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Growing Magnolias in New Zealand

Taranaki Experience

Our climate is ideal for magnolias with the even rainfall and free draining soil, but the soil is light and its volcanic nature means it is low in phosphates. Varieties such as 'Ian's Red' (from Drury, South Auckland) and  'Genie' (raised locally) which are the reddest varieties in NZ, usually improve in other areas with soils more suited to the nutrient requirements of magnolias. Magnolia Dark Shadow has been tried locally and performed quite poorly colourwise. the following information is based on Taranaki experience, but the basic principles apply to magnolias everywhere.

Magnolia Planting

Planting:Magnolias are surface rooting plants, and if transplanting an established seedling or plant grafted on a seedling, you may notice new roots radiating from the stem above the older roots. These roots in the natural forest situation where they originate will grow out through the leaf mould on the forest floor to absorb nutrients released as the fallen leaves break down. As a result of this natural adaptation Magnolias like a cool root zone so a good mulch after planting will pay dividends. You may have noticed that magnolias don't thrive until their roots become shaded, either by themselves, or surrounding companion plants.. When planting magnolias dig in as much compost as possible and work the soil in an area twice the diameter of the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole then put in a strong stake before back filling so that the roots are not damaged by putting it in afterward. Watch the plant does not get too dry in the first season since magnolias spend the first year from planting getting settled in, especially if they were field grown before sale. If they get too dry they will tend to sulk. If there is some concern about bad drainage, plant your magnolia in a slightly raised bed so it does not sit in a pool of wet soil. This is particularly a problem in heavy Auckland and Northland soils. In these soils, planting on a slope is easier, and it is an advantage to condition the soil to improve drainage by making the planting hole oval shaped out to the edge of the slope, so that the bottom of the hole is level with the lip on the bottom side of the hole. If you want to plant a magnolia near water, make sure the plant has 40 - 50 centimetres of well prepared and aerated soil above the water table to get itself established in. It will appreciate the close proximity of the extra water, but let it decide how close it wants to put its roots to it. When transplanting a magnolia it is best to move as large a block of undisturbed soil as possible and the resulting stress will be proportionally less. If the root ball gets disturbed or even shaken out completely, then the plant will benefit from a reduction of branches by at least a third. Evergreen species should be root-pruned in autumn before transplanting, and deciduous species are best moved when dormant, though they can be treated as evergreens and root-pruned for shifting in the autumn, as long as their growth has matured when the root-pruning process starts. If you have to move one in growth, trim out all the active growing tips, and if possible spray with an anti-desicant spray at label rates.

Fertiliser for Magnolias

Magnolias generally don't need much feeding once established. For the first year or two an application of balanced garden fertiliser will strengthen the plant, and after this an annual application of well rotted compost, in addition to mulch, will encourage strong healthy growth, and increase the moisture retention in light soils and lower rainfall areas. Addition of Potassic Superphosphate is advisable in light Taranaki soils as Phosphate tends to be locked in our soils. We get enough nitrogen in our rain. Mulching fallen leaves with a lawnmower and placing this around the root zone, in addition to spring mulching, will help recycle nutrients added in previous years. Do not mulch too deeply at any time, but build up over several years will encourage roots from higher on the stem as illustrated.


We open the garden to view magnolias and cherries in flower ON WEEKENDS from AUGUST through until LATE OCTOBER so you can choose plants that you have seen growing in our garden to enjoy in your own garden.






The magnolia pictured is MAGNOLIA STELLAR GEM. This was our NEW RELEASE FOR THE 2017 SEASON.

Magnolia Grove was established in 2005 when we moved into the 1965 farm cottage on a blank 8000sq metre property and started planting hedges and magnolia seedlings. In 2008 we obtained a further 32000 sq metres the garden doubled, and the nursery trebled, and this allowed us to increase the range available though our mail order service.


