The Q&A Archives: Magnolia Trees

Question: I am interested in learning about all kinds of magnolia trees. How many kinds are there? Which grow around here(zone 6)? Where can I learn about magnolias?

Answer: You are right, there are many, many magnolias from which to choose. Some of the best for your zone include:
Magnolia stellata: This variety blooms in our area ( Zone 6) about the middle of April. Star Magnolias grow to be 15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide. This happens fairly slowly but always plan for it to become a reasonably large flowering shrub or small tree. The Star Magnolia has fragrant white flowers 3 to 4 inches in diameter. They start blooming at a very young age.

There are two other varieties of Magnolia stellata that you should consider. They are Royal Star and Waterlily. Both of these Magnolias have pink buds fragrant white flowers with more petals than the Magnolia stellata.

Magnolia X loebneri ' Leonard Messel ' is best described as a pink star magnolia. The flowers are actually fuchsia with a purple-pink stripe and wavy petals. Leonard will be larger than the Magnolia stellata selections but really quite compact and faster growing. It usually blooms in my garden (Zone 6) about a week later than the white star magnolias.

Magnolia X soulangianawere the most common group of magnolias planted in Canada. In other words when you see a large old pink or purple magnolia it is a member of this group. On average they grow 20 to 30 feet high and just as wide. It grows 10 to 15 feet in just 10 years.

Magnolia liliiflora is now the most commonly planted group of pink magnolias planted now. It is the Little Girl Hybrids which are responsible for this swing in popularity. Their upright habit produces a larger salable plant sooner. Generally they attain a height of 10 to 15 feet. Their flowers are reddish purple with a lighter pink to white on the inside. The Little Girl Hybrids bloom in May. So here are the girls to look for: Jane, Judy, Pinkie, Randy, Ricki, Ann, Betty and Susan. My favourites are Ann and Susan.

Magnolia 'Galaxy' is a liliiflora cross.
It is single stemmed blooming slightly later. Galaxy is pyramidal growing 20 -30 feet high.

Magnolia soulangiana 'Nigra' is a very old variety also known as Purple or Black Magnolia.

Magnolia grandiflora 'Edith Bogue' is a Southern Magnolia. It has evergreen leaves that look like a Rubber Tree ( Ficus elastica ). In fact passers-by have often asked how I can grow a Rubber Tree outside year round. It has a pyramidal form eventually reaching 30 feet high and 15 feet wide. Edith has 8 to 10 inch wide very fragrant white flowers throughout the summer. You should always plant Edith out of the wind. It has proven itself hardy in my Zone 6 garden over the last three years with no protection.

Any of these Magnolias will be superior when properly situated in your garden.

To learn more about magnolias, your local library should have plenty of books. Enjoy!

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