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Best uses

Best used as a small specimen tree, either in a lawn or large border, or even use as a flowering hedge. A good tree for small gardens and low maintenance.

Physical characteristics

A small evergreen compact bushy tree that grows to around 3m tall.

Flowers and foliage

Masses of russet colored buds opening to lilac-pink fragrant flowers which have a definite pink flush and are paler inside through winter to early spring. Medium dark green foliage offsets the beautiful flowers.

Preferred site

Like most magnolias, the evergreen types perform best in sheltered sunny locations with fertile soils rich in organic matter which are reasonably free draining. Drought tolerant once established.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy well grown plants and plant after autumn rains as the soil is moist and warm and allows trees to become established before winter. This enables them to withstand dry periods during the following summer. Young plants require thorough watering during dry periods over the first two or three years. Mulching helps to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Planting success is often improved on clay soils by adding extra topsoil and raising beds. Incorporate coarse sand, bark, peat, compost or other organic material to improve soil structure. Before planting ensure the root ball is saturated and remove the planter bag or pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots and plant at the same level as in the container. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball and firm in and water once planted. Make sure plants are watered well until established if planting in a drier period. Plant with some general slow release fertiliser and then every spring apply an organic based fertiliser such as blood and bone at a handful per square meter as new growth begins.

Tall plants and those in windy positions require staking to stabilize the root ball until established. Position the stakes in the hole before planting and place the plant between them. Use wide ties that hold securely without chafing tie firmly but allow room for the trunk to increase in girth without constriction. This allows the plant to move a little in the wind encouraging the development of a strong root system without the risk of chafing or root damage.

Maintenance tips

Mulching annually helps suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Organic materials such as sawdust and bark contribute to soil structure as they decompose but keep mulching material away from the trunk. They benefit from a dressing (50g/m2) of general purpose fertiliser in early spring as new growth begins this will encourage more vigorous healthy growth. Sprinkle evenly and work into the top 2 to 3cm of the soil, taking care not to damage surface roots.

Magnolias require little maintenance and do not usually require pruning other than to remove deadwood and branches that rub against one another. If pruning is required, it should be done immediately after flowering has finished. Shrubby types can be readily contained in size with annual pruning. Trimming with hedge shears produces very dense growth. If this is not desired, thin the plant out initially by completely removing a proportion of branches then shorten back remaining growth as required. Once the Magnolia become more established they are typically hardy and require little maintenance. The first summer and autumn after planting is critical for young plants; water thoroughly during dry periods. Pests and diseases can have serious debilitating effects on young plants; check regularly. Check stakes and ties for chafing and constriction and remove as soon as plants are strong enough to withstand winds without damage.

Ecological and biodiversity benefits

Attracts bees, butterflies and birds.

Pests and diseases

Not usually susceptible to diseases but can get some leaf spotting in low light levels and if crowded.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Spring Blossom Valley