour. It will thrive in most soils and positions from full sun to partial shade.

Magnolia Multi-Colour – Double Colour – Potted Tulip Tree

Newly introduced, this is sought after not only due to its unique colour combination, but its ability to bloom twice every year – in Spring, and again in late summer, along with its easy going robust nature. This variety really is exceptional, requiring little maintenance and aftercare it will produce an abundance of deep pink-purple and soft golden yellow flowers with petals that appear creamy-white on the inside when they open. 

The large Goblet shapes flowers 15-20cms (6-7inches) in size are a glorious sight to behold, carried on robust compact growing small trees, generally growing 2-3 metres (6-10ft) tall over time, and eventually reaching double this height over a couple of decades if you do not prune.

Magnolia flowers will bring cheer for several weeks before making way for the foliage. A truly magnificent variety for it’s abundance of flowering combined with the delightful colouration. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How to care for a young magnolia in winter

The flowers on magnolia trees are particularly vulnerable to late-winter frosts because they bloom so early in the year. However, magnolia trees are completely hardy. Planting the tree in a sunny, sheltered area is the best way to prevent this. Using horticultural sacking or even some bin liners can also protect younger plants.

Bottom line

Magnolias are beautiful flowering trees that make great additions to any yard. However, they require lots of sunlight, an acidic soil, and consistent water to thrive. If you are careful about choosing the right type of magnolia for your climate and provide it with the care it needs, it will reward you with stunning flowers for many years to come. If you are interested in growing a Magnolia, but aren’t sure where to start, we have a special guide for you! We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about growing Magnolias, so you can be sure you’re doing everything you can to make sure your new tree thrives.

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When starting in any garden it is always important to understand the unique conditions of your garden space. No two gardens are identical, with every garden having its special microclimates, soil, and growing conditions. All our guides and information are provided as general guides, and garden owners need to do their own research for each and every plant before planting. We cannot accept responsibility for plant establishment and survival in individual gardens.

Care for a Magnolia Plant

Updated on April 12, 2023

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