BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in June 2008We've left it here for reference.More information

20 August 2014
Accessibility help
Text only

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 

Features

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Magnolias

Magnolia Elizabeth

Magnolia Elizabeth

Ask the gardener: Magnolias

Find out how to look after the beautiful magnolia tree...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

------

Louise asks...

My family bought my Mum & Dad a large Magnolia last year, which had white flowers.   This year it has flowered pink,  why is that?

Bill replies...

If you could advise me Louise as to the variety of your parents' Magnolia it would help me in discovering why the flowers have changed colour.  I must admit that I am slightly mystified as to why this happened but on occasions the pH of the garden soil can change the colours of the flowers on some species and a classic example of this being Hydrangeas but, I am not aware of any cases of Magnolias.

------

Richard asks...

What can I plant under my very large Magnolia tree?

Bill replies...

I would not underplant too close to the main roots or trunk of your Magnolia Tree Richard but would concentrate on smaller ground cover plants such as the Bugle Plant (Ajuga) which grows in dry or moist soil and in both sunny and shaded areas and I would recommend the variety Ajuga Reptans (Burgundy Glow).  If the soil beneath your Magnolia is reasonably fertile you would also be able to grow some Heathers and other smaller plants such as the Sedums and Saxifrage which will tolerate dry conditions.

------

Robert Gillan asks...

On my magnolia the buds are ready to open, but look as though something has been eating them - we had frost recently could this be the problem?

Bill replies...

Quite a number of Magnolias this year Robert especially the early flowering varieties such as Magnolia Stellata have suffered badly from the late hard frosts and if the buds on your Magnolia have turned brown this is the classic symptom of frost damage.  You mention that 'something' could have been eating them and if this is the case you will have to look closely to see if there are any signs of caterpillars but, also birds can be problem with pecking the buds.  If there are signs of caterpillars and aphids you will need to spray with a general insecticide.

------

Diana Fortune asks...

I don't know much about gardening but we have just moved house and inherited a very well established magnolia (don't know what sort, pinkish buds, white flowers) in our front garden. Unfortunately it seems to have been allowed to grow badly: there are about 4 main thick base stems, each bifurcating into more and more again, all crossed over each other, cramped, loads of branches everywhere, and hundreds of what I think are called ' water shoots' coming out the top. It is in flower now, but honestly looks silly. Help, how can I help it be beautiful as such a tree should be?

Bill replies...

After your Magnolia has finished flowering Diana you can then prune back some of the unsightly branches and also cut back some of the main branches to an outside leaf scar where they will re-shoot.  Magnolias are beautiful trees and although they do not like to be over pruned I do feel that you do need to lose a large number of these cramped shoots.

------

Kenneth Roberts asks...

My Rustica Rubra Magnolia has been in the garden for 3 years (planted in ericaceous compost) after purchasing from garden centre. As yet it has not flowered. When should this Magnolia start to produce flowers? There are numerous branch buds.

Bill replies...

What usually happens Kenneth when you plant Magnolias in a rich compost is that you tend to get numerous young shoots but no flowers.  However once the shoots have hardened off I am sure that you will have flowers.  To assist the flowering and hardening of the shoots I would apply as a top dressing a small amount of Sulphate of Potash to the soil.

------

Elsie Eldershaw asks...

I have a black tulip magnolia we bought last year; it has plenty of flower buds but they have one by one dropped off, looking at them they seem to be very wet. Can you explain and give me advise for looking after it for next year please?

Bill replies...

By the way in which you have described the flower buds on your Black Tulip Magnolia Elsie I am sure that the damage has been caused by the recent late hard frost.  Magnolias love to be planted in a sunny but sheltered aspect but clear of frost pockets.

------

Jackie asks...

I have just brought a magnolia susan, it's about 3-4 foot tall. Should i plant it in the garden or transfer it to a bigger pot. What would be the best thing to do please?

Bill replies...

