Magnolia bushes (Magnolia grandiflora) are native to the eastern United States and southeastern Asia with more than 80 species known around the world. Magnolias are typically grown as large trees that reach up to 80 feet tall, but there are smaller bush varieties that can grow up to 20 feet. Magnolia bushes have the characteristic large white, fragrant flowers that the larger varieties have growing up to 5 inches in diameter, set against a backdrop of glossy green leaves. Hardy in USDA growing zones 5 through 9, the magnolia bush is a virtually pest-free and easy-to-grow plant.
Select a planting site that receives full sun for at least half the day and where foot traffic is minimal, to reduce damage the shallow roots of the bush. Plant the magnolia bush in the spring after the chance of frost has passed.
Work the ground in the spring after the last frost using either a small rototiller or shovel to turn the soil and break up any large clods. Magnolia bushes need good drainage, so adding organic material, such as peat moss or compost, to the ground before planting helps take care of this.
Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and only as deep. If planting more than one bush, space them approximately 10 to 20 feet apart, depending on how large the bush will reach at maturity.
Set the tree in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the ground's surface. Fill the hole with the soil and firm over around the base of the tree.
Water well after planting using an irrigation drip system or soaker hose. Keep your bush watered well, 5 gallons of water per week during the first three months after planting, to help the roots become well established.
Apply a 4- to 5-inch layer of mulch around the base of the bush to help conserve moisture and control weeds. Use a shredded bark, pine straw or chopped leaves. Reapply mulch each spring, as needed.
Feed the magnolia bush with a controlled-release fertilizer three times per year in March, May and July. Use a balanced fertilizer, 10-10-10 and apply 1 cup each feeding in the first year, apply 2 cups at each feeding in the second year and 4 cups at each feeding in the third year. After the third year, there is no need to continue fertilizing as the magnolia bush will be able to obtain nutrients from the soil.