What centuries ago was reserved exclusively for the Chinese emperors, today adorns the gardens and parks with a lush display of flowers. The full, attractive star blossoms of the magnolia delight the viewer from March with their silky, shimmering splendor and a beguiling scent and appear long before the leaves actually shoot. Contrary to what is often assumed, the ornamental wood is easy to cultivate.

The ideal location and soil for magnolias

The choice of location depends on the particular magnolia variety. Many of the shallow roots prefer a place in the sun, while some other species are satisfied with a partially shaded spot. A sheltered location should be preferred for all magnolia species so that the plant and its flowers are adequately protected from strong gusts of wind and storms.

When it comes to the consistency and composition of the soil, attention must also be paid to the different types. A heavy and humus-rich soil is the ideal prerequisite for each of the over 100 varieties of magnolia available, such as the tulip magnolia, but some of them require a certain acidic pH value in order to thrive better.

When choosing the location, it is not only the needs of the magnolia that play an important role. Because the ornamental wood can – depending on the planted variety – reach a height of between 3 and 10 meters. Even if the tulip tree is one of the slow-growing trees, this fact must be taken into account when planting. For this reason, no other large plants should be planted at a distance of 6 – 8 square meters around the magnolia.

Tip:  Magnolias are also suitable for keeping in pots. The planter must offer enough space and in winter it is advisable to store it in a frost-free, cool area.

Planting and repotting

If the right place in the garden has been found and there is enough space for the ornamental wood to develop and grow, nothing stands in the way of planting:

  • The planting hole must be twice as wide and deep as the root ball of the magnolia.
  • Enrich the earth well with humus and water and mix.
  • Then insert the magnolia, cover with the mixture of soil and humus and press firmly.
  • In the first few days, sufficient moisture must be provided so that the young plant can take root well.

The optimal planting time is before the winter dormancy at the end of September or can also be done in early spring until April at the latest.


Constant humidity is advisable in the summer months. Water the plant regularly; a dense layer of withered leaves and undergrowth can significantly help store moisture and prevent the magnolia roots from drying out. Even in winter, the plant must have a certain level of moisture, both outdoors and in pots. Watering is done moderately in the frost-free time. If special fleeces are attached, they protect the magnolia tree from cold weather and from drying out at the same time.

Tip: A thick layer of sludge or compost around the magnolia stores the moisture and at the same time supplies the plant with important nutrients.


The ornamental wood is relatively undemanding and does not require any special fertilizers when planted outdoors, apart from a regular application of humus-rich compost or grass clippings. If that is not enough and the plant is visibly worrying about it, regular use of mineral garden fertilizers is still recommended.

The soil of potted plants only has a limited supply of important nutrients. In order not to fully exploit this, magnolias in planters must be supplied with fertilizer on a weekly basis. Whether the fertilizer is added in the form of sticks or liquid is up to you.

To cut

Not every plant is on good terms with the gardener’s cutting tool. It is the same with the magnolia. Radical and improperly executed cuts often cause the tree to form curious runners and shoots. In order to maintain the natural growth habit of the spring bloomer, restraint and caution are required when cutting.

  • As with all flowering trees, the pruning is done after flowering. This time is reached around the end of June – depending on the variety – when the magnolia has completely shed its blossoms.
  • Sharp pruning shears are used as a tool. Saws of any kind have no place in this tree pruning and can only damage the plant unnecessarily.
  • In order to avoid steep shoots, branches and young shoots must be completely removed at the base.
  • Dead and sick shoots also fall victim to the pruning shears, the crown of the tree is only carefully thinned out.
  • Coat larger cut surfaces with a fungicidal tree wax. This prevents the penetration of fungi, which can cause lasting damage to the plant.

An annual pruning is not allowed for the magnolia tree. However, since it is one of the slow-growing trees, this measure is only necessary every 3 to 5 years. With the exception of sick and dead shoots. If necessary, the plant can also be “put on the stick”. This can be the case, for example, after a storm or hail damage. However, here too, only a sharp device and a fungicidal tree wax may be used to close the cut surface:

  • With this cut variant, the tree is set back to a height of around 1 meter.
  • In the case of strong and thick branches, the cut must not be made so deep.
  • Strong shoots are left evenly distributed.
  • Disturbing secondary drives, such as those crossing one another, are also completely removed.