The extra space allowed us the set up a New Zealand Raised Magnolia Collection as a reference for varieties raised in New Zealand, and to use as a benchmark for the hybrids we raise in our breeding program.In 2009 we opened the garden for the first time for The Waitara Garden Trail, a charity event in January, then the following spring for the Taranaki Rhododendron Festival now called POWERCO TARANAKI GARDEN FESTIVAL.


Each spring we open on weekends while the magnolias are in bloom from early August until mid November with plants of the best varieties for sale. We are open at other times by arrangement for garden group tours or interested persons who would like to see the collections at Magnolia Grove.




While our first language is English, we rely on Google to translate to other languages and realise the result may not always be correct. Please enjoy our site.



Thanks, Vance & Kathryn. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Give us your feedback, we would really like to hear from you.

Magnolia Grove was established in 2005 when we moved into the house on a blank 8000sq metre property and started planting hedges and magnolia seedlings. In 2008 we obtained a further 32000 sq metres the garden doubled, and the nursery trebled. The area in the lower right of the picture is the seedling nursery where we raise rootstocks for sale. The rest of the right hand part of the property is the tree nursery where we raise magnolias and a few other trees for sale.The bottom left portion of the garden is the original grove of magnolia seedlings planted in 2005 where 'Brixton Belle', 'Deryk', 'Brixton Salmon' and 'Mighty Mouse' were raised.

We are open weekends from early August to Mid November, as well as for the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular. Other times by appointment by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephoning 0274397207. We look forward to your visit. Vance & Kathryn Hooper.


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Welcome to the Desert Garden Gallery where you can get a sneak preview of the plants we can grow in the ground at Magnolia Grove.

This is the outline for a presentation on the subject at Magnolia Grove for the Rhododendron and Garden Festival 2010


We have a few main plant families that create the basic structure.Agave 20, Aloes 33, Cereus types (columnar) 20, Opuntiods(prickly pear types) 21, Yuccas 7.The Desert Garden at Magnolia Grove has been through at least minus 5 Celsius.The hardy range of basic species allows the range of interesting shapes and textures.Full sun is essential, and good air circulation is important for fast drying in our climate

PROPAGATION:The methods of propagation are quite dependant on the shape or structure of the plant.Plant into a well drained mix in containers, or cuttings and divisions can be planted into the ground from November to January.SEED: This is mainly for solitary plants of normally clumping families or for non branching cacti.NEVER SOW SEED IN CONTAINERS SHALLOWER THAN 8CM. CLICK HERE TO SEE WHY.SURFACE SOW, COVER WITH 3MM GRADE PUMICE. AS FOR ANY OTHER SEED: WARM AND HUMID UNTIL GERMINATED. Numbers can be built up quickly from seed propagation. When collecting seed, the black seeds are generally the good ones. Surplus seedlings are useful to experiment for hardiness.

CUTTINGS:Most cacti can be grown from cuttings and the stem forming succulents can be grown from cuttings. HANDLING THE PRICKLY ONES:Thick gloves, tongs and rolled paper are useful for handling plants and cuttings.ALLOW ALL CUT SURFACES TO DRY BEFORE PLANTING...AT LEAST A WEEK FOR CACTUS CUTTINGS 

DIVISION:This method is used for clumping species like Yuccas, Aloes and Agave.

TRANSPLANTING:The shape and size of the plant dictates the handling proceedure.Slings are helpful for carrying. Stakes and small posts are useful for temporary support. Support wires for very large plants.Rocks and stones are useful for permanent support.

MAINTENANCE AND GROOMING:Feed IN SPRING with balanced fertiliser for establishment phase, Nitrophoska is good. Potassic superphosphate for established plantings.For the formal look, remove dead flower heads and older leaves. On yuccas and dragon trees, do not remove leaves higher than the mature stem.On the mature part of the stem the leaves remove more easily.For the natural look, leave dead flower heads and allow a skirt of dead leaves to develop, especially on tree yuccas.

