How Much and How Often Should You Water a Magnolia Tree?

Are you unsure of how much water your magnolia tree needs, or how often it should be watered? These popular trees need the right amount of moisture to thrive. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares how much moisture your Magnolias need, and how often you should be watering them.

Magnolia tree with big pink flowers and no leaves

Contents

Magnolia trees are a stunning addition to the garden landscape. This genus has many shapes, sizes, and growth habits, which means there is a tree for any space and climate. But how much water do they need? A magnolia tree’s watering needs vary based on a few different factors.

Whether you are looking for a small flowering shrub or a towering giant of a tree, there is a variety that fits the bill.

These plants are known far and wide for their hardiness, sturdy foliage, and beautiful, usually fragrant flowers. Let’s discuss the short and long-term watering needs of these stately, popular trees.

The Short Answer

For newly planted magnolia trees, water two to three times per week for the first six months. Once established, water only during times of drought. Regular rainfall is generally sufficient for these drought-resistant trees.

The Long Answer

Several young Magnolia trees with multiple clusters of pink flowers linked to the tall, brown branches are placed on a wide green grass. A small wooden brown house stands alongside the Magnolia trees, with other tall trees in the back.
The amount of water this tree needs depends on its type, planting site, and soil.

The type of magnolia tree you plant, along with the climate and soil you plant it in, all play a role in how much water the tree needs both initially and over the long term.

Most magnolias are quite drought-tolerant once they have established roots. But a newly planted tree does need a bit of attention.

Choosing and Planting a Magnolia

In a dug hole in the ground, a man wearing black gardening gloves plants a young green plant. The plant is lifted from its pot, revealing its brown roots. The gardener placed a shovel on his side.
While these trees may thrive in various soil types, slightly acidic and well-draining soil is preferred.

The climate in which you live and the time of year you plant you can affect the amount of water it needs. Not all magnolia trees have the same needs.

These trees are resilient and survive in a wide variety of soil compositions. Ideally, they like slightly acidic, well-draining soil. Sandy soil tends to get hotter, so if your soil is very sandy, try planting in an area where it will get some shade.

Mulch is a magnolia tree’s best friend. Mulching around the base of your tree will help to lock in moisture, as well as act as a buffer for shallow roots.

Deciduous Species

Deciduous species such as the Japanese magnolia or Magnolia lilliflora should always be planted while they are dormant. This means these trees should be planted in winter if you live in a warmer climate. In cooler climates, it is best to wait until the ground thaws and until there is no more risk of freezing weather.

Deciduous varieties tend to be smaller than evergreen types. They have a shrubbier appearance, and nearly all of them bloom on bare wood. The blooms appear in late winter and through the spring and come in a wide range of colors, from white to pink, red, purple, and even yellow.

These trees make an excellent spring focal point and are pretty trees through the summer months with their mid-sized ovate leaves and attractive gray bark.

Evergreen Species

Evergreen trees such as the classic Southern magnolia and M. virginiana do not have a dormant period. The best time to plant these species is in the spring, after the risk of a freeze. This gives them ample time to establish roots. Evergreen magnolias can also be planted in autumn, but they need to go in the ground 6-8 weeks before the chance of frost.

Evergreen species are typically very large trees that grow slowly and produce their large, fragrant, white blooms throughout summer. Their large, leathery leaves are deep green and waxy on top, and most varieties are coated with a coppery velvet on the underside of the leaves. Evergreen magnolias are attractive year-round, and their impressive stature makes them wonderful shade trees and wildlife attractants.

Watering Magnolias

A long pipe is watering a little, young green plant growing in rich, black soil.
Deep watering is essential in the plant’s early stages. Water promotes root development deeper into the soil.

Magnolia trees are considered drought-resistant once they are established. However, like most plants, they need a little extra care when first planted. Newly planted trees need to be watered 2-3 times per week. This should continue for the first 3-6 months after the tree is planted.

During months with greater rainfall, less watering will be necessary. If you are having a particularly rainy season, this should be considered, and your watering schedule can be adjusted accordingly.

Something to remember is that these trees have shallow root systems, so their roots grow close to the earth’s surface. This means that they need to be watered deeply in their early days. Watering deeply helps the roots to grow deeper into the earth. The roots will follow the water.

The type of soil in which your tree is planted will also influence the amount of watering your young tree needs. In general, magnolias like well-drained soil. Except for one or two evergreen species, these trees do not like to have wet roots. If you plant in sandy soil, bump your watering schedule to 3 times per week to ensure the tree’s roots do not dry out.

Soil that contains a lot of clay will hold more water, so watering twice a week should be sufficient. Clay compacts easily, which can be hard on the shallow roots. Plant your magnolia in a spot with relatively scarce traffic to avoid damaging these roots.

Long-Term Watering Needs

A man's hand splashes water as he waters a plant with a blue gardening hose. Green plants can be seen in the blurred background.
Avoid overwatering and keep the soil damp but not waterlogged.

Once established, these flowering trees will not need to be watered in times of average rainfall. The sturdy leaves can tolerate a fair amount of time without water before they begin to wilt.

Deciduous species are slightly more sensitive to dry weather than evergreens but all varieties are somewhat tolerant of warm, drier weather. If you are experiencing a drought, your magnolia will greatly enjoy a once-weekly, deep watering.

Overwatering can cause issues such as root rot and fungal disease. The soil should be kept moist but never swampy.

Final Thoughts

While magnolia trees are considered drought tolerant once established, they benefit from regular watering when they are planted. This watering ensures that the tree develops a deep, strong root system, which will make for a more beautiful and resilient tree for years to come.

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