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Best uses

Best used as a lawn specimen or at the back of a border where space allows. Good for along large driveways. It can even be used as a topiary subject, hedge screen and is a useful street tree. If kept well fed and watered, it makes a great large scale container plant. It is easy to keep compact with regular pruning if required in a small space. It is commonly used in floristry for greenery.

Physical characteristics

An evergreen upright tree making a dense pyramidal shape that can grow up to 10m tall and 2.5m wide. It can be pruned to keep it smaller.

Flowers and foliage

Large slightly fragrant cup-shaped creamy-white flowers bloom throughout summer and are contrasted by the glossy green foliage with bronze velvet undersides.

Preferred site

Prefers a sheltered sunny site with free-draining, humus-rich soil.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy well grown plants and plant after autumn rains as the soil is moist and warm and allows trees and shrubs 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, 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.

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.

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 becomes more established they are typically hardy and require little maintenance. Magnolia grandiflora can be trimmed little and often if required and can be used as foliage for flowering arranging. This magnolia can be heavily pruned if necessary reducing it to nearly ground level will not kill it. It will simply start shooting up from the base.

Pests and diseases

Free of pests and diseases.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Urban Trees