Are there many different types of magnolias?
There are about 80 different species of magnolia that are native to the eastern United States and southeastern Asia. Over half of these are in cultivation around the world and many selections and hundreds of named hybrids have been made by breeders seeking better features.
Why should I consider growing magnolias?
Frankly, because they are easy to grow and relatively pest free. Most have large showy flowers and attractive large leaves. Many are evergreen and attractive year round. There are many great shrub-sized magnolias for the smaller garden.
I have a magnolia that was planted in the wrong spot, and I need to move it. Can this be done?
Magnolias have a very unusual root system. Unlike most other trees and shrubs, the roots are largely unbranched and rope-like. For this reason, magnolias tend to suffer more than many other trees if they are moved after they reach a large size. Most magnolias can safely be moved if the trunk is less than four inches in diameter. If you have time, sever some of the roots one year prior to moving your tree. Cut some of the roots just inside of the the rootball that you intend to dig. The roots will branch and help carry the tree through its establishment period in its new home. When you dig the tree to move it, dig a rootball as wide as you can manage; depth is less important than width since most of the roots are in the top foot of soil. Be sure to mulch your magnolia and water it frequently to keep it moist for the first season after transplanting.
When is the proper time to plant magnolias?
Evergreen magnolias such as southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora and sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana are best planted in early spring. Deciduous magnolias can be planted in autumn or early spring. Autumn is the better time to plant in the south, while northern gardeners should opt for spring planting. Apply some mulch after planting to moderate soil temperatures and moisture conditions.
The southern magnolia is such a large tree for the average home garden. Are there any smaller selections that are available?
Southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, can attain heights of 60 to 80 feet at maturity. The selection 'Bracken's Brown Beauty' matures at 40 feet and is one of the most cold hardy selections. The selection 'Greenback' is a fairly new cultivar to the trade. It has nice, deep green foliage and is said to reach 30 feet at maturity. The most compact cultivar available is 'Little Gem'. It grows almost as a large, dense shrub and matures at 15 to 20 feet high.
Of the yellow-flowering cultivars, which ones seem to have the best color?
To date, the best yellow flowering deciduous magnolias are 'Butterflies' and 'Gold Finch'.
The fruit of the magnolia looks like a cone. Is it actually a cone or what is it?
Although it may look like a cone, it is actually an aggregate fruit that is woody. This flowering structure has changed little over millions of years. Magnolias are some of the most primitive of all flowering plants, but the seeds are enclosed in the fruit during their development, and therefore they must be classified as angiosperms, not as gymnosperms-the group to which conifers belong. As the fruit matures, scale-like areas on it split apart and the seeds, covered in a red fleshy aril, are exposed as they are in gymnosperms.
Do birds like to eat the seed of magnolias?
Yes, songbirds especially like the seed. The seed of a magnolia is surrounded by a brightly colored fleshy aril that is high in fat. This provides migrating birds with a good source of energy as they migrate to the south. Evergreen species of magnolia also provide shelter for birds and wildlife that stay for the winter.
Most magnolia have very large open flowers that are very fragrant. Are those flowers pollinated by bees or butterflies?
Neither! Magnolia flowers are typically pollinated by beetles. Magnolias flowers do not produce nectar but they do produce large quantities of pollen. The pollen is high in protein and the beetles use it for food. There are many different types of beetles that pollinate the various species of magnolias located in southeastern Asia and eastern North America.
What are some other sources for information about magnolias?
For tips on finding a particular variety of magnolia, check our Plant Sources Page. There are several excellent books about magnolias including The World of Magnolias by Dorothy J. Callaway published in 1994 and Magnolias: A Gardener's Guide by Jim Gardiner published in 2000. More information about magnolias can be obtained from the Magnolia Society at www.magnoliasociety.org.
Last Updated November 4, 2003 2:56 PM
URL = ../../Gardens/faqs/magnoliafaq2.html