Monday, April 25, 2011

Plant adventures with Magnolia's

Cut the ribbon, drink the champagne! My very first (of many) plant studies...whoo I'm finally starting this!
I posted a few months back that I have over 100 different varieties of plants in my garden (yes overwhelming) but I need to learn about them so I can better look after them (and quit killing them!).
I started by writing a list of all my plants front and back. This list contained a number of descriptions, as quite a few of these plants (to me) did not even have names yet. What is that varigated evergreen slow-growing shrub, with beautiful white flowers? Time to start learning...
So long story short, thanks to my trusty Sunset Western Garden - plant guide (my go-to book for plants) all my plants now have names! Well, that's a start on my quest. Now off to research in depth about each we go!

I have decided to start with my absolute favorite...
The Magnolia Tree
 These were taken last week down at my favorite park, the smell was intoxicating!

First, some quick and interesting facts... 
  • There are over 210 different species in the Magnolia genus (family) also known as the Magnoliaceae genus.
  • Their origin is from south/east Asia and in areas of the America's both southern and central. 
  • They can be dated back over 95 million years...yikes! 
  • Magnolias came into existence before bee's and were originally pollinated by beetles (one reason why their petals are so thick). 
  • They are named after a French botanist Pierre Magnol. 
  • Magnolia bark is being used in a number of medical/dental studies for its preventative properties. 
  • Its the state flower for Mississippi and Louisiana.
Now to get down to the juicy plant details...
I have decided to focus my study on just one, the one found in my backyard and the more common Magnolia found in the Pacific Northwest. The "Magnolia Soulangeana - Alexandrina" also known as a "Saucer Magnolia" or "Tulip tree" it is well know in this area as the later.

The Magnolia Soulangeana (soo-lan-jee-AH-nuh) is a small deciduous tree/large shrub hybrid, bred by French plantsman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (a precursor of the Société d'horticulture de Paris) in the early 1800's, by crossing a Magnolia denudata with M. liliiflora. It quickly spread through Europe over to Japan and Voila, we now have one of the most loved Magnolia's in the Northwest. Thanks Etienne for this French born beauty!
 This beautiful Magnolia, flowers early Spring with a dazzling show of white, pink, purple saucer shape blooms (buds and new flower bursts resemble tulips hence the nick-name). It produces waxy green oval shaped leaves on stubby stems which it looses in late fall. It is a beautiful feature tree for all seasons, while dormant in winter its branches are architecturally interesting, during spring its fragrant blooms are the star of my garden.

Growing loves for...
Magnolia Soulangeana - (Alexandrina is the sub-specie)
  • loves sun to part shade and well drained soil, but water regularly. 
  • Grows best in zones 5-9
  • It needs little pruning and does not take very well to topping, its lower branches can be removed to create a more tree like shape (this is my absolute favorite place to sit in my yard during summer, great shade tree!) It is not a fast grower so cut with care.
  • It is fairly wind and alkaline tolerant unlike most magnolia varieties which makes it a little more hardier than others. And deers stay away, added bonus!
  • Loves compost/fertilizer, I use a kelp based application twice a year...loves it!
  • It attracts bee's, butterflies and birds (I get hummers) with its beautiful fragrant flower. 
  • Its roots love a mulch bed for protection (I use its own leaves) during winter, especially if the temps get below freezing which its been doing a lot here these last few winters.
  • Its main threat is late spring frosts, which can damage petals. (see above pic, yellowing petals)
  • Can grow 20-30ft high and wide at a moderate rate (I wish the previous owner knew that before they planted it right on the fence line...fooie! Hope my neighbors love it as much as I do)

Next to my tulip bulbs sprouting green shoots, there is nothing like a budding Magnolia tree to say...spring is on its way!

I wonder where my next Plant Adventure will take me? One plant down, only 99 more to go.....oh which one will it be?

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F) This is me, but man we've been getting frost/snow these last few winters and knock on wood, its doing fine!
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Some more helpful websites... - great website for everything you need to know - great Q&A Magnolia info here

Wonderful Magnolia reads...


  1. Beautiful pictures! I know nothing about gardening outside of vegetables. I look forward to learning with you!

  2. great plant profile...looking forward to many more

  3. I have a love hate with the magnolias. The Saucer magnolias are up there with my favorite of all the 'pink trees', however the southern magnolia, which is blooming now, is doing so with half its leaves brown, just looking ratty. Not a favorite of mine. Also, the big leathery leaves fall year round and kill anything that happens to get a hot day underneath them.

    I would love to see some of the other kinds that exist. Its seems like here those are the only two!

  4. LOVE this tree. I want one!!!

  5. Julia, It’s a very rainy Spring day so I thought it would be a good time to check in on you and the other Blogs I follow. Can not be out in the dirt so I am here at the computer. I have only one Magnolia, the Star Magnolia, but I too love the plant. You mentioned you have over 100 different plants in the garden and you are trying to learn all their names. Think of me, I have more that 450 different plants, it does get to be brain testing to remember them all. I have charts and names and pictures, etc. of all of them - or I would never remember. But it is the fun of gardening that makes me try. Jack

  6. Lovely plant profile! Looking forward to the next one :)

  7. Great idea! Very helpful!!

    Hmmm... perhaps I will go out with my umbrella this afternoon and count my way around the garden too out of curiousity :)


Thanks for stopping by and reading my latest post! I love sharing my gardening adventures and reading your wonderful comments. Happy digging...Cheers Julia!!

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