The Q&A Archives: A tree for wind and occasional wet feet

Question: I have a windy corner, southwest, where I had a southern magnolia that died over last winter. It also occasionally may get too much water. Can I plant a holly there? If so, I would like something that grows pretty fast. I'm in my late 60's and I don't have time to watch it grow for 20 years. Thanks

Answer: Unfortunately southern magnolias do need winter wind protection and will not tolerate overly wet soil as you have discovered. I would suggest though that you be certain the tree has truly died, sometimes a newly planted evergreen magnolia will look terrible and lose foliage its first winter -- but will recover.

Depending on how much space you have for the tree to mature, you might look at a river birch (Betula nigra) or possibly the swamp magnolia, which is a deciduous tree, Magnolia virginiana. You might consider a holly, if the area is not so wet there is standing water. You would need to plant the holly a few inches higher than the surrounding soil.

Another option might be to look at the drainage in your yard and see if the water could be directed elsewhere to avoid it being so wet, too. Sometimes (not always) it is a surprisingly simple matter to do this.

Your local county extension and local professionally trained nursery staff should be able to make more precise suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions where you want to plant this tree (amount of space for the tree, sun exposure, soil type and moisture, wind exposure, etc.), and your overall design goals. Good luck with your tree planting!

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