Planting magnolia trees puts the homeowner in the company of many who adore this extremely popular tree. Considered a premiere landscape tree in the southern United States, magnolias – of which more than 100 cultivars exist – can be found all over the world growing in conditions with which it can exist.
Within the U.S., it grows all along states bordering the edges of the country from Washington in the West to New York in the East. Two states – Louisiana and Mississippi – have designated it as their state tree, with Mississippi also incorporating it into its nickname, the “Magnolia State.”
When planting a magnolia tree, keep in mind that this tree is one in which plenty of room will be needed. A magnolia tree’s roots grow more prolifically than those of many other trees, with the roots spreading out beneath the ground far wider in diameter than the canopy of the tree. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of yard space for this, otherwise you may find yourself spending lots of time root pruning, a tedious task, at best.
Because these trees grow so densely and become so tall, planting a magnolia tree as a windbreak or screen makes an excellent method of taking the brunt out of high winds or foiling the prying eyes of nosy neighbors.
Reaching heights of 90 feet (27 meters) with spreads as wide as two-thirds of its height, this tree performs very well for these uses. Its natural, pyramidal shape helps in that its branches grow almost to the ground, providing privacy and protection from winds with its thick, dense foliage.
The leaves of the Magnolia grandiflora further entice homeowners into planting a magnolia tree. Large and glossy, they range from five to eight inches long (13-20 centimeters) and have a brown, velvety underside that makes them interesting in both texture and appearance. Since magnolias are evergreen, there is not a large fall drop, but rather a small, yet continual loss of leaves throughout the year.
The leaves are rather leathery, so leaving them to be mulched with a lawnmower may not be acceptable to some people, who prefer leaves that can be more finely and uniformly ground. Magnolia leaves, because of their tough, fibrous texture and large size, if left on the ground, can promote disease and insect populations, so the best solution is to bag them and leave for trash pick up.
Some landscapers have equated planting a magnolia tree to that of planting a giant azalea – they need rich, low-pH (acid) soil, some babying at the first (watch the water! No drowning, but no drying out, either!), and a little luck. Watch for circling roots when planting, also.
Because magnolias tend to have roots that can encircle one another and eventually kill the tree, trim off any that appear to be trying to do that at planting time. Otherwise, you may be finding yourself using a stump grinder to grind out surfacing roots that may be trying to girdle the tree in later years.
After digging a hole twice as large as the root ball, planting the tree, backfilling the hole with a good mulch (pine bark makes an excellent one), watering in well with root stimulator (follow the directions on the container), you’re on your way to planting a magnolia tree that will truly make you proud in years to come. Be patient and take care of it, and your magnolia tree will repay you generously with lifelong gifts of fragrance, shade, and beauty.