Magnolia plants claim the state flower for two of the 50 United States. Both Louisiana and Mississippi have named the magnolia flower as their state flower, and while there can be many variations between the more than 210 varietals of magnolia, the most common varietal produces lush, large, cream-white blossoms with an intoxicating fragrance. Magnolia varietals can be short or tall, slow or fast growing, evergreen or deciduous, and different varietals may perform better in different climates and growing conditions. This is why it can be very useful, prior to planting, to consult with a local nursery or garden center to determine which varietals are likely to perform best in your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone as well as the specific garden location you envision for your new magnolia plant. Follow these general tips from gardening experts to plant and care for magnolia plants in your own home or garden landscape setting.
Most varietals of magnolia plants will prefer less hot sunlight, either indirect sun or partial shade as is available. Magnolia plants do not respond well to overcrowding, so being aware of the height and width of a mature Magnolia plant will produce best results when selecting a planting location. Size can vary greatly between varietals, so some magnolia plants will have more space considerations than others. Since sun will prompt blossoms to form and open, magnolias planted in colder regions in particular should be shielded from direct sunlight. Magnolia plants prefer rich, nutrient enhanced loamy soil with excellent drainage. Addition of leaf mould, organic matter, compost, and mulch are strongly encouraged when installing magnolia plants.
Planting a magnolia becomes easy once a proper location has been selected. Magnolias do not respond well to transplantation, so care must be taken when selecting their permanent home. To begin, prepare the soil with nutrients and such enrichment as may be necessary to achieve the pH requirements of the specific varietal selected. Be sure to rake or shovel through the soil to break up clumps and remove air pockets and rocks, which can interfere with the young root system's ability to become established in the surrounding soil. Most magnolia plants are planted from young established plants or trees rather than seeds or cuttings. Dig a hole approximately two to there times the width of the young root ball and almost as deep. Remove any protective materials and gently loosen and spread out the young root systems, then place the root ball into the hole. Install half of the enriched soil, then water. Continue filling the hole and add a protective layer of mulching above the topsoil, taking care to avoid mulch coming into contact with the young trunk. This will prevent fungus or collar rot from appearing. Water the young magnolia plant thoroughly after planting is complete and allow soil to drain well.
Magnolia plants across the board have high water and nutrient requirements as they grow. Continue to water magnolia plants at least two to three times a week or as needed to keep soil uniformly and consistently moist. Effective mulching can also help to lock in moisture for use by the magnolia plant. Young magnolia plants, especially tree varietals, will likely require support from staking as they grow, and staking kits can be purchased from nursery or garden centers. Adding a slow release fertilizer once per week or as directed on the package can also help magnolia plants continue to grow to their full potential. Magnolia trees have extensive but fairly shallow root systems, so it is also vital to avoid weeding or working near the tree in such a way that foot traffic or use of spades or shovels can damage the young root system as it grows. Magnolia plants should not be pruned except as necessary to remove damaged, diseased, or dead foliage, or to control its size and shape.
Magnolia plants can attract a number of common garden pests, including aphids and magnolia scale, which can create a serious problem if left uncontrolled. Treatment for pests usually involves removal of infected foliage and application of specially formulated horticultural oils and pesticide sprays or soaps. Magnolia plants are also subject to collar rot when mulch is packed around the tree trunk or plant stems. Verticullum wilt, leaf spot and canker diseases also commonly affect magnolia plants. These can be treated with pruning and application of fungicides, as well as use of a high nitrogen fertilizer and removal and destruction of all infected foliage.