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Magnolia Tree or Shrub - Tulip Tree

Magnolias are generally referred to as ‘Magnolia Trees’ but generally are large shrubs - having several main branches emanating from, or near to ground level. There are a few - which grow on a single trunk – that can be classed as Magnolia Trees but these normally grow too big for all but the largest of gardens, parks or estates.

When listing the different Magnolias, we will intimate the size which will be reached upon maturity, or ten years.  For several Magnolias, maturity can mean a few decades. They are long living plants!

Magnolia trees original habitats were varied, with many parts of East Asia, the Himalayas, South East Asia and tropical parts of America being home. Although from generally warmer climates, they are surprisingly hardy in temperate areas such as the UK.

There are many species of Magnolia, but it is the hybridized cultivars and varieties which are generally the garden favourite. Magnolia trees age mostly deciduous, but there are a few noted evergreen magnolias as well.

Magnolia Hot LipsThe deciduous magnolias for garden use and planting are all grown for their large, showy flowers which are generally chalice shaped or tulip-like. This gives rise the common name of Tulip Trees. The Tulip Tree real is the unrelated Liriodendron – a very different type of tree.

Thanks to hybridization and selection, the colour range of magnolia flowers is wide, though various pinks are the most common, with white flowered types being a close second place.

Magnolia Flowers

Magnolia flower types normally conform to one of five shape specifications being the attractively - but fully descriptive - named ‘Saucer-shaped’; ’Cup-shaped’; ‘Cup and Saucer-shaped’; ‘Goblet-shaped’ and ‘Star-shaped’ forms.

Magnolia Flower colours include pure white; light and dark pink; reds; purple and a few bi-coloured flowers also.

yellow flowered magnolia

So within the general Magnolia classifications is is quite possible to have either pink, red or pure white Goblet-shaped; pure white pink or yellow Star-shaped; bi-coloured white and pink Goblet, Star, or Cup-shaped.

The majority of magnolia trees flower in mid to late spring, though a few are summer flowering. Generally magnolia flowers are held on base branches – certainly at the attractive bud stage – later being complemented with bright green often glossy foliage. Conveniently, most of the flowering finishes before the foliage growth takes over.

The early bud formation and flowering for such large flowers, is that late hard frosts at the bud stage can ruin the flowers which will be ‘stained’ brown. Worse still is the very late frosts that can sometimes happen at full flowering time. This will often totally ruin the floral display with browned flowers being unsightly. Woodland planting will help to allay these problems, though planting magnolia trees in known frost pockets will almost certainly result in disappointment with spoiled flowers.

Where to Plant Magnolia Trees

Magnolias can be planted virtually anywhere there is space for them to develop into large the large shrubs that they are . Most will start life reasonably erect, but open out into spreading bowl shaped specimens. Semi woodland areas, or the back of large borders ideal, though as a lawn or other stand-alone specimen they will look superb. Owing to their bowl shape, they can be under-planted with a wide range of plants that have subject interest later in the year to allow for continuity of colour.

Magnolias such as the evergreen magnolia will grow well against a house wall.

Any soil type seems suitable but needs to be on the acid side to avoid leaf chlorosis. Added organic mulches are welcomed.

Light dappled shade ensures longer-lasting flowers. Though full sun is also suitable – providing it is not planted in a known frost pocket

Problems of Magnolia Trees

Very few problems – other than the late frosts mentioned above. It is sensible not to plant magnolias in areas known for honey fungus.

Propagation of Magnolia.

The simplest way to increase your stock is by pegging down a low growing young branch into the ground – Layering – and leaving it for a year or so when it should be rooted enough to separate from the parent.


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