It is very easy to grow Magnolias, as they require very little care. In fact, these trees do not need any special treatment either when they are planted or later on. Apart from pruning the trees judiciously from time to time, they virtually do not require any care. Usually, Magnolia trees are also free from diseases and pests, at least compared to many other trees. However, there is one downside of growing Magnolias - they may be very costly when you are purchasing them. The Magnolias are exceptional trees and their flowering buds as well as blooms are nothing short of exquisite.
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Prior to planting magnolias, or for that matter any other plant, it is essential to examine the spot where you plan to grow the plant. Find out if the site is suitable for growing that particular species. For example, magnolias have a preference for full sunlight. Therefore, you should ensure that the site you have selected for growing your magnolia receives enough sunlight for a greater part of the day. Among all magnolias, only those with large leaves like Magnolia macrophylla require partial shade. On the other hand, most of the magnolias loathe strong winds. Therefore, it is essential to plant magnolias in spots not troubled by winds. Beside these few requirements, magnolias do not have any other demand. People having a sloping garden and want to grow magnolias should consider themselves lucky, as magnolias can easily be planted on slopes to enable you to oversee the beautiful trees.
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Magnolias have a preference for good, well-drained soils that are acidic in nature having a pH between 5.0 and 6.5. In addition, the soil should not become desiccated. Magnolias also like to grow in full sunlight. However, some magnolias like Magnolias kobus, Magnolia seiboldii, Magnolia wilsonii, M. x loebneri like to grow in damp, alkaline soils. On the other hand, Magnolia grandiflora and Magnolia delavayi have a preference for arid, alkaline soils.
Magnolias also like to grow in soils containing plenty of organic materials. Therefore, before planting magnolias, you should necessarily prepare the soil properly by adding enough compost to it. In addition, make sure that the planting hole is bigger compared to the magnolia tree's root ball. Before planting the magnolia, add large amounts of properly decomposed manure and compost to make the soil more fertile. In case the soil in your garden is dry, you may also add some crystal with water-retaining capacity before planting the magnolia. In fact, these substances will help to retain water when you water the magnolia after the planting is over. In addition, they will also provide the roots with an extended moisture source and aid in getting them established.
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In fact, magnolias are very undemanding plants and when you put in the right effort in looking after them, the plants grow into majestic trees rewarding you with excellent blooms. When you take enough care to prepare the site, the plants will grow very robustly and also bear flowers earlier than expected. On the other hand, if you plant your magnolias in a poor soil, the plants will have a stick-like, flesh-less appearance and even their growth will be poor. Nevertheless, these plants will also flower, but, of course, not as healthily.
After filling the planting hole with compost, preferably well-rotten manure, place the magnolia in the hole that should ideally measure thrice the size of the root ball. Exercise good care while planting the magnolia in the soil, and ensure that the soil level is the same as that in the container in which the plant was grown earlier. In case the magnolia has turned out to be root-bound growing in the container (usually the roots of magnolias have an inclination to girdle or encircle the root ball or its trunk), loosen the roots gently from the bottom of the pot. Exercise great caution while teasing the roots out, as the roots of magnolia are easily broken. You may also remove the roots that are close to the magnolia trunk or over the root ball.
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Once the magnolia has been planted, ensure that is has been placed firmly into the ground by pressing the soil around it with your feet. However, be careful not to tread heavily on the soil. After the planting, water the magnolia adequately. There are several reasons for watering the magnolia soon after planting it. Most importantly, you should water it to prevent the magnolia from becoming dehydrated. You should also provide the plant with necessary nutrients. There is an assortment of fertilizers that you can use for this purpose, subject to the substances you have used to mulch the plant. There are various suitable mulches, including bark, compost, leaf mold, mushroom, barley straw, and dried pea vines. In case the magnolia you have planted is very large, provide it with a stalk, as rocking by strong winds can not only adversely affect its growth, but may also kill it.
As growing magnolias is a relatively easy task they do not require much after-care. In fact, magnolias have very simple requirements that are not difficult to fulfill. The magnolias have extremely shallow roots and, hence, you should never use a fork very vigorously or dig around the plant with a hoe. If you want to remove weeds, do so by using your hands. Nevertheless, they need to be fed occasionally. It is best to provide them with some slow-release fertilizers. While they are good for the plants, it would be excellent if you can provide magnolias with compost. During the first year of the plant's growth, it is important that you ensure that it does not become dry or dehydrated. However, if you have mulched the plant, you will not require watering it much. Only an occasional watering will be enough for the robust growth of the magnolia.