Many people have the wish to be able to call a tulip magnolia their own in the garden at home. The plant can be easily propagated by lowering or by sowing. Pulling cuttings rarely works because magnolias have a hard time taking root.

The procedure for lowering:

  • A long, flexible shoot is lowered to the ground or carefully tied down.
  • Loosen the earth around the tree and enrich it with compost.
  • At the point of contact of the shoot, the leaves are removed.
  • Cover the plant shoot with soil, at least 15 centimeters should protrude vertically from the ground.
  • The formation of roots can take several months. During this time, the mother plant supplies the young plant with the necessary nutrients and water.
  • Only when the roots have fully developed can the young shoot be completely separated from the magnolia tree and planted in a suitable location.

Propagation by seeds:

  • The seeds are placed in lukewarm water for a few days in autumn.
  • The red seed coat must then be removed with tools – we recommend peeling with sharp-edged sand.
  • Until spring, the seeds are stored in water or damp sand at a temperature of around 4 ° C. This increases the germination capacity.
  • The seeds are sown in spring in the greenhouse or in special seed boxes made of glass.
  • The duration of germination varies and can be up to a year.
  • As a seedling, the magnolia is very sensitive to low temperatures. During the winter months, the plant must therefore spend in a sunny, frost-free place.
  • Magnolias raised by seeds are often blooming and in the worst case do not bloom for 10 years. This type of propagation is only worthwhile if you have a lot of patience yourself. –

Another way to propagate a preferred magnolia variety is through grafting. In this foreign-asexual method, two plants are inserted into one another.

Hibernate magnolia tree

Older plants are extremely robust and defy double-digit minus temperatures even for short periods during the cold season. However, the situation is different with young magnolia trees and with frost during flowering. In both cases, it is advisable to cover the ornamental wood with special plant fleece and to cover the roots and trunk with a large amount of soil or sludge.

Potted plants must be kept in a frost-proof, cool room, whereas magnolias in the conservatory do not require any special care during the cold winter months.

Diseases and pests

Tulip magnolias are extremely hardy when it comes to disease and harmful visitors. Nevertheless, even the healthiest ornamental wood can be attacked by the following fungi, bacteria and other pests:

  • Black spots on the leaves, often surrounded by a yellowish halo, indicate leaf spot diseasethere. The cause is the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae, which causes the symptoms mentioned above, especially during cold and damp weather. Infested plant regions can die, and the bacterial infestation can also promote frost damage. The treatment is tedious but simple: the bacterium overwinters in the wilting leaves, which is why they have to be completely removed in autumn. The tree crown is thinned out carefully, and water must not be poured directly over the leaves and shoots of the magnolia. Moisture promotes the spread of leaf spot disease. Infested branches and leaves must also be completely removed immediately.
  • The powdery mildew mushrooms also prefer the ornamental wood. While downy mildew loves moisture, powdery mildew develops particularly during hot dry periods. Greyish-white or yellowish spots on the leaves as well as rolled-up shoot tips indicate an infestation. Powdery mildew leads to the death of the infected plant regions and, in the worst case, can cause lasting damage to the magnolia. There are various options available for combating both types of powdery mildew. In addition to using chemical agents, spraying saline solution or nettle stock can be used as an alternative.
  • Magnolias can be a true nursery for ash and whiteflies . This pest belongs to the whitefly and lays its eggs directly on the underside of the leaf. Larvae and also the adult animals feed on the plant sap and thereby damage the host plant. The “whitefly” is removed by insecticides or by using their natural predators, such as parasitic wasps and ladybirds.
Tip: Magnolia branches cut for the vase will bloom after about 3 to 4 weeks – a colorful and fragrant way to escape dreary winter days.

Magnolia plants fascinate the viewer with their abundance and size of the flowers. Despite the fact that it is easy to care for, the tulip tree is still rarely found in home gardens. Whether it is a dominant tree or a small tub plant for the winter garden, the right magnolia variety is available for every lover of the noble ornamental wood.

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