The Q&A Archives: Magnolia's anti-social???

Question: Have a magnolia tree planted in back yard. Cannot get anything to grow underneath it, dispite planting shade loving plants like hosta or spiderwort and using drip irrigation in case tree is hogging the rain. Even tried a dwarf hemlock. Everything has died. Rest of garden is beautiful. Magnolia is trimmed up about 6-ft from ground showing lovely double trunk, but ground is bare underneath. I know I've had trouble under some black walnuts due to their toxicity, but have never heard of a problem with Magnolia. Am currently using large containers under, but would love to be able to plant directly in soil. Any ideas or suggestions?

Answer: Yes, allelopathy is associated with magnolias. This is likely a survival mechanism developed by the tree to prevent root competition. For this reason growing plants beneath is usually not successful. Too, the steady dropping of leaves and debris naturally accumulates a nice layer of organic mulch beneath the tree to help feed the soil on an ongoing basis. The best approach is to leave the area beneath the tree mulched rather than battle the deep shade, dense roots, and allelopathy.

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