Planting magnolias: when, where & how?


For me plants are some of the most exciting living beings, even though they live in slow motion. They have fascinating abilities and just so much potential! That's why I studied organic farming. However, since plants are rather thin on the ground in my city, I often spend time hiking in the nearby mountains at the weekend. In the future I would love to run a farm myself.

Favourite fruit: strawberries and gooseberries
Favourite vegetable: courgettes

A magnolia tree will only flower in the right location. Let us outline what else to consider when planting magnolias.

magnolia tree with hundreds of flowers
Learn what to look for when growing a magnolia tree from this article [Photo: Nancy Kennedy/]

Planting magnolias (Magnolia) is more elaborate than planting some other plants. However, a careful approach will save you some trouble and bring all the more joy when the magnolia develops healthily.

Planting a magnolia tree is an investment in the future, because magnolias grow very old. To provide the plant with the right conditions, you should pay attention to a few things and prepare well for planting. Because only then can the valuable tree thrive in all its glory.

When to plant magnolias?

The best time to plant a magnolia is during its dormant period, therefore, between October and March. However, this does not mean that you have to dig into the ground in minus temperatures and frost in January or February. It makes more sense to plan for early November or early March, when winter has not yet arrived or is already on the retreat.

Planting magnolias: the right location

The location, of course, largely depends on the variety. Nevertheless, there are a few general rules:

  • Magnolias love the sun. It does not have to be full sun, a little shade throughout the day does not hurt at all. Some species are prone to frost cracking in winter when the ground is frozen and the winter sun heats up rapidly. They include, for example, the popular tulip magnolia (Magnolia xsoulangeana). It is better to plant such species in a sunny northern location, where temperature fluctuations in winter are much lower. An exception is Magnolia siboldii, which prefers shade rather than too much sun.
  • Magnolia really enjoys moist soil. Soils prone to waterlogging should be provided with a drainage layer when planting.
  • A location that is protected from the wind is perfect for magnolia. Some varieties, especially large-flowered magnolias, need a little more wind protection than others.
  • Give your magnolia enough space. Plants grow quite old and can only develop properly if they have enough space. You should plan at least five to eight square metres for each tree.
pink magnolia flowers
Magnolia trees will bloom exuberantly in the right location [Photo: JohaiDee Family/]

Procedure for planting magnolias

Planting magnolia trees should be done carefully. For the plant to thrive, it is worth giving it a suitable starting hole. Dig a sufficiently large planting hole. It should be about twice as high and twice as wide as the plant’s root ball. For this, the surrounding soil should be sufficiently loosened.

Magnolias need a pH value between 5.5 and 6.8, therefore the soil should be slightly acidic. You can achieve this by pouring a sack of peat soil into the hole and mixing it with the excavated soil as you fill around the tree. Unfortunately, peat soil contains a lot of peat, which is why it tends not to be recommended for environmental reasons.

Now place the root ball in the hole and arrange the whole thing so that the soil mixture is distributed all around the root ball. However, do not pile soil up around the trunk, because the tree should not be planted deeper than it was previously. Next, lightly press the soil and water abundantly. Although magnolias like sun on top, they like cool and moist roots – a thick layer of bark mulch will help for this. Later, when the magnolia is well grown, a ground cover around the trunk also makes for good shelter.

brown layer of shredded bark mulch
A thick layer of bark mulch will protect the magnolia’s roots from heat and drought [Photo: gibleho/]

Planting magnolia summary:

  • Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball
  • Mix acidic peat soil into the hole
  • Place root ball in the hole and cover with soil
  • Never plant the tree deeper than it was previously planted
  • Lightly press around the planted tree and water well
  • Sprinkle bark mulch around the plant

Caring for magnolia after planting

After planting, magnolias do not initially require further care. The following year, the plant will cope well with the nutrients it has already received. Too many nutrients does more harm than good. If you planted the tree in a dry autumn it will, of course, need plenty of water initially – so in this case, you should water it from time to time. The same applies to a dry spring.

Once the magnolia is a little older, it should be fertilised annually in the spring. For this purpose, compost or a slow-release fertiliser such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is ideal.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Learn more about fertilising and pruning magnolias here.

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