PRUNING:Pruning is really advanced grooming. A sharp spade and fork are useful for handling surplus material.

PESTS AND DISEASE:These are not usually a problem in the open. Scale insects and aphids can be a problem sometimes.Some species naturally develop a scaly bark with age.

WEED CONTROL:This is most easily achieved with a rock or pebble mulch on a smaller scale, but on a larger scale bare ground and chemical sprays are effective if used carefully.

Magnolia is an ancient genus. Appearing before bees did, the flowers evolved to encourage pollination by beetles. To avoid damage from pollinating beetles, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are extremely tough. Fossilised specimens of Magnolia acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae dating to 95 million years ago.[2] Another aspect of Magnolias that is considered to represent an ancestral state is that the flower bud is enclosed in a bract rather than in sepals; the perianth parts are undifferentiated and called tepals rather than distinct sepals and petals. Magnolia shares the tepal characteristic with several other flowering plants near the base of the flowering plantlineage such as Amborella and Nymphaea (as well as with many more recently derived plants such as Lilium). Most of the research on magnolia pollination in the west has been done outside their natural environment and temperature range. We are currently researching magnolia pollination across the world, focusing on the Asian species that are mostly grown in gardens.

In New Zealand it is mainly honeybees that carry out pollination. In New Zealand our spring conditions are marginal for magnolias to be completely at home and reproduce themselves as if they were in their natural state. Only some species and hybrids will set seed and even naturalise into the garden situation as wild seedlings. This is mainly due to the temperature ranges experienced, and it tends to be the darker flowers that tend to develop quickly enough to be fertile and open to receive pollen and set seed. Immediate location and microclimate of the plants directly affects this, as well as the frequency of late frosts destroying any seed set.

Hand pollination is the way hybrids are formed, which recombines the qualities of the 2 parents whether they are species or themselves hybrids.

When pollen and egg cells are formed in flowers, each egg cell and each pollen grain has roughly half the genetic material of the parent cell. These divisions seem to be random, so no two pollen grains are identical. When pollination occurs the genetic material is recombined and this variation makes it an individual.


A self pollinated seed is a recombination of the genetic material of the parent. If the parent is a species, then the seedling becomes another individual of the species.


If the parent is a hybrid, then the seedling is another hybrid, probably similar to the parent, but possibly quite different.


In theory a selfed interspecific hybrid could yield similar results to a back cross, but a back cross would make these qualities more stronger or definite.


Some plants have processes that prevent self pollination to force variation by cross pollination, and those that are self fertile often have mechanisms to force cross pollination. Magnolias are mostly self fertile, but force cross pollination by ripening the pollen after the flower is unable to receive pollen.


Larger trees will be more likely to set seed to themselves as there are more flowers at compatible stages at any time. However, conditions must be right, such as temperature and insects available to transfer the pollen.




There is a theory that some plants that are self sterile eventually can become self fertile with age due to minor genetic mutations that occur in different branches. effectively making the branches genetic individuals.


A small upright tree of slender habit with cup shaped blooms of strong rose-purple. Early to mid season flowering. Bred in New Zealand by Mr Peter Cave. One of the best "purple" magnolias. Deciduous. Height estimated at 4 metres in 10 years (width 1.5 metres)


('Sayonara' x 'Vulcan')

A hybrid raised at the Auckland Botanic Gardens by Stuart Robertson about 2000, and named about 2007.

Special features:

A reasonably strong growing rounded tree that presents its flowers well and in abundance. This tree will get big with age. 

The rich colour of 'Vulcan' comes through in this hybrid, and the flowers hold their colour well throughout the flowering season.


Raised by Vance Hooper at Duncan and Davies and named about 1995.

Special features:

A compact free flowering hybrid that originally flowered 2 years from seed. Upright sturdy growth on a bush that likes to clump from the base. Dark, healthy foliage that offsets the numerous summer flowers. Spring flowers are a rich reddish violet, a very difficult colour to reproduce.


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