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Magnolia Trees

July 12, 2022



From their glossy leaves to their fragrant flowers, magnolia trees are stars of the landscape. The magnolia comes in assortment of colorful blooms from butter colored to vibrant pinks. While the fragrance and petals are stunning, the glossy foliage is also a favorite.

Saucer Magnolia Tree

Native to Ohio

There are four native magnolia (Magnoliaceae) species in Ohio, with each having its unique characteristics. Depending on the weather, these flowering trees will bloom in early to late spring (March to June). However, when winter months yield unseasonably warm temperatures, magnolia tree flowers may start budding too early. Inevitably, falling temperatures and late frosts will damage the buds, keeping them from emerging into beautiful flowers. The Cucumber, Umbrella, Tulip and Bigleaf Trees.


Cucumber tree magnolias (Magnolia acuminata) are hardy varietals grown more for their foliage than their blooms. This is because the three-inch (8 cm.) long flowers are yellow-green in hue and tend to blend in with the tree’s foliage. These trees are stately as adults, especially when the lower limbs have been pruned to prevent them from dragging

Cucumber Magnolia
Magnolia tripetala


Umbrella-tree is an uncommon but widespread deciduous native small tree with large, simple, tropical-looking leaves, found in the understory of rich forests. The leaves resemble umbrellas in that they are large and clustered at the ends of branches.


Saucer magnolia is a popular flowering tree or large shrub that was created by cross-breeding Magnolia liliflora (lily magnolia, a shrub form) and M. denudata (lilytree). It often grows as a multi-stemmed shrubby plant but can be trained into the form of a small tree. The huge early spring blooms appear before the leaves, but smaller numbers of flowers sometimes continue to bloom after the leaves emerge. The native species has pinkish-white flowers, but many cultivars are available with pure pink, magenta, and purple flowers. The plant has a nicely rounded crown that makes it an ideal landscape specimen. It grows about 24 inches each growing season.

Jan E Magnolia Tulip Tree
ER Miller BIgleaf Magnolia


The Bigleaf Magnolia is the rarest and most spectacular of all our magnolias.

Macrophylla, meaning “large-leaved, refers to the fact that this species has the largest entire leaves of any tree in North America. Unlike the similar yet smaller leaves of the Umbrella Magnolia which are tapered at both ends, the leaves of the Bigleaf Magnolia are 20 to 30 inches long and distinctively narrowly cordate (heart-shaped) at the base. 

No less spectacular than its giant leaves are the giant showy flowers of the Bigleaf Magnolia that appear in June, well after flowering of the Umbrella Magnolia. Each flower is 12 to 18 inches in diameter with six white petals, each of which has a distinctive rose-colored spot at the base. Bigleaf Magnolia can attain a height of nearly 60 feet. It also tends to occupy the higher and drier areas of ravines than the smaller-sized Umbrella Magnolia.


Photo Credit: ER Miller


Magnolias prefer a spot in the garden that receives full sun to light shade. That said, if you live in a particularly warm or dry climate, your magnolia might benefit from a location shaded by the hot afternoon sun. If possible, avoid exposed, windy locations because strong winds can damage large flowers and typically brittle branches.

Photo Credit: ER Miller

Big Leaf Photo Credit ER Miller


Most magnolias grow best in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soils but neutral to slightly alkaline soils are also suitable for growth. Magnolias are adaptable to clay, loam or sand soils, but most grow poorly in wet or poorly drained soils. Well-established plants can be moderately drought tolerant.

When to Plant

Deciduous magnolias (those that drop their leaves in fall) are best planted when dormant, typically in late fall or winter in warmer climates and early spring in cold climates. Evergreen magnolias are best planted in early spring. For the first 6 to 12 months after planting, both types will benefit from mulch and regular irrigation during warm or dry weather.


Blossoms of a Magnolia Tree

How To Plant

Gently remove the upper layer of soil from the container or root ball until you expose the topmost root. It should be within the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the surface.

For balled trees, remove any root ball coverings (such as burlap). For a container plant, remove the container and make four evenly spaced slices down the sides of the root ball. Use a knife, trowel, or shovel to make 1-inch (2.5 cm) deep slices. This process helps eliminate circling roots that otherwise might constrain root growth.

Dig a hole at least 1.5 times as wide as the container or ball.

Dig the hole slightly less deep than the depth of the root ball.

Place the root ball so the uppermost root (uncovered in step one) is even with or slightly above the surface of the surrounding undisturbed soil. In the case of clay soil, the root ball should be placed so the uppermost root is higher than the undisturbed soil surface so that 10-33% of the root ball is exposed.

Fill the hole around the root ball using soil you dug out of the hole. Firm the soil to eliminate air pockets but do not overly compact the soil. Some people will partially fill the hole, irrigate, then allow water to completely drain before filling the rest of the hole with soil.

Do not cover the top of the root ball with soil. You may apply a thin layer of mulch over the root ball.

After planting, irrigate two times per week (cool climates) to three times per week (warm climates) for the first three to six months, and weekly for the rest of the growing season. Apply 2-3 gallons per inch (3.0-4.4 liters per cm) of trunk diameter. Place a layer of mulch around the plant that is at least 2 inches (5 cm) thick (thicker for light mulches like pine needles). Fertilizer is not necessary at planting.

For more information, contact our nursery experts: Contact Us

Star & Saucer

Star Magnolia: Those of you living in colder areas may already be familiar with Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata. This magnolia is one of the best known species because it is very cold hardy (USDA Zones 4-8), widely adaptable and blooms when very small. Star Magnolia is a slow growing, broad spreading, small tree or large shrub, ultimately reaching 15 feet tall or more. Leaves may be 4-8 inches long and up to 3 inches wide. As a deciduous plant, the dark green leaves drop in fall, sometimes turning yellow before falling.

Star Magnolia flowers are 3 to 5 inches in diameter with 12 to 40 petal-like parts called “tepals.” The overall effect of the tepals is that of a starburst, hence the name, “Star Magnolia.” Flowers are white, although a few cultivars have pinkish flowers. Star Magnolia’s characteristics have made it popular as a parent of many hybrids.

Saucer Magnolia: Saucer and other large-flowered hybrid magnolias are deciduous trees known for their spectacular display of flowers appearing before the foliage in late winter and early spring. They are considered some of our most beautiful flowering trees, and some cultivars are hardy into USDA Zone 4 while others are adaptable in warmer Zone 9. These deciduous flowering magnolias generally are considered small trees with slow to moderate growth rates. Smaller cultivars may be grown as large shrubs and some larger trees may eventually grow 40 to 70 feet tall. Tree shape characteristically is upright to rounded when young and becoming rounded or broad-spreading with age. The medium green leaves are oval to circular in shape and vary in size from 3 to 10 inches long and 2 to 10 inches wide. Leaves turn a nondescript yellow to brown before dropping in fall. The trunk has smooth, tan or grey bark and branches exhibit large, fuzzy flower buds.

The fragrant flowers open before the foliage and range in color from white to pink to purple. Often flowers display one color on the outer side of the tepal and a lighter color inside. Many different cultivars or varieties have been selected over the years. Characteristics vary with the cultivar but flowers range from 3 to 12 inches in diameter. Peak bloom usually occurs in early spring; because of this, flowers are sometimes damaged by frosts. Some cultivars produce flowers sporadically through the summer and fall. Reddish fruits sometimes develop in the fall.

Source: The Magnolia Society:

Star Magnolia