Magnolia Tree Care: Pruning, Fertilizing, and Winter Protection

Magnolia Tree

Magnolia trees are known for their gorgeous blooms and graceful appearance. To ensure your magnolia thrives and stays healthy, proper care is essential. In this article, we will discuss essential tasks like pruning, fertilizing, and protecting your magnolia tree during the winter months.

Pruning for Healthy Growth

Pruning plays a crucial role in shaping the form and structure of your magnolia tree. Ideally, pruning should be done in early spring, before the sap begins to flow. While this may remove some spring flowers, it helps to maintain the overall health of the tree. Another option is to prune when flowering is finished and leaves have reached their full size.

When your magnolia tree is young, take the opportunity to shape its growth by removing crossing or crowded branches, suckers, and water sprouts. If desired, you can also eliminate low branches. However, it’s essential to do this gradually by removing one or two branches a year over a few years. As the tree matures, periodic pruning every three to five years will help maintain its shape. Remember to remove water sprouts and suckers annually.

Fertilizing for Optimal Growth

Newly planted magnolia trees benefit greatly from regular fertilization. Choose from granular, liquid, or stake-type fertilizers. Granular fertilizers can be worked into the soil around the plant at a rate of 2 lbs or 2 pints per 100 square feet of planting bed. Alternatively, you can drill or punch 6″ deep holes at the drip line of the tree and pour a total of 2 pounds of fertilizer per 1″ of trunk diameter into the holes. Make sure not to fill the holes with more than one-third of the fertilizer and top-fill with soil. This method should be done once a year in late fall after leaf drop or in early spring before buds open.

Liquid fertilizers like Miracle Gro can be mixed with water and applied during late April to mid-July, around three to four times a year. Follow the product’s specific instructions for application. Stake-type fertilizers can be used as directed on the package. When using any of these techniques, opt for a higher nitrogen mix such as 20-20-20 or a similar blend. Organic fertilizers like manure can also be effective. Work the material into open soil at a rate of one bushel per 1″ of trunk caliper or 100 square feet of bed area. As the tree matures, reduce the frequency of fertilization or switch to lower nitrogen mixes.

Winter Protection

Magnolia trees are vulnerable to rabbit and mouse damage, particularly to the trunk bark. To protect your tree from these pests, surround the trunk with hardware cloth up to 30″ high during winter. This simple measure will ensure the animals cannot reach and harm the tree. Keep in mind that you should repeat this process annually until the bark becomes rough.

Additionally, young magnolia trees need protection from the winter sun. Wrapping the trunks with a commercial-grade tree wrap for the first two or three years shields them from the harsh cold. Remember to remove the wrap during the summer months and reapply it in the fall.

By following these care guidelines, your magnolia tree will flourish year after year, captivating everyone with its stunning beauty. With proper pruning, fertilizing, and winter protection, your magnolia will be a thriving centerpiece in your garden.