Caring for a sweetbay magnolia requires watering the tree, applying fertilizer, pruning the branches and nurturing the soil. You need pruning shears as well as iron sulfate if the soil is alkaline.
- Water the tree
Water the tree heavily two or three times a week during the first growing season to ensure that the roots absorb enough moisture from the soil. Afterwards, water the tree once each week from spring until fall.
- Feed the tree
Apply a slow-release tree and shrub fertilizer in the early spring before new growth appears.
- Prune the tree
Prune the tree when the plant is in its younger stages. Remove all but one branch from the base of the young tree to achieve a central trunk. Prune away any diseased or crooked stems for bases with multiple stems. Prune new sprouts only after the tree is two years old. Cut away new growth and dead or damaged limbs after the tree flowers. Follow the natural shape of the tree when pruning.
- Nurture the soil
If the soil has persistent alkaline levels, add iron sulfate to the soil each year in the early spring. Sweetbay magnolia trees require acidic soil that has a pH range between 5.0 and 6.5. The trees thrive best in moist soil, but they can also grow well in wet conditions.