Magnolia trees are famous for their big, beautiful, waxy leaves that can be up to 10 inches long. If you’re lucky enough to have a magnolia tree in your yard, you may wonder what to do when they start dropping their leaves. Can you use them in your garden? How do you mulch them?
Because magnolia leaves are so large and waxy, they are difficult to mulch. They don’t break down quickly on their own, so they should be chopped or shredded before they are used as mulch. Running them through a chipper or shredder or running over them with a lawnmower are efficient ways to mulch magnolia leaves.
Keep reading to learn more about how to mulch your magnolia leaves and where you should use them.
How To Mulch Magnolia Leaves
While it’s true that you can use magnolia leaves as mulch without shredding them, they won’t work as well. Magnolia leaves are covered with a material called cutin, which is what gives them their waxy appearance. Cutin helps keep the leaves safe from damage caused by pollutants from salt or air.
While this waxy coating is great at helping the leaves stay healthy while they’re on the tree, it also makes it difficult for the leaves to break down once they’ve fallen to the ground. This means that it takes magnolia leaves significantly longer to break down than other, smaller leaves.
The best way to speed up the process is to shred the leaves to mulch them. There are several ways to do this: with a chipper or shredder, or more commonly, a lawnmower. If you have a chipper or shredder machine, just run the leaves through to cut them into small pieces. However, since not everyone has a shredder, most people mulch their magnolia leaves with a lawnmower.
Just rake your magnolia leaves into a pile and run your lawnmower over the pile three or four times. If you only run the lawnmower through the pile once, you’ll still have large pieces of magnolia leaves. Going over the pile several times will break the leaves into much smaller pieces that are easier to use as mulch.
When You Shouldn’t Use Magnolia Leaves As Mulch
It’s important to note that magnolia leaves are allelopathic. This means that they secrete a chemical that keeps other plants from growing; this prevents the magnolia tree from having plants competing for the space it’s growing in.
If you’re hoping to grow plants near your mulch–like in a garden–using magnolia leaves as mulch might keep any plants from growing. Of course, this isn’t very helpful when you’re trying to grow vegetables or flowers! It’s best to find another mulch option for your garden and flower beds.
If you’re trying to prevent any plants from growing in a certain area (like driveways and walkways), however, using magnolia leaves as mulch is a wonderful idea. They will effectively keep plants and weeds from growing and help the area stay clear.