Spring Flowering Magnolias
Right about now we are being treated to the splendour of spring-flowering magnolias. Somehow, this year’s blossom feels more uplifting than usual, perhaps because we’re noticing the small things more these days now that our pace has been slowed by the coronavirus.
Magnolia plants are sometimes considered demanding plants and hard to look after. This could be because we associate them with big, flamboyant flowers. Magnolias are a lot tougher than they look; they would have to be considering they have been on earth for over twenty million years. They are so old that they evolved on earth before bees and so they do not produce nectar because they are pollinated by beetles.
Magnolia x soulangeana, better known to many as the ‘Tulip Tree’, is aptly named because of its upstanding tulip-shaped flowers, which are borne in late spring. These well-known magnolias are usually grown as a large shrub or small tree. As a rule, magnolias prefer a deep, rich soil that is moisture retentive and preferably on the acid side. Although soulangeana magnolias will tolerate lime soils, they will not grow in shallow, chalky soils.
Magnolia stellata are often referred to as ‘Star Magnolia’ for their star-shaped flowers. Once again, they are grown as large shrubs or small trees and prefer acid or neutral soils that are rich in humus. As magnolias flower in spring they are best planted in sheltered sites to prevent frost damaging their flowers.
Be patient when growing magnolias, as young plants can take three to five years before they start flowering. But they’re well worth the wait!
Plant Profile: Star Magnolia
Botanical Name: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’
Type: Deciduous large shrub or small tree
How Hardy: Very hardy
Aspect: Prefers a sheltered site, especially from cold winds
Flowers: Star-shaped, fragrant pink flowers in late spring
This article was written by our Head Horticulturist, Eamonn Wall.
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