The time Jackie to transplant your Magnolia Susan is late springtime when the soil is beginning to warm up.  Magnolias prefer a slightly acid soil they do not like chalky conditions and if your Magnolia is going to be planted in the garden you will need to choose a sunny but sheltered spot away from prevailing cold winds and, it is also important not to plant too deeply.  You will also need to keep an eye on the watering throughout the summer months and a mulch with well rotted manure is also beneficial.  You ask if it is possible to repot into a larger container and, again, now is the time and there are large wooden/plastic containers and barrels available which would be ideal for your Magnolia but, it is important when repotting to use a soil base compost such as John Innes No 2/3 and you will need to feed with a general Magnolia/Acid Fertiliser.  Of the two options providing you have the correct soil conditions transplanting into the garden would I feel be more beneficial.

------

Mary Dobson asks...

I have had a stellata planted in the garden for 9 years. This year I have no flowers appearing and on a lot of the branches where there is a joint it has a sort of fungus. Knobbly green, rather like frog spawn only dry. What can I use to clear this as I do not think any flowers are going to appear or for that matter leaves.

Bill replies...

The growth Mary on the branches of your tree is probably lichen and also green algae which will not seriously harm the branches of your Magnolia but is very troublesome in very wet mild areas and also if your tree is growing in a shady spot.  I am afraid that there is nothing much that you can do but gently peel and brush the lichen off during the summer months.

------

Angelique asks...

I have a small magnolia tree/plant (about 2 foot high), small (I assume) because the snails and slugs devour the flowers every year. I only see the flowers for about a day or two and they eat them! I've dropped some pennies (coppers) around it this year and wrapped the base in oven foil as I've heard they don't take well to the metallic sensation. Is this true? And is there anything else I can do to keep them at bay and encourage growth (as it seems to grow at the slowest pace? Many thanks.

Bill replies...

I have the same problem Angelique with snails climbing up my Laburnum Tree and what you can do is wrap a grease band around the trunk of your tree and this will deter the snails/slugs. These bands can be obtained from Garden Centres/DIY Stores.  You can also purchase copper tape which again can be wrapped around the tree and when the slugs and snails come into contact with the copper they will receive a shock and this deters them from climbing further. There is also a new product on the market which is a fabric called Tex-R and is again impregnated with copper and this should be placed around the base of your tree and will deter both slugs and snails.  Also popular are beer traps which you can insert in the soil around your tree and also a layer of sharp grit around the base of your tree will again act as a deterrent.

------

Stephen Harris asks...

I lost my mother a year ago and she was a very keen gardener and collectively my parents spent over 100 years tending the garden, which is just under an acre. One of the most spectacular trees is a very mature Magnolia, which I would really like to move into my garden. Do you think it would be possible? I am happy to spend money to try and make it happen.

Bill replies...

One of my favourite trees Stephen is the Magnolia and with your mother's tree being large and mature it is not going to be easy to lift and remove to another garden.  But Magnolias can be cut back and I do know of Magnolias which have been lifted with a large front loader digger to enable a large root ball to be cut out and have survived.  I would therefore suggest that you do obtain a second opinion from a qualified Tree Surgeon as it will all depend on how large the Magnolia is. I am sure the Tree Surgeon will suggest autumn time for this process to be carried out.

------

Heather asks...

I am soon to move and my family would like to buy me a magnolia tree to celebrate my 40th birthday. The front garden is west facing, quite sheltered but is likely to have chalky soil. There are white and pink trees around the area which have thrived; which variety should we be looking for and will we have to change the soil if it is chalky? Thank you.

Bill replies...

You will usually find Heather that Magnolias prefer to be grown in a slightly acid soil and for that reason it would be well worth while to incorporate into your soil plenty of organic material and also peat to counteract the chalky conditions.  Your front garden which is situated west facing and slightly sheltered will be an ideal spot for a Magnolia and as you say other plants in close vicinity seem to be thriving in the chalky soil. With regard to varieties of Magnolias there are numerous to choose from and Magnolia Susan and Magnolia Nigra are two very popular varieties whilst Magnolia Stellata is an early flowering variety and Magnolia Wilsonii will tolerate alkaline chalky conditions.  If you visit a Garden Centre there will be numerous varieties to choose from and late springtime is ideal for planting Magnolias.  Hope you have a happy 40th birthday.

------

Karen asks...

I have just purchased a Magnolia Susan to plant in memory of my dear sister who we lost to cancer in October.  I bought it online and the instructions are rather limited.  I'm concerned that if I were to pot it outside now (March), it may die due to the cold weather and if I should not put it outside yet, how should I keep it in the meantime?  Many thanks.

