Meet the Magnolia Tree
Magnolia flowers are most commonly white or pink, but can also be found in shades of purple and yellow. They are very popular ornamental plants, and can be grown as espaliers, shrubs, or trees.
I really like the magnolia tree because of its interesting leaves. Some leaves have a layer of hairy-looking tiny bristles, which are called trichomes. One side of the leaf is a dark glossy green, and the other side is a hairy copper color.
Magnolia trees have been around for over 100 million years, making them one of the oldest plants around. Their leaves have been found fossilized in Europe, North America, and Asia, showing how widespread they once were. Today, there are only around 80 species of magnolia tree left, and they are only native to southern China and the southern US.
The first magnolia tree brought to Europe was from America. The plant was cultivated in China as early as the 7th century. The Aztecs also grew magnolia trees for their beauty.
The way that magnolia trees are pollinated is by primitive wingless beetles. They have a lot of pollen and no nectar. They existed long before winged insects like bees came around. because of this, they bloom in early spring before many insects have appeared. This is also why most species don’t often set seeds.
The plants that do get pollinated produce a fruit that hangs down. I also like to use the dried seed heads of these plants for decoration, as in this wreath made of air plants.
Magnolia Tree Care Guide
The best soils for magnolia trees are rich, moist, and well-draining. For younger trees, it is recommended to add peat, humus, and perlite. Mature trees will tolerate most soil types, but it is best to avoid heavy clay-type soils.
To ensure your magnolia tree flowers and grows to its fullest potential, it needs rich soil that is full of organic matter and remains moist.
If you want to plant a new tree, you should buy some all-purpose soil from a local nursery and dig it into the hole.
You can make your own compost at home with a compost kit designed for home use.
Adding mulch, composted leaves, or grass cuttings to your garden soil will increase the nutrients.
Your tree will be able to better tolerate sandy and clay soils once it is established.
Sandy soils tend to drain water faster, while heavy clay soils retain it.
Magnolias do not enjoy chalk soil.
New gardeners may feel confused about the terms “neutral,” “acidic,” and “alkaline” when referring to soil.
It is useful to know which type of soil your plant is happiest in.
The acidity of your soil is measured by the PH of your soil.
You can buy a PH testing kit from your local nursery or online garden store.
After you have completed the steps, you will measure the PH.
The pH level of soil indicates whether it is neutral, acidic, or alkaline. A reading of 7.0 indicates neutral soil, while a reading of under 7.0 indicates acidic soil. Soil with a pH level over 7.0 is alkaline.
The ideal soil for magnolia trees is slightly acidic to neutral, with a PH level of 6.5 to 7.0.
If your soil’s pH is too low, you will need to adjust it. If your soil’s pH is in the correct range, you don’t need to adjust it.
The ideal location for a magnolia tree is somewhere that it will receive full sun to part shade, for at least six hours per day. Some varieties of magnolia tree are more tolerant of shady conditions than others.
If you live in an area with very hot summers, you should consider giving your magnolia tree some afternoon shade. Magnolia trees should be in an area with full sun to part shade. If summers are hot where you live, you should give your magnolia tree some afternoon shade.
A south-facing garden is the ideal type as it gets sun throughout the day. In gardening terms, full sun is defined as 6 hours or more of sunlight per day.
You need to make sure that your garden is not being shaded by other large trees, neighboring walls, hedges, or screens.
West-facing gardens are ideal in hot climates as they get afternoon sun.
Partially shaded to semi-shaded areas are tolerated by some species of magnolia trees; these areas are where they will grow in east-facing gardens.
If you have a garden that faces north, you have a lot of shade. Do not despair. Magnolia trees will grow, but they may not produce as many flowers and may not be as densely packed.
Water young magnolias twice a week in cool climates and three times a week in warmer climates for the first six months, then weekly after that. Mature trees only require watering occasionally. If conditions are hot and dry, make sure to water regularly to keep the soil moist.
However, be careful not to overwater your magnolia tree as it can become susceptible to root rot. Magnolia trees do best with average watering. You don’t need to worry too much about a watering routine, but be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.
In other words, you should water your tree occasionally to keep the soil moist.
To keep a magnolia healthy, it needs to receive one to two inches of water per week. Most of the time, this amount of water can be provided by rainfall. However, if the climate is unusually hot and dry, you will need to water the plant yourself.
After the first or second year of growth, you should only have to water your tree once every one to two weeks. Older trees won’t need to be watered as often.
You need to be aware of the type of soil you have because it will determine how much water the roots will be able to take in.
If you have loose, sandy soil, water will drain from it more quickly and your tree will absorb less water. Plan to water more frequently, using smaller amounts of water each time.
Clay-type soils need good drainage to prevent the roots from rotting. Add peat or perlite to the soil to improve drainage and water less frequently.
Do not over-water your young magnolia tree.
If the soil is dry and the weather is hot, it is beneficial to add a layer of mulch around the tree to help retain water.
Magnolia trees cannot survive in conditions with no water or conditions with too much water. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to give the tree the appropriate amount of water it needs.
When you have a large tree in your garden, you will need to water it frequently. By this point, the tree will be strong enough to survive most conditions.
Magnolia trees thrive in temperate climates. They are not frost tolerant and cannot withstand extreme dry heat. However, very cold temperatures below 23°F (-5°C) can cause extensive damage.
Magnolia trees enjoy a temperate climate.
If the temperature drops below 23 degrees Fahrenheit, they will not survive. They are also not well suited to extremely hot and dry climates.
