Magnolias are the state flowers for two states, Louisiana and Mississippi. There’s only 50 states, but there are tons of different flowers! Needless to say, magnolia flowers and the trees they grow on must be pretty spectacular. They’re tough fragrant trees with elegant beauty. Magnolia blooms release their sweet floral lemony scent for almost half the year. The rich aroma drifts through the heat, enchanting southern towns. They became very popular in America and many different hybrids have been made. There are big magnolia trees, small ones, ones with pink blooms, and even ones that are cold hardy enough to survive up North! Today we’re going to tell you all about Magnolia trees, starting with the history.
Magnolias in History
These trees have been around for millions of years. Magnolia fossils date back to Tertiary period, 100 million years ago. This means that this tough tree has survived a number of different climate conditions that the Earth has thrown at it, which is why these trees grow fine naturally in various different countries around the world. Magnolia trees were around before bees were, so they relied on beetles for pollination. As a result, magnolia blooms and leaves are very tough, to resist insect damage.
If you skip forward to the 7th century, Magnolias were naturally growing in China and Japan. In China the Jade Orchid Magnolia variety was a symbol of purity and became a popular tree to plant in temple gardens. Also, Magnolia trees were commonly grown in pots indoors in China and Japan.
Charles Plumier is credited for naming Magnolia trees because he named them after a French botanist, Pierre Mongol who passed in 1715. Once the name caught on and people studied the trees, the different varieties were recorded as different types of Magnolias as they were found in exotic locations and brought to different countries. Magnolia verities were brought to Europe and America from Asian countries, French islands, South America and more.
The US had a native Magnolia variety that grew from Virginia to south central Florida and into Oklahoma and east Texas. This variety is commonly known as the Southern Magnolia. They became
very popular in the 17th century. Different varieties were being cross bred to make stronger hybrids and magnolia plantations like the Magnolia Plantation in Charleston were booming!
In the year 1900 Louisiana declared the Magnolia as its state flower due to its abundance throughout the state. Also, in 1900 a statewide election by school children voted for the Magnolia to be the state flower in Mississippi. A later and similar election voted to make the Magnolia Mississippi’s state tree occurred in 1938.
Our Magnolia Varieties
We take pride in offering four different types of Magnolia trees that will thrive in almost every yard. The different types serve to fulfill a variety of different gardening needs.
1. The Southern Magnolia is a classic evergreen tree that’s dazzled the south with its beauty for generations. This variety is native to the south, and handles the growing conditions just fine with its toughness and drought tolerance. It can get quite massive, reaching heights between 40 to 80 feet tall, and growing 30 to 40 feet wide. Due to its large size it makes for a perfect shade tree. People can sit in relax under it to get relief from the heat. Also, it’s perfect for wind breaks, and privacy fences. This massive evergreen is recommended for growing zones 7 through 9. It produces large pure white flowers all through the warmer months, starting in the early summer time. They provide homes with a sense of southern elegance and hospitality.
2. The Sweetbay Magnolia is a smaller Magnolia variety, reaching heights between 30 to 50 feet tall and growing to about 20 to 25 feet wide. It’s recommended for growing zones 5 through 10, so it can go a bit further north than the Southern Magnolia. The unique feature that sets Sweetbay Magnolias apart is that it’s common for them to have multiple trunks like Crape Myrtle trees. The leaves on this tree are glossy and dark green on top, and silvery blue on the bottom. They’ll pop in your garden all year. During the late spring this tree starts to bloom, gifting spectators with large creamy white flowers that last until fall.
3. The Little Gem Magnolia is a space saving Magnolia tree, it gets about 15 to 20 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. It gives you all of the perfect Magnolia qualities like beautiful dark glossy green leaves that are bronze on the underside and large white blooms without taking up nearly as much space. Also, the Little Gem Magnolia is a later bloomer. The blooming cycle starts in the early summer and lasts for months. This tree is for people who want beautiful blooms to last as long as they can, without having a massive tree. It’s recommended for growing zones 5 through 9.
4. The Jane Magnolia is a unique beautiful tree. It has multiple trunks and large pink to purple blooms that emerge in the early spring. This Magnolia puts a beautiful twist on classic varieties. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall, and 5 to 10 feet wide, making it the smallest Magnolia option out of the varieties we carry. It’s perfect for smaller yards and street planting. They live up to their Magnolia name, they’re tough trees that are pest and disease resistant. Best of all, they’re recommended for growing zones 4 through 8! They grow almost anywhere in the country. The Jane Magnolia is a perfect tree for northerners looking for a small flowering tree.
Magnolia trees are fairly low maintenance. Plant them and watch them take off, people will enjoy their fragrant blooms for generations. To ensure their success plant them in an area that receives full to partial sunlight. Magnolia trees seem to prefer slightly acidic soil, but will adapt to your natural soil even if it’s sandy or heavy in clay.
The water requirements vary between different types of Magnolias. The Jane Magnolia needs to be watered weekly. The Little Gem Magnolia is very drought tolerant. It won’t need extra water outside of your area’s rain fall unless you’re experiencing a prolonged drought. The Sweetbay Magnolia should be watered once every two weeks or so. The soil should be kept moist, but not over saturated. With the Southern Magnolia check on its soil every 2 weeks or so. Once its soil is dry 2 inches below the surface give it a slow deep watering. Increase the amount of water you give it during times of drought.
The fertilizer requirements also vary. Jane Magnolias benefit from a slow release acidic fertilizer in the early spring and early fall. Little Gem, Sweetbay, and Southern Magnolias all enjoy a well balanced fertilizer like formula 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
Plant a Magnificent Magnolia!
Whatever your gardening needs are, if you want a beautiful flowering tree planted around the corners of your home, a massive shade tree, or a privacy fence, there’s a Magnolia variety for you. These trees live for decades and provide generations with beautiful blooms and attractive glossy foliage. Don’t hesitate to join the magnolia club!