Bill replies...

If you place your Magnolia outside now Karen the changes in temperatures could quite easily harm your plant but, whilst indoors you do need to keep your plant in a light/cool position or in a cool greenhouse. As soon as the weather improves I would place your Magnolia outside but in a sheltered position and, if the weather does change for the worst again you can always place your Magnolia into a shed or garage overnight.  It is important however that, weather permitting, you do try and harden your plant off.

------

S Ross asks...

I would like to grow an evergreen honeysuckle up a Magnolia Stellata tree. Would this kill the tree? 

Bill replies...

I am sure that the evergreen Honeysuckle which you would like to grow up your Magnolia Tree is the Japanese Honeysuckle - Loniceri Halliana - which is a very vigorous Honeysuckle and I am afraid that in time it would smother and strangle your Magnolia Stellata.

------

Eunice Cull asks...

We were bought a magnolia Susan for Christmas.  It is well established in a 12-14" pot and about 3' tall.  Is is ok to plant it on into a very large patio pot rather than garden bed and when should I do this?

Bill replies...

Your Magnolia variety Susan Eunice is a beautiful shrub and will grow extremely well in a large patio pot but, when repotting I would choose either a wooden, ceramic or terracotta pot rather than plastic as, these will keep the root of your shrub just a little bit warmer over the winter period.  With regard to repotting if there are numerous buds on your Magnolia and you are afraid of damaging these you can wait until the shrub has finished flowering and then repot.  You will need to use an ericaceous compost and I would recommend a soil base ericaceous compost rather than peat based, the reason being that the compost will be heavier and there is far less chance of your Magnolia blowing over in windy conditions.  You will need to keep an eye on the watering over the summer months and you will also need to feed during the growing season with an acid/ericaceous fertiliser.

------

Dorothy Price asks...

I have a magnolia grandiflora and would like to know how to prune it and when to prune it please Bill.

Bill replies...

Magnolia Grandiflora is a beautiful tree Dorothy which produces magnificent large scented flowers and is one of my favourite Magnolia varieties.  With regard to pruning Magnolias do not like hard pruning but any dead wood can be removed after flowering late springtime and, also if you have any large unwanted branches these can also be pruned back at the same time.  It is however important not to prune back too hard.

------

Paul Jennings asks...

I have a mature magnolia tree (approx 15yrs) and would like your advice on how to prune the tree so as to keep it to a manageable height and maximise its flowering potential. I am not sure how far back to cut.

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Magnolia Tree Paul is after flowering when any dead wood and unwanted branches can be cut back but, I must stress that Magnolias do not like hard pruning.  When pruning you will need to cut back just above a branch and it is important to ensure that you keep the shape of your tree.

------

Elizabeth Jeynes asks...

Please can you tell me if there is a variety of magnolia tree called Carole, I lost my sister last year to breast cancer and as she loved the magnolia tree I would like to plant one in my garden for her on the anniversary in March. Hoping you can help.

Bill replies...

I am afraid Elizabeth that there is no variety of Magnolia named Carole to commemorate the loss of your sister but there are other varieties which I am sure your sister would appreciate and, the ones which I would recommend are Magnolia Stiletto (which has beautiful star shaped flowers) Magnolia Soulangeana Rustica Rubra (beautiful pink flowers) Magnolia Ricki (pink striped flowers) and Magnolia Elizabeth (creamy yellow flowers).  Magnolias love to be grown in a deep well drained but humus rich soil and a sunny but slightly shaded position.  There are numerous varieties available and it may be worth your while to visit Garden Centres in your area to see which Magnolias are available.

------

Henry Cryan asks...

From cuttings about how long would a magnolia take to produce flowers? The ones I had in mind were Susan, Stellata and Soulangeana.

Bill replies...

It takes quite a number of years Henry before Magnolias flower from cuttings and for this reason quite a number of Magnolia species are now being crafted onto a root stock.  If you do wish to take cuttings I would choose semi ripe wood cuttings taken during July/August time, three to four inches long and inserted into four to five inch pots using a fifty fifty mixture of peat and sharp grit.  Another popular method of propagating Magnolias is by layering and I would recommend this method early summer time.  You can also grow Magnolias from seed but, again, you will have to wait many many years for these plants to produce flowers.

