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Planting New Trees

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2009

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay, New York, celebrates one of the largest and oldest Arbor Day festivals in New York State. 

The park's diverse magnolia collection was started in the early 1960s and now features more than 100 different species, varieties, and cultivars. The magnolias begin to bloom in early April and are at peak color the third and fourth week of April. 

Later blooming varieties continue to bloom into early May, and the evergreen types will bloom in early to mid summer. The magnolia blossoms range in a wide variety of colors from pure white to cream or yellow to deeper shades of pink, rose, and burgundy.

Magnolia Branches Seen on the Show
M. x Soulangiana (Saucer Magnolia)
Lennei Alba
M. Stellata (Star Magnolia)
Rosea
Royal Star
M. x Leonard Messel
M. x Elizabeth
M. x loebneri Dr. Merrill
M. x Iolanthe
M. denuadata (Yulan magnolia)
M. x (Little Girl Series)

Planting Trees
The first thing that you should do as a gardener is find the right place for your new tree. Too often plants are just stuck where we have room and not necessarily where they want to grow. The important factors when deciding where to put your tree is knowing what species of tree you have and how big it will ultimately get. 

The tree should be planted where it will have plenty of room to grow. Also check out the light conditions and find out what type of soil you have and what type of soil pH and nutrients the soil contains.

Small tree seedlings need extra care because they are so young and fragile. First, you should find out what type of seedling you have and make sure it is correctly sited. You should make sure you have enough room and the right growing environment for your seedling before choosing a permanent location. 

If you have a bare-root seedling, bury the roots and fill in the soil around the tree to ensure that all the exposed roots are covered. Be sure not to bury the seedling too deep. If you have a small containerized seedling, gently pull the plant out of the pot by tipping the container to the side or upside down, gently tease the roots out so they are not in a circular pattern and make sure the swollen area at the base of the trunk (root flare) is visible. Then the seedling can be planted in light, fluffy soil with just a light layer of soil covering the top layer of roots.

When choosing a mature tree to plant, make sure the tree has a nice straight trunk, no abrasions on the bark and stems, and no broken branches. If possible, check to see if there is a visible root flare -- a swollen area at the base of the plant. On some young tees, root flares are hard to identify. 

After the tree has been planted, it is imperative to water it thoroughly. During periods of drought or as the soil begins to dry, the plant will need to be watered thoroughly again. New trees need two years of tender loving care before they can be left on their own. A light layer of mulch will enable plants to establish more quickly and suppress weeds.

Magnolias prefer moist, well-drained, rich soil but are quite adaptable to different soil types and pH levels. Magnolias also prefer full sun or partial shade and a light layer of mulch around their roots. Once established, magnolias are quite easy to grow and can live for 50 years.

Resources
Special thanks to Vinnie Simeone, director of Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, for sharing this information. For more information, visit plantingfields.org. Special thanks to the Arbor Day Foundation for giving tree saplings and copies of "What Tree is That?" to our studio audience.

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