Care and planting of magnolia trees

nailiaschwarz/iStock/Getty Images

Magnolias are flowering trees or shrubs that feature large, colourful blooms. Many varieties of magnolias grow wild in some parts of the world, but many smaller varieties can be grown in home gardens. With proper care, magnolia trees will thrive in the UK's temperate climate.

Site selection

Choose a site in full sunlight for your magnolia tree. Although some magnolias will tolerate partial shade, they may lose lower branches and blooming may be infrequent. In cold northern areas, uphill planting in a spot that receives morning sun will help to protect the tree from frost. Plant magnolia trees in a location sheltered from wind and away from other trees. If planted too close to other trees, magnolias may grow more like a shrub than a tree and experience reduced flowering. Magnolias prefer well drained, loamy, slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Test soil acidity with a home testing kit at your local garden centre.


Dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball of your magnolia tree. Amend the soil with compost around the roots to add nutrients. Fill in the hole and add several centimetres of mulch to the top of the soil around the tree. Water thoroughly. Young magnolia trees are often fragile, so consider staking the tree to provide additional support. Place stakes in the ground about 1 metre away from the tree. Wrap twine around the trunk of the tree and tie the twine to each stake. Allowing the tree to bend slightly will make it grow stronger, so do not tie the twine too tight. Remove the stakes after nine months to one year.

Watering and fertilising

Water young magnolias frequently. Keep the soil evenly moist to allow the tree to cope with transplant shock. Established magnolia trees only need supplemental watering during especially dry periods. Fertilise young magnolia trees in the autumn. Sprinkle general-purpose granular fertiliser under the tree and past the reach of the branches. If properly mulched, established magnolias do not require fertilisation.

Fighting pests

Magnolia trees are generally disease free, but slugs will eat magnolia leaves in early spring. Add slug-killer at the base of the tree after rainfall and continue to do so until the leaves have fully formed. Magnolia trees contain sap that tends to attract rabbits. Rabbits will gnaw and cause damage to the tree bark, so consider adding a circle of wire netting around the tree. The netting should be at least a metre tall to keep rabbits away from the tree.


To train young magnolias into a particular shape, prune in the summer. Avoid pruning well-established magnolia trees, as wounds are unlikely to heal properly. Cover all wounds with tree-wound paint to prevent wood diseases.

Most recent