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These days, the trend is to grow plants in containers, and in such conditions, it is possible to plant your magnolias at any time of the year. However, it is best to plant your magnolias during fall, as the soil still remains sufficiently warm during this time of the year and it helps to promote the growth of the roots. On the other hand, many magnolia species and cultivars are grown in field conditions and, hence, these plants should never be dug out till the beginning of winter. Therefore, you will need to holdover the plants you purchase in the fall and possibly grow them in pots before transplanting them in your garden. This is the main reason why spring is considered to be the best season for planting magnolias. Once you have planted your magnolia, water and mulch it properly. After this, you can leave you magnolia to grow on its own, without bothering about too much after-care.
Irrespective of the climatic condition in your region, there may be some years when there is late frost that can harm the blooms. It has been found that late frosting generally affects the magnolia cultivars and species that bloom quite early in the season. Unfortunately, climatic conditions are actually varied to a great extent making it difficult to make any precise forecast regarding the occurrence of frosts each year. Therefore, if you are growing Asiatic magnolias, you should expect the flowers to be damaged to some extent by frosts in some years.
On the other hand, there are a number of magnolia varieties that are hardly affected by frosts, for instance, Magnolia stellata and its cultivars as well as Magnolia x loebneri and its varieties. Therefore, these magnolias are perfect for growing in places where late frosts are a regular affair. Alternatively, you may select magnolia varieties that blossom late into the season after the date of last frost in the region is over.
As far as pruning of magnolias is concerned, there are two different views. One group advocates pruning magnolias, while there is another group that asserts that magnolias should not be pruned. If there is enough space in your garden and your magnolia has lots of open area around it, there can be nothing better, for magnolias look excellent when their lower branches are left to grow on their own and not cut back. This makes the tree look clothed from its apex to base.
On the other hand, if sufficient space is a problem, it is advisable that you should allow the magnolia tree to have just one stem, provided there is adequate variety for cultivation. After the tree has grown to a considerable height, get rid of the lower branches and keep the trunk clean up to roughly 3 feet (1 meter) above the ground. Keep in mind that pruning the magnolia will not damage the tree. However, you need to keep an eye on the tree to see if "water shoots" (stems emerging from the place where the branches have been cut) appear. If they do, just get rid of them all. If you are growing species such as Magnolia stellata or any of its hybrids, which usually have a bush-like appearance, it will certainly be irreverential to advise that you cut down the lower branches. If you do so, you will be having a small tree instead of a shrub.
There are several reasons for pruning magnolias. It has been noticed that sometimes magnolias develop what is known as "double leaders" - meaning they may have two main or top growths. Usually, one of these two growths is inclined to be weaker compared to the other. Therefore, it is advisable that you should get rid of the weaker branch. Moreover, when the magnolia tree has grown older, it is possible that one of the two top growths is broken by strong winds. In such situations, you have no option, but to cut down the damaged growth. On the other hand, if the branches develop in a manner that they cross one another, they may rub against one another and cause damage as well as affect the growth of the tree. So, remove one of these branches. While pruning is often beneficial for magnolias, it must always be done in spring after their flowering season is over. At the same time, remember that the branches of magnolia are very fragile and can be broken due to ice storms. This is another reason why you should prune the weaker as well as damaged branches quite early.
In the wild, magnolias are found growing in woodland areas having plenty of leaf molds, which provide the trees with requisite nutrients. While planting magnolias, we now use some mulch in the planting hole. Therefore, you do not need to mulch the plants again, but only provide them with some amount of slow-releasing fertilizers every year - especially during the spring and again in fall. If you are planting magnolias in a field, you need not cut or remove the grass around the tree trunks. However, if possible, just mow these grasses or use a spray on them with the view to stop their rapid growth. On the other hand, if you are growing magnolias in your garden, where the trees may be under planted, you need to control weeds. However, a different approach needs to be adopted to control weeds while growing magnolias. Since the roots of the magnolias are very shallow, never use a hoe to remove weeds. On the contrary use some gentler method, such as removing weeds by hand (as mentioned above).