Frosts can negatively impact spring flowers and evergreen leaves during the fall season. If the damage is not severe and continues, trees may be able to recover.
The ideal humidity for a magnolia tree is 30% to 50%. High humidity or low humidity can be damaging to the tree.
Magnolia trees grow best in moderate humidity conditions- neither too wet like in a rainforest, nor too dry like in a desert.
They are most appropriate for USA hardiness zones 7 to 9.
There are many varieties of magnolia, and some types are better suited to cooler climates, while others are better suited to warmer climates.
Magnolia trees prefer a high nitrogen content. The best fertilizer ratios to look for are 20-5-10 or 12-4-8. Mature trees don’t need to be fertilized, but younger deciduous trees can be fertilized in spring or fall. Evergreens should be fertilized just before winter.
The roots of magnolia trees are very shallow. Over-fertilizing your soil can cause damage to the roots.
You need to be careful about how much and what kind of fertilizer you use if you want your flowers to be stunning and smell great.
A nitrogen-rich fertilizer is the best way to ensure your magnolia tree stays healthy and grows properly.
The three numbers on a fertilizer package indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, in that order, that the fertilizer contains.
They read something like 20-5-10 or 12-4-8.
The numbers tell how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are in the mixture compared to each other.
As you can see, the first number is higher than the other two.
A high concentration of nitrogen in the soil is ideal for magnolia trees.
Because your tree will continue to grow taller and wider over the years, you will need to adjust the amount of fertilizer you give it to ensure that it is getting the nutrients it needs.
Types of Magnolia Trees
Magnolia trees can grow to be quite large, although some nurseries may advertise them as being smaller. They are too big for most small gardens, but you may be able to find some dwarf varieties of these popular species.
SOUTHERN MAGNOLIA TREE
Southern magnolias are a type of evergreen magnolia that is native to the southeastern United States. The white blooms are very large and fragrant, and the leaves last a long time. The leaves are a stand-out dark green on top and copper underneath.
Southern magnolias can reach up to 100 ft. tall. However, there are many smaller cultivars available, such as the ‘Little Gem’ magnolia tree pictured below. They grow in zones 7 to 10.
Magnolia x soulangeana
A hybrid magnolia created by cross-breeding the lily magnolia with the lily tree, the saucer magnolia is also referred to as the tulip magnolia tree or simply a tulip tree by some gardeners.
The plants bloom early, sometime before the leaves appear. They form cup-like shapes and can be eaten as flowers. The native species are pinkish white but the plants can be found in other colors like bright pink and purple. Sometimes the plants will bloom a second time, though the blooms will be smaller and may not open all the way.
The saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) grows as a flowering tree or shrub, reaching 40 ft in height and width. They are hardy in zones 5 to 9.
One of the smaller magnolia trees, the anise magnolia blooms in early spring, before the leaves arrive. It has white flowers, with a hint of pink, and thinner leaves than most magnolias.
The plant is distinguished by its anise-lemon scent, which is present in the flowers and is released when the bark is scratched.
Anise magnolia trees typically grow to be 20-30 feet tall and wide. They are commonly found in zones 4-9.
The deciduous magnolia most recognizable for its star-shaped white flowers blooms in early spring, typically around March or April. It has fuzzy buds and a mild fragrance.
The Star Magnolia is the best type of tree to grow in a small garden. It can even be grown in a container. They grow up to 15 ft tall and wide. Star magnolias grow best in zones 3 to 10.
Although you may be tempted to, do not eat magnolia stellata flowers as they are not edible.
The most popular magnolia for eating is the saucer magnolia, Magnolia x soulangeana. The buds of this magnolia are best eaten when they are still young; they have a strong ginger flavor but can also be quite bitter. Try taking a small bite before you eat a whole one. The darker pink and pink/white flowers will have the strongest flavors.
The flower can be used in many ways, including as a tea or spice. The edible parts include the petals and the magnolia ‘pineapples.’ The flowers can also be pickled, and while they won’t retain their color, they will taste like pickled ginger.
This post contains information about edible flowers.
While Alexis Nikole may be best known as ‘Black Forager’ on Instagram and TikTok, she has also gained notoriety for her creative use of magnolia flowers. Nikole uses the flowers to make her own version of ginger snaps, which she has dubbed ‘magnolia snap cookies’. To give the cookies their signature spicy flavor, Nikole makes a magnolia syrup. So, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not give her recipe a try?
How to Grow a Magnolia Tree
There are many different types of magnolia trees, so it is important to follow the specific planting and care instructions for the type of magnolia tree you have. The plant tag will have care instructions and identification. Some general tips for growing a magnolia tree are below.
To ensure your magnolia tree blooms successfully, plant it in an area of your yard that gets full sun. They need at least six hours of sun each day to grow well. If you live in an area where there is a risk of frost damaging the flowers, try to avoid planting your magnolia tree in a shady or frosty area.
Choose a location for your magnolia tree that has well-draining soil, as the tree does not like having wet feet. The tree prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil (check your soil’s pH level with this easy at-home pH test). Water your magnolia tree when it is first getting established and during any periods of intense drought.
The magnolia requires very little maintenance and does not need fertilizer. It is also resistant to pests and diseases.
All you need to do for pruning is trim back broken branches or those you want to shape. The best time to prune is from mid-summer to early autumn, after the flowers have bloomed but before the plant goes dormant.
Smaller magnolias can be grown in pots. In this case, make sure that the pots have good drainage and that the plant is in high-quality potting soil. It is also important to provide some shelter from the wind.