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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jeeesh. So You Want to Grow Magnolia in Las Vegas. Here's How.

Q. I'm probably going to be at the mercy of the stock at the local nursery this weekend. I really liked the 24 gallon Magnolia tree they had but do you think my space of 18' x 14' will be too small for a Magnolia?

Southern magnolia growing near Decatur
and Red Rock in Las Vegas
A. As long as you understand I am not endorsing the planting of a magnolia but if that is what you want, then read the following. Magnolias can get huge and so if you want to enjoy it for a few years and yank it out when it no longer does well, then go for it. You might get ten or more years before this happens.

            Do not put it close to a hot (south or west facing) wall. BUT you must plant in a hole that is three or four feet wider than the container. Mix good compost (bagged and good stuff will be expensive) half and half with the soil you take from the hole and remove large rocks (baseball sized or larger).

            Mix a fertilizer like 16-16-16 with this backfill; about one handful for each ten gallon bucket. Mix it all together and put this modified soil back into the hole surrounding the rootball of the plant.

            As you are putting this soil back into the hole, add water from a hose so it makes it the consistency of quicksand to get rid of air pockets and the slurry flows all around the root ball.

Another Southern magnolia growing near Eastern and
Harmon. Notice the dieback beginning in the top.
Roots cannot provide enough water to the tops during
mid summer and the low tolerance of this plant to
temperature and humidity extremes.
            Plant at the same level as it was in the container. Water it deeply, three times, immediately after planting and when the soil has drained each time. It will be watered after planting best with something that can deliver a lot of water because this tree will require lots of water each time it is watered.

            The amount of water should be equivalent to filling a basin around the tree with three inches of water; if it is a 15 gallon plant then apply 15 gallons of water. You don’t have to use a basin but this basin idea should give you an idea of the amount needed.

            If you use drip emitters, then you should have initially at least three emitters for a 15 gallon tree. If it is a 24 inch boxed tree, then you should put at least at four emitters. As the tree gets larger, you will need to add more emitters and more water, perhaps one or two gallons more at each application per year of growth. Big trees use more water than little trees.

            Lastly, dig out an area around the tree that will allow you to put about four inches of wood mulch in an area covering a circle, at least eight feet in diameter, around the tree. The key with this tree is the right location, soil modification at the time of planting, adequate irrigations and wood mulch under the tree.

1 comment:

  1. Great points and reality check on growing them in the desert...milder winter climates are not all the same, as I can attest in Abq.

    Here, the "experts" imply to those wanting Southern Magnolia how Abq (hot summers, cool but mild winters, low humidity, 5000' solar intensity at 35 deg latitude) doesn't have enough heat (hmm) and is too cold in winter (wrong), by putting them next to S walls (calcium build-up in soil, reflected heat). Then they do what your 2nd pic shows! I hear ya' on "Jeeesh".

    Again, right on...they are oasis plants, for enriched soils over a large area, lawn or heavy groundcover surroundings, away from reflected heat, and lots of regular and deep irrigation. Much easier and fulfilling as to beauty to use what actually needs less pampering...