------

Diane Bushnell asks...

I have a magnolia susan.  It has been in a pot for about 4 years. It now stands about 6ft. I want to plant it in my garden now as I have recently moved.  It has just started to bud, so when would be the best time to plant.  I have a large bin of well rotted compost to put in the ground.

Bill replies...

I would be inclined to wait until your Magnolia has finished flowering in the springtime Diane before transplanting in the garden and I would keep the pot in a sheltered position to avoid any frost or wind damage to the buds.  Magnolias love to be planted in a soil rich in organic matter and the addition of the well rotted compost you have with the soil will be ideal but, they do prefer a lime free growing medium.  It is also important to avoid planting too deep and if possible planted in a sunny sheltered position.

------

Orla Staveley asks...

A friend has given me a magnolia tree (4ft) in a pot, it has not flowered much in the last three years and I wish to plant it in the garden. Is it safe to plant now or should I wait until spring?

Bill replies...

Magnolias are beautiful trees/shrubs Orla and you would be far better waiting until springtime before replanting your Magnolia in the garden.  Magnolias do suffer badly from cold winds so, you will need to choose a sheltered but sunny spot but they will tolerate a wide range of soils providing that there is not too much chalk/lime in the soil, and it is well worthwhile incorporating some well rotted manure into the soil before planting.  Do not plant your Magnolia too deeply and it will require watering in the summer months during dry periods.  Magnolias require little pruning but applying a mulch of well rotted manure around the plant during the summer months is also beneficial.

------

Monica asks...

What tree can I plant in a tiny garden which grows no more that 12/15 ft high? Don't like those narrow column trees; do love autumn colours though.

Bill replies...

If you require a plant for autumn colour Monica and your garden is sheltered I would choose one of the Acer Palmatum Cultivars.  There are also the Magnolias and Stellata is reasonable dwarf variety.  The deciduous tree Amelanchier Grandi Flora will again give you autumn colour and also Prunus Serrula.

------

Helen asks...

How far should I plant a magnolia susan away from the house so the roots are still safe from invading the house?

Bill replies...

Susan is a beautiful variety of Magnolia Helen and will grow to a height of approximately ten to twelve feet and is quite and erect forming species.  Regarding a safe distance from your house the recommend distance is the height the shrub will grow to so, you are looking at a distance of ten to twelve feet away from the house.

------

Katie Cordell asks...

We have a magnolia which we planted this summer as quite a mature bush. Its leaves are turning brown at the edges and withering and yet there appear to be more new shoots. Is this normal?

Bill replies...

The majority of Magnolias are deciduous trees Katie and at this time of year the leaves will turn brown and and start to fall.  The new swollen shoots that are left on the tree are the flower buds which will open early next spring.  With a newly planted Magnolia it is very important that you keep an eye on the watering during next spring and summer.

------

Sue asks...

We recently bought and planted a 6 foot Magnolia Susan in the open space at the front of the house, with ericaceous compost surrounding the roots, we did not disturb the root ball. The leaves are now turning brown and curling. Do you have any ideas about what may be causing this?

Bill replies...

It is difficult to give a concise answer Sue as to the reason why the leaves on your Magnolia tree are turning brown and curling.  Due to the recent extreme weather conditions quite a number of leaves on a wide range of trees are beginning to turn brown and starting to curl. Magnolias as a norm are usually free from pests and diseases but I would check closely to see if there are any sign of fungal disease or aphids on the leaves which, again, will cause the leaves to curl.  Unfortunately there is nothing much that you can do at the present time but hopefully next spring the leaves on your Magnolia will be healthy.  During early springtime it is worthwhile feeding your Magnolia with a balanced base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal.

------

Mrs E Mounter asks...

I have a Magnolia Susan in a pot on the terrace in memory of my best friend Susan, who died of cancer. It has been thriving, but just a few days ago some of the leaves started to go brown. I am worried that I'm going to lose it.  I keep it well watered when the weather's dry.   Any suggestions?

Bill replies...

