With buds forming in the winter, magnolias are one of the first spring flowers to burst onto the scene with waxy white, pink or purple flowers growing up to 10 inches in diameter. These deciduous trees get from 15 to 40 feet tall and their size needs to be taken into consideration when planting since they do not like to be transplanted later on. Once they are established in a sunny location, protected from the wind, magnolias are a snap to care for and will adorn your landscape for years to come.
Water your tree consistently in the first year for proper root formation and growth. Magnolia trees grow slowly in the first year and may die if not watered well. Slow, deep watering is best and done by placing a garden hose at the base of the tree and trickling water for about an hour each week. This allows water to deeply penetrate to the roots. Once your tree is well-established after the first year, water a couple of times a month.
Feed your magnolia tree with an all-purpose slow-release granular fertilizer applied once a year in the fall. Sprinkle the fertilizer underneath the tree out to about 1 1/2 feet beyond the tips of the branches, not letting it touch the tree trunk. Water in well after applying. Once the tree is flowering, four to five years after planting, fertilizing is no longer necessary.
Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch each spring around the tree, being careful not to let it touch the trunk. Use wood chips, shredded bark or leaves. Mulching is important to a magnolia because it helps conserve water and keeps the soil at a consistent temperature. In late fall, apply another 4 inches of mulch to help protect the roots from cold winters.
Prune your magnolia tree only to control shape and size, and to remove branches that are dead, crossing or rubbing, and any water sprouts or suckers that grow off the branches or main trunk. Pruning is not necessary overall, but if you do choose to prune the tree, do it immediately after flowering or you will reduce the amount of blooms for the following season.