The magnolia is the genus name of more than 200 plant species, including the dramatic "saucer" magnolia and the dainty and ethereal "star" magnolia. An ancient plant, evidence of the magnolia has been found dating back 95 million years. Americans love the magnolia. It is the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana and has been adopted as the city flower of Houston. Magnolia trees are easy to grow.

Magnolias are one of the loveliest and most impressive spring flowers. Coming early in the season, with their thick, waxy petals forming goblets on bare branches, a mature magnolia in full bloom is a breathtaking sight. Take your notebook, camera and friends and go and visit your local botanic garden if you are not familiar with these wonderful plants and you will find the 'wish list' grows at every turn.


Magnolias have large, oval, smooth edged leaves that are sometimes thick and leathery. The usually large, solitary flowers vary in shape from almost flat and saucer-like to a narrow goblet shape, and can be quite fragrant. The flowers are usually white, cream, yellow, or pink to purple shades. Flowering occurs mainly in spring, but the evergreen species can flower all through the warmer months. The fruits that follow the flowers are often pink or red, cone-like, showy clusters, with colorful seeds.


Generally fast growing and mostly hardy, magnolias are easily grown in any fertile, moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil, and do best in a lightly shaded position that offers protection from damaging wind and frosts. They have abundant surface roots, so mulch well and avoid cultivating around them. Propagate from cuttings in summer, by sowing seed in autumn, or by grafting in winter.

Growing Instructions

  1. Choose the proper tree for your area. Give your magnolia tree the best chance of survival by choosing the type of magnolia that's best suited for your climate. Traditional, non-hybrid magnolia trees do best in southern, zone seven to nine, climates. Don't despair, however, if you live in the Northeast or Midwest; several hybrid magnolia trees, especially the "star" magnolia, thrive in zones five to seven.

  2. Plant the magnolia tree in the right area. Magnolia trees bloom in the early to mid-spring and sometimes bud before the last frost, causing the buds to darken and fall off of the tree. You can help to avoid this by planting the tree on the north side of your house. The northern exposure gets less springtime sun and will delay the tree's blossoms.

  3. Allow room to grow. Classified as a medium-sized tree, the most magnolia species will still grow to be about 20 to 30 feet tall and about half as wide. Remember when you are choosing a site that the small sapling that you take home from the garden center will eventually become a large tree.

  4. Trim the tree. Magnolia trees have a proclivity for producing multiple large branches. To create a tree with a single trunk, trim all of the lower branches except for a single, strudy one when the tree is young.

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