Known for its large, fragrant flowers, the Southern Magnolia tree (Magnolia grandiflora) is native to the southern states of the United States, from Virginia to Florida, all the way to Arkansas and Texas. Growing all throughout Mississippi, this tree has been titled as the State tree of Mississippi.
This magnificent, broad-leaved evergreen tree, can attain a height of 60-80 feet and a width of 30-50 feet. It features large, tropical-looking leaves, fragrant flowers, and about three-inch long (in spring and summer) cone-shaped fruits. There are different varieties of this tree, with some forming dense pyramidal shapes, while others featuring large gaps between the branches.
Planting and Caring for a Southern Magnolia Tree
Valued for its glorious white flowers, the Magnolia tree adds a warm touch to the garden, which is why so many people are eager to plant it. However, before rushing ahead, there are a few points that need to be taken into consideration.
Space, Light, and Soil
Although this tree grows at a moderate pace, over the years you will end up with a very large tree in your backyard, one that may grow up to a towering height of 80 feet, and a width of 30-50 feet. If your backyard does not have the required space, then consider getting the dwarf variety. Moreover, since the tree requires at least 5 hours of sun exposure, ensure that this requirement is compulsorily met. Woodland shade should also be available to prevent rain and wind, from damaging the flowers and fruits of this tree. The soil should be well drained, with a pH of 4.5 to 6.5.
Digging, Mulching, and Positioning
With the help of a shovel dig a ditch that is twice the width and depth of the young Magnolia's root ball. Make sure all stones, weeds, and other unwanted materials have been removed from the soil. You can do this easily with a garden spade. Next, fill mulch into the dug hole to a height of 4 inches. Hold the root ball on top of the mulch layer, at its center. Scoop in loose soil around the root ball, and pack it, so that it stands firm. Tamp around the tree base. The root ball is now positioned properly.
Securing and Watering
There is the danger of snapping and breaking due to strong winds, thus, it is important to secure the sapling with the help of stakes. Stakes hammered into the ground are used to provide support to the young sapling. The sapling is tied to the stake with a strong string, so that it stands firm even during strong winds. Add another 4 inches of mulch and water it. For the next 3 months, the sapling has to be watered, after which watering is required only during seasons of drought. Add a light fertilizer as well. For the first three growing seasons frequent applications of fertilizer is required.
Just planting the tree is not enough, proper care is required for the tree to flourish and grow. Pruning needs to be carried out to maintain the overall health of the tree. This tree naturally grows in a pyramidal shape, which is why minimal pruning is required. Spring is the time when new growth is seen, thus, making it the best time to prune them. Some branches need to be removed to attain the desired shape of the tree, however, it is important not to injure the tree or the neighboring branches while doing so. Sharp tools need to be used while pruning, and extreme care should be taken to avoid damaging or crushing branches.
Although a Southern Magnolia tree adds a mystical and romantic touch to one's garden, it's a large source of leaf litter. So, brace yourself for a lot of raking! However, the effort is worth it!