Magnolia advice please

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Greenfingered MoneySaving
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novicegardener22novicegardener22 Forumite
3 Posts
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Greenfingered MoneySaving
Hello, I'd like some advice establishing a bare-root magnolia in my garden (South London, quite heavy clay-ey soil).

Magnolia 'yellow river' bought on offer last year (from Thompson Morgan, but can't post link). Was towards the end of summer and I never got round to planting it (also wanted to clear out the garden a bit). So I potted it and kept it indoors over the winter - it looked like it was doing ok, it had 2 big green leaves throughout the winter.

A few weeks ago I cleared some space in the garden, dug a square-sided hole to help the roots grow out. I also bought a big bag of ericaceous/acidic compost to help it establish - so it is now planted in (mainly) compost and a bit of soil. I water it every few days, it has also been fairly wet and warm these past few weeks.

- Plant is about 50cm tall with a couple of horizontal stems - it is more or less 3 sticks
- Largest leaf fell off
- Smaller leaf is turning yellow/brown (I read this is a sign of alkaline soil, but I thought that was the point of the acidic compost?)
- Some silvery buds, but they don't seem to be growing... can't really see any green shoots yet

Am I being too impatient and worrying over nothing? Its just that when I potted it last summer, it immediately shot out the 2 leaves which I thought was a good sign of life. Now it is in the ground... nothing

Should I have hardened it off before planting? Does it need a blanket/bubble wrap for another few weeks?

What should I do now....? I don't just want to sit back and watch it die over the next few months!


  • DaftyDuckDaftyDuck Forumite
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    They need good drainage, and clay soil in not ideal. Leaf loss could be overwatering. Mine have flowered and are in leaf (also clay). We are in for cold at the end of the week, and I'd protect yours if I were you... bit of fleece, bubble-wrap, or even newspaper.

    I might consider improving the drainage, deeper hole, several inches of soil & gravel, but I'd probably wait for dormacy in winter now, and just be patient.

    They do take a while to establish, so patience may be key.
  • No, not ideal soil - but having said that there are *loads* of magnolias around my area, and a few at house-height. So I thought I'd at least give it a go

    Thanks for the tip on the weather next week, I've got some bubble wrap in a cupboard somewhere that will come in handy

    I'll have a poke around in the soil and see if it's waterlogged - it is planted straight into compost, although I suppose that compost is in a "bowl" of clay soil so that could be the problem

    Re deeper hole, soil/gravel -- is it going to kill the tree if I uproot it now? The planting hole was a lot deeper than I needed so I filled 3/4 with compost, put the tree to the right height, then backfilled in more compost. I think it's (probably) deep enough that the root ball isn't sitting in water, but then again I didn't add any extra grit or gravel at the bottom. I read somewhere magnolias really don't like being moved...?
  • DaftyDuckDaftyDuck Forumite
    4.6K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    They don't like being moved. If the hole was that big, I'd strongly recommend patience. It will grow in clay (my clay is like a pottery here), and the compost will help. Patience - and a bit of protection if there's a spell of cold. Oh, and some luck.. And fertiliser when it starts growing... and ... ;)
  • :rotfl:
    Ok, thanks for the advice and encouragement :)
    Turns out alot of the answers to my gardening questions are:
    1) don't worry so much
    2) be more patient
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