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the leaves to go brown on your Magnolia variety Susan but, quite a number of trees and shrubs have suffered from the recent adverse weather conditions.  I would be inclined to move your plant into a sheltered and slightly shaded spot away from the elements.  If during the summer months the new leaves are also becoming infected I would be grateful if you could send me a photograph of your plant which will help me to ascertain what the problem is.

------

Mick asks...

I have a young magnolia which is losing its leaves, the leaves are yellowing at the edges and have a rusty look underneath. Can you help?

Bill replies...

Quite a lot of young Magnolias and newly planted shrubs have suffered this year Mick due to climate conditions - we had a very dry spring when plants needed be watered - then we had the monsoons for three months, when young plants were growing in waterlogged conditions - and we are now having another dry spell.  I am certain that this is the reason why the leaves on your Magnolia are yellowing/senescing early.  With quite a number of varieties of Magnolia you do have this rusty shine underneath the leaves and I would not worry too much about it.

------

Debbie Frith asks...

My Magnolia (Rustica Rubra) flowered again late summer this year followed by new growth, probably due to all the weird weather we had. I am worried that it will be affected now by the winter with frost affecting the new growth - any suggestions or advice is welcome.  This is its third year in situ and it is about 6-7 feet tall.

Bill replies...

Quite a number of spring flowering shrubs this year Debbie including Magnolias have again produced flowers late summertime followed by new shoots which is due to this year's unseasonable weather.  Late flowering does occasionally happen on quite a range of plants but the shrubs usually adapt to these conditions and any new growth is very rarely affected during the winter months.

------

M. Hook asks...

We have a Magnolia tree which we are hoping to replant to make way for an extension, the tree is about 10ft high, how far are the roots?

Bill replies...

Depending on the quality of the soil the roots of your Magnolia could be quite easily be ten feet away from the tree and, you will need to dig out an extremely large root ball if you are going to be successful in transplanting your tree.  If you intend excavating for your home extension in the near future you will need to dig up the Magnolia as soon as possible (April).  If it is possible to obtain a small front loading digger it would then be possible for the digger to dig out a large root ball of soil as it is going to be very difficult with just a spade and shovel.  If at all possible I would wait until the Autumn time for transplanting.

------

Nicole Nagle asks...

I have a magnolia in my front garden that must be over 25 years old this summer I noticed on some of branches on the new growth some of the buds / leaves growths were shaped like a pine cone with red tints in it. I have left them but can not find out what it is, or whether I should cut it out?

Bill replies...

The pine shaped cones which you have on your Magnolia are the seed cones Nicola and, if you take one of and open it up there could well be some Magnolia seeds inside.  It is worthwhile to sow the seeds early Springtime in a general seed and potting compost just to see if any will germinate.  Maybe in a few years time you may have produced a new hybrid Magnolia which you could name 'Magnolia Nicola'! It would be great to hear if any seeds have germinated.

------

Sylvia Parr asks...

I've got a small magnolia tree that has been in for about 10 years. The top third didn't get any leaves or flowers on this year, and now looks like it's dying. Some of the leaves have gone brown and are curling up, and there are things growing on the ends of some branches almost like a catkin. Please can you help?

Bill replies...

The die back of the top branches Sylvia could have been caused by drought conditions during the previous summer or, visa versa if your tree has been in very wet/water-logged conditions throughout the winter months. You will need to cut the dead branches back and I would also give your Magnolia a top dressing with an organic based fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal.  Also, if at all possible, I would also mulch around the base of your tree with some well rotted manure.  The things growing at the end of your branches will probably be seed head/pods and it maybe well worth saving some of these when they have fully ripened.

------

Steve Mitchell asks...

Can you recommend a white magnolia for growing in a pot please?

Bill replies...

One of my favourite shrubs Steve is the Magnolia and the white Magnolia I would recommend for growing in a large container is Magnolia Stellata, which needs to be planted in a ericaceous/lime free compost.  With Magnolia Stellata being a very early flowering variety it will be susceptible to frost damage and your container will need to be situated in a sheltered but sunny position - avoiding frost pockets.  Regular watering and feeding is required throughout the summer months.

------

last updated: 02/06/2008 at 13:56
created: 20/10/2006

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Magnolias



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy