Food for magnolia trees

Written by beth asher | 13/05/2017
Food for magnolia trees
Healthy magnolias require little feeding. (Magnolia image by Jacob Randell from

Before feeding your magnolia tree determine what it really needs. If your magnolia has healthy foliage and is gaining height and circumference, fertiliser is probably not necessary. For lacklustre magnolias, perform a soil test before fertilising.

Basic Nutrients

Food for magnolia trees
Magnolias trees need basic nutrients for growth. (magnolia image by corinne matusiak from

Magnolia canopy and root growth require at least 18 nutrients, according to Hubert Conlon, Extension specialist at the University of Tennessee. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N, P, K) are the most commonly applied nutrients.


Food for magnolia trees
Magnolias fed balanced low-nitrogen fertiliser grew better in trials. (line of magnolia trees image by jimcox40 from

Magnolias responded to high-nitrogen slow-release fertiliser (20N-2P-8K) with more root growth and less canopy growth, in Tennessee growth trials. A more balanced formula of nitrogen to potassium (8N-3P-7K) applied monthly produced healthier magnolias.

Phosphorus, Potassium

Magnolias receiving 2 to 3 per cent phosphorus or potassium in the Tennessee growth trials were unaffected.

Organic Materials

Food for magnolia trees
Composted sludge and commercial fertiliser produced even growth in growth trials. (magnolia leaves image by jimcox40 from

Nutrient levels are lower and release-rates slower using organic material such as magnolia food. Manures have high N-P-K ratios are not recommended for magnolias. Cotton-seed meal is close to the University of Tennessee experts' recommended ratio. Composted sludge applied with commercial fertiliser produced even magnolia growth in the Tennessee Extension trials.

Compost Mulch

Food for magnolia trees
Unmulched magnolias did not grow as well as mulched magnolias in trials. (magnolia image by Christophe Fouquin from

A study by the International Society of Arboriculture found that mulched magnolias surpassed unmulched trees in branch and canopy growth. Finished compost with known components used as mulch benefits by providing micronutrients as it is watered into the soil.

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