Reading Time: 4 minutes 🍃
Magnolias are some of the oldest plants alive, evolving to bless us with their gorgeous blooms since prehistoric times. Planting one in your garden is a great way to ensure you will have gorgeous blooms and sweet-smelling air every spring.
However, magnolias can be fussy sometimes, including with the soil or compost they thrive in.
Magnolias thrive in slightly acidic soil, so adding ericaceous compost to your mix is a great way to ensure the right conditions for your plants. You can use ericaceous compost with magnolias, whether you are planting them directly in the ground or in the pot. If you don’t have ericaceous compost on hand, you can use an alternative such as loam compost.
Here is what you need to know about ericaceous compost and magnolias.
What Is Ericaceous Compost?
Ericaceous compost is compost made from organic matter that has a low pH, meaning that it is acidic. You can mix ericaceous compost with regular soil to bring down the pH levels of your garden beds. Or, you can fill a garden pot with just ericaceous compost and plant an acid-loving plant directly in there.
Ericaceous compost is one of the best ways to bring down the pH levels of soil if you are trying to grow a plant, like a eucalyptus, that thrives in acidic conditions. It also has other benefits, such as replacing potting soil, retaining moisture, and containing plenty of nutrients from plants.
Ericaceous compost is made from natural materials, such as:
- Pine needles
- Ground-up Christmas trees
- Coffee grounds
You can find ericaceous compost at most garden stores; just make sure that if it contains sand, it is sharp sand and not builder’s sand. If you want full control over the contents of your compost, you can easily make your own following online tutorials.
Why Is Ericaceous Compost Good for Magnolias?
Magnolias are not ericaceous plants like camellias or rhododendrons that need highly acidic soil to survive. However, these plants still thrive best in neutral or slightly acidic soil.
Mixing ericaceous compost into your garden beds or your potting soil if your soil is slightly alkaline will help you lower the alkalinity to the optimum pH for magnolia plants, which is around 5.5–6.5.
Ericaceous compost also has other benefits that will help magnolia plants thrive. Magnolias need soil that is rich in organic matter so that they can get the nutrients they need to grow, and ericaceous compost is rich in nutrients derived from organic soil.
Magnolias also need well-drained, moist soil, and ericaceous compost helps soil retain water without becoming waterlogged.
Unlike camellias, magnolias don’t necessarily need ericaceous compost to grow. However, adding some ericaceous compost can help your magnolias really thrive, especially if your soil is slightly alkaline (to make sure, soil-test a patch of your garden before planting anything or adding compost).
Ericaceous compost is a great tool whether you’re planting magnolias in pots or directly in the ground.
What Other Options Do You Have for Making the Soil Right for Magnolias?
If you don’t have ericaceous compost on hand, you have a few other options for getting your soil to the right pH levels for magnolias. Instead of ericaceous compost, you can use loam-based compost. This compost contains loam soil, a slightly acidic soil that drains well and is also rich in nutrients.
Another option is to choose magnolia cultivars that thrive in alkaline conditions. There are many, many varieties of magnolias out there, and they differ in many ways, including size, shape, and growing conditions.
Some varieties, such as Magnolia stellata and Magnolia soulangeana, actually grow better in chalky soils.
However, the best solution is to mix ericaceous compost in with the soil your magnolias are growing in. Ericaceous compost is the best way to alter the pH of your soil if the plant you are trying to grow needs acidic conditions. It is also rich in nutrients to help that plant thrive.
Other Tips for Growing Magnolias
Magnolias are fairly hardy plants, so there’s plenty of room for error, even if you’re a beginning gardener. However, if you want your magnolias to really thrive, here are some other tips besides getting your hands on some ericaceous compost.
The first step is to research the type of magnolia you are getting. As mentioned above, different magnolia species vary greatly in terms of their size and ideal growing conditions, and since these plants take decades to reach maturity and can last for a lifetime, it’s worth knowing which one you’re getting it.
For example, Magnolia stellata is a smaller variety that works well with alkaline soils and grows in a pot.
Once you choose your magnolia plant, it’s time to choose the right spot. Besides thinking of the soil pH, you should think about the weather conditions. Magnolias need a little shelter from the wind, especially when they’re still young so that the branches don’t break.
You should also beware of frost pockets, although, for the most part, these plants are hardy enough to withstand winter. The best spot is an area that gets plenty of sun, which will protect the plant from frost and give it enough sunlight for the blooms to blossom.
Finally, after planting your magnolia, it is time to maintain it. Magnolias need plenty of liquid, so water them regularly, especially in the summer when conditions are drier.
After the magnolia flowers and the blossoms fall off, gently prune off any dead or crossing branches. However, be careful not to prune too much as that might kill the magnolia.
Ericaceous compost is one of the most versatile tools you can have in your gardening shed as it helps plants thrive, especially plants that need acidic soil, such as magnolias.
Magnolias are hardy enough that there are varieties that will thrive in any type of soil, but they do best in neutral and acidic soils. Ericaceous compost helps alter the pH and fills the soil with nutrients for your magnolia tree or shrub.