We planted a new magnolia

socksJuly 1, 2011

We planted a new magnolia tree this week. Can anyone suggest a groundcover which would be a good choice for under the tree? Not too low, maybe 12" high.

It's in the low 80's. How often should we water? Every other day?

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Dan Staley

Water when needed, as much as it needs.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 11:52AM
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I'll be interested in the answers to this one too. By "magnolia" I assume you mean, M. grandiflora. The problem is that these trees cast quite deep shade beneath them. The other potential problem that I see is that all magnolias tend to be shallow rooted, so that whatever you plant will be compete with the tree for moisture. I just have mulch under my grandifloras but if I hear that a ground cover would not hurt the tree I would consider and putting either ferns, or ajuga. The ground cover needs to be tolerant of dry soils and lower light levels. (Vinca is another choice but I don't like it.)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 5:30PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Once of enough size an evergreen magnolia will shade out pretty much everything. And it drops leaves and spent flower and fruit parts for months.

I would not characterize magnolias as shallow rooted, as far as it goes - if anything more the opposite. I was once told of an instance where old live oaks blew over in a hurricane and the southern magnolias on the same site remained standing. The winds were so severe all the leaves were blow off the magnolias.

And pretty much all trees produce small roots just below the surface of the soil, except where site conditions work against this - as in a desert.

But magnolias do have fleshy roots that shouldn't be chopped up by planting or weeding activities.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 2:28PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"How often should we water? Every other day?"

See instructions linked below.

  1. Provide proper after-care.
    It is important to properly water your tree or shrub, when needed, until the root system is well established. Soil at the level of the rootball should be kept moist but not wet. ... Longer (deeper), less frequent watering is much better than shorter (quick), frequent watering. Check the soil in and around the rootball to ensure proper moisture levels. A finger can be inserted 2" to 3" into the ground to test for moisture. In sites with improper or poor drainage, it is possible for the rootball to remain soggy while the surrounding soil dries out or for the rootball to dry out while the surrounding soil maintains adequate moisture.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting a Tree or Shrub

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 1:17AM
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Dan Staley

I had a M. grandiflora in Sacramento, planted ~1950-ish. Nothing grew under it from trunk - 10-12 feet out in all directions. The only place in my yard where the heaths and heathers were happy were to its north a bit. Anyway, you can have groundcover for a few years, then it will get shaded out and croak, so IMHO choose what you want as long as you know it is temporary.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 11:01AM
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Thank you everyone. We are watering about every other day since it's approaching the 100's here now. It looks good for now. I am suspicious that it was a little dry when they brought it in (36" box). Not the best time to plant a tree, but that's life. I think for now we'll put commercial mulch under it to keep the weeds down. The tree company said no bark because sometimes it carries disease. Have you ever heard of that???

I was thinking this would be a good time to plant a groundcover before the soil becomes full of small roots but maybe we won't do that.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 11:43AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Socks, take a look at the document (specifically third column second page) linked below. Most respected sources conclude that there is very little chance of introducing disease through proper use of mulch. If I knew that a tree had died from some really awful disease, I probably wouldn't use it for mulch, but it's just something that's so unlikely to be a problem that I wouldn't worry about it. There is a much higher chance of transmitting disease through dirty pruning tools (and very few people sterilize their tools in between jobs).

Here is a link that might be useful: Myths Regarding Wood Chip Mulch

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 5:25PM
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Great, Brandon. Thank you.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 1:16PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I've been using bark mulch for years now without a problem. I've heard the opposite of what you where told as the fine bark pieces keep more light out therefore doing a better job of keeping weeds and grass out of the equation.

I have to concur that plants don't grow well around Mags. I have/had several of them and the roots are very fleshy and dense. Its actually worse then some maples and birch.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 1:28PM
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