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Magnolia is a much loved plant and widely used to embellish gardens and terraces thanks to the splendid foliage and large tulip or star flowers, with colors ranging from white to pinkish white or pink.
The genus consists of about 80 species of floriferous, rustic, semi-evergreen, evergreen, or deciduous trees and shrubs. Magnolia is native to the southern regions of the United States, Japan, China and Korea; most of the species can develop without any problem in our country, and generally find a prominent place in many gardens; in many botanical gardens and Italian parks you can find centenary specimens, of spectacular size.
It is a plant that requires exposure to the sun or partial shade and away from strong winds; we must also not forget that, although magnolia is resistant to cold and low temperatures, it also fears late frosts, which can damage flowers and buds of spring-flowering species.
The magnolias are planted in March or opened, or in autumn, before the temperatures become very rigid. The ground in general it must be well drained, rich in humus. Depending on the species there are varieties that need more or less clayey soils and with a different ph. In the first years of life the plants need special supports, which "guide" their growth.
In the month of February it is good to fertilize them, with leaf loam, peat or compost, to be planted at the feet of the plants.
There flowering, for most species, occurs in the spring. The flowers are large, showy, of different shapes and colors, from variety to variety, and delicately scented; for most of the species an abundant flowering is already obtained with specimens few tens of centimeters high. The leaves they are oval and green, dark or light, but nevertheless intense.
Generally magnolias don't like drastic pruning; the rather slow growth of most species, however, allows them to grow undisturbed; if necessary light pruning is practiced immediately after flowering.
Magnolia in a nutshell
Plant type: Ornamental
Origin: United States, Japan, China and Korea
Vegetation: Tree or shrub
Foliage: Persistent or deciduous
Use: Balcony or terrace, isolated plant or border
Crown shape: Rounded or pyramidal
Height at maturity: From 2 m to 10 m and beyond
Width at maturity: From 5 m to 8 m in diameter
Growth rate: slow
Diseases and pests: Gray mold (botrytis), slugs, chlorosis
How to grow magnolia
Magnolia does not like excessive heat in summer and excessive humidity in winter. Therefore, in warmer regions it is preferable not to expose it directly to the sun's rays.
If you have a garden, plant it in the open ground as an isolated plant or associated with other shrubs that prefer an acid substrate (kalmia, enkianthus, pieris); however it will be equally beautiful if grown in a pot in a balcony or on a terrace.
Prepare the suitable soil with normal soil, specific soil for acidophilus and manure. When planting, pay attention to particularly fragile roots and the planting hole: do not bury the plant too much. After planting, ensure the right degree of humidity to the plant with constant watering.
If you plant it in pots, avoid repotting because you could break the roots and therefore damage the plant.
In the first years of life, magnolia plants need special braces to guide their growth.
In winter, provide a mulch of pine bark that will protect the roots from the cold and will also guarantee a sufficient degree of humidity.
The species multiply by cutting of semi-hard wood in summer or by seed in autumn. The cuttings, obtained from load-bearing branches, must be about ten centimeters long and are planted in multiplication boxes, filled with medium-structure sand, at a temperature of 18-20 ° C. They will then be placed in pots individually, before winter or in April-May of the following year. After two or three years they can be put to permanent shelter.
There sowing it is done in October, taking care to place the seeds in trays, filled with a compost rich in peat, and then place them in cold containers. Germination is generally 12-18 months. Once grown, the seedlings can be potted in larger containers (about 10 cm), but they will be planted only after 3-4 years. Magnolias can also be sown in spring, but in this case the seeds, collected in the previous autumn, must be stored in a cool and damp place, for example in the refrigerator.
The cultivation of Magnolia:
Exposure: Sun, half shade
Ground: Clayey, calcareous, humus
Cleaning / Pruning: Limited to the elimination of fragile or damaged branches
Water needs: Average
Soil moisture: drained
Fertilization: Spring / autumn period
Multiplication: Seed, cutting, layering, grafting
Parasites and Diseases
The magnolia suffers from the late frosts, which can damage its buds and flowers; on damaged tissues, moreover, the can often appear gray mold. Particularly dangerous for the life of the plant is the little family, a fungal disease that causes root rot.
Shrub or small tree originating in Japan, which can reach 5-6 meters in height; it has very slow growth. The crown is oval or roundish, quite dense; the leaves are light green, deciduous, become yellow or bronze in autumn, before falling. At the beginning of spring, when the tree is still bare, it produces a spectacular flowering, consisting of large star-shaped flowers, which contain 10-15 elongated petals, of pure white or pink; there are also cultivars with double or double flowers. Stellate magnolias prefer slightly acid soils.
There magnolia stellata It is a plant, generally rustic, which is able to withstand winter temperatures up to -15 ° C but which needs bright and well exposed positions to give the best of itself.
Mulching can be a good solution to protect the plant from excessive cold and to protect at least in part the root system of the magnolia stellata.
As for watering, special care must be taken not to create water stagnation in the soil of interest of magnolia, because this plant suffers a lot from stagnation and prolonged soil moisture. So we try to do watering in periods of need and we always check that the soil has dried between one watering and the next.
As for pruning, the magnolia stellata it does not need major interventions except an annual cut to remove the dry after winter. The shape of this plant tends to vary with age, being more globular when the plant is young and more like an umbrella as the plant ages.
The magnolia calendar
Planting: April-May, September-October
Pruning: April, August-December
Magnolia x soulangeana
Large shrub or small tree, this species derives from the hybridization of two Asian species: M. liliflora and M. heptapeta. It has a rounded, very branched crown; the leaves are dark green, deciduous, fairly stiff and waxy; before the snack leaves, in March-April, produces countless large flowers in the shape of an elongated tulip, facing upwards, 8-10 cm long. These magnolias produce white, pink or purple flowers, depending on the variety, very fragrant. Soulangeane magnolias have a fairly slow growth, but tend to produce large and vigorous shrubs. They prefer soils rich in organic matter.
Magnolia heptapeta, Syn. Magnolia denudata
Deciduous tree native to China, which can reach 8-10 meters in height; it has very slow growth. The leaves are dark green; the flowers, in the shape of a large tulip, are pure white, and bloom in late winter or early spring. The foliage is often quite messy and tends to widen a lot. The very early flowering is sometimes ruined by late frosts, so it is good to place this species of magnolia in a sheltered place.
Medium-sized tree native to the southern United States; it has an erect trunk, up to 15-25 m tall, with a broad pyramidal crown; the leaves are evergreen, dark green on the upper side, bronze on the lower side, are shiny and leathery, rigid. In late spring and in summer it produces large white flowers, very fragrant, followed by large panicles that will carry the seeds covered with red pulp. Trees very common in gardens, they love semi-shaded places and fertile, well-drained but slightly damp soil.
Shrub or small tree native to southern Asia; it has enlarged, rounded, quite dense crown; the leaves are dark green, oval, in autumn, before falling, they become light yellow. At the beginning of the summer it produces many large flowers, with a white cup, with a pink base, delicately scented; the flowers are produced sporadically throughout the summer. It generally prefers sunny positions in the morning, shaded during the hottest hours of the day. It needs a rich and well-drained, slightly damp soil.
Magnolia is a plant that requires exposure to the sun or partial shade, but away from strong winds. The magnolia, although it is resistant to cold and low temperatures, fears at the same time late frosts, which can damage flowers and buds of spring-flowering species.
Water every 15-20 days when the substrate has been dry for a few days. It is advisable to avoid excess water. But if it is cultivated in regions with scarce rains, it is necessary to provide more frequent waterings during the flowering period and during the hottest days.
During flowering, we recommend the monthly use of a special fertilizer for flowering plants, rich in potassium and phosphorus. In autumn provide a fertilizer poor in nitrogen, which should only strengthen the stems and the root system, and not encourage the late development of new vegetation that would make the plant too sensitive to cold.
In February it is good to fertilize the magnolia with leaf mold, peat or compost, to be planted at the foot of the plants.
Magnolias prefer a soil that is generally well-drained and rich in humus, fresh, more or less clayey and with a different pH depending on the species and the variety, but generally must be slightly acid.
Generally, magnolias do not require pruning, in fact they spontaneously take the form that distinguishes them. The fairly slow growth of most species, however, makes it possible to monitor the development of a harmonic form. In the early years one can intervene with small cuts at the end of April. If necessary, light pruning is practiced immediately after flowering or in autumn to thin out the branches or to remove the most fragile and damaged branches.
Multiplication of the Magnolia
The magnolia is multiplied by cuttings in summer, by seed in autumn, by layering (of difficult success) or by grafting.
In summer, cut the cuttings of semi-hard wood about ten centimeters from the main branches of the mother plant, cutting under a knot. If you think it appropriate, you can dip the cuttings in the rooting hormone, then plant them in multiplication boxes, filled with medium-structure sand and crumbled polystyrene, which keeps the cutting sheltered from abrupt changes in temperature. Place the caissons at a temperature of 18 ° C-20 ° C. Once the rooting has taken place, the plants will be placed in pots individually, before winter or in April-May of the following year. After two or three years they can be put to permanent shelter.
Sowing reproduction is not always successful. Sowing must be carried out in October. Before sowing, place the seeds in warm water to remove the wrapper covering the seeds more easily and dry them well to prevent them from becoming moldy. Fill the seed trays with a compost consisting of peat and sand, moisten it and place the seeds by sinking them slightly. Then place the trays in cold boxes for about 4 months. Alternatively it is possible to place the trays in the refrigerator.
Check periodically to avoid the appearance of mold. When you see that small roots have sprung up, put the seeds in jars with peat and sand: germination usually takes 12-18 months. When you see the first leaves appear, the seedlings can be potted in larger containers (about 10 cm), but they will be planted only after 3-4 years since the seedlings obtained through sowing grow very slowly.
Magnolias can also be sown in spring, but in this case the seeds, collected in the previous autumn, must be stored in a cool and damp place, for example in the refrigerator.
Pests and diseases
Magnolia generally resists the attacks of diseases and parasites, but suffers from them late frosts, which can spoil and buds and flowers. On damaged tissues the can often appear gray mold (botrytis), caused by a fungus. To prevent gray mold attack, avoid excessive irrigation and ensure adequate air circulation. If some parts of the plant have been affected by gray mold, remove them and treat the plants with Bordeaux mixture.
In spring the magnolia can be attacked slugs, which can be eliminated by using natural substances.
Particularly dangerous for the life of the plant is the little family, a fungal disease that causes root rot.
Another disease that can threaten magnolia is chlorosis: you will notice, if you see that the leaves turn yellow. Chlorosis can be caused by a soil with a high pH and rich in limestone. Excessive limescale causes the leaves to turn yellow and the tree to deteriorate. To remedy this, it is necessary to change the pH of the soil (a very expensive operation) or check the pH before planting. You can try to cure the chlorosis problems of your magnolia with fertilizers rich in iron chelates.
The bark of maritime pine ensures to the magnolia the necessary acidity it needs to develop, and also the essential moisture for the plant.
For the planting of the magnolias choose a specific soil for acidophilic plants and water the plant with not hard water, that is with a very low limestone content, since the limestone would decrease the acidity of the soil and with time it would damage the plant.
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