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

Southern Magnolia BlossomThese 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.

southern-magnoliaIf 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.

Southern Magnolia
Southern Magnolia

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.

Sweetbay Magnolia
Sweetbay Magnolia

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.

Little Gem Magnolia
Little Gem Magnolia

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.

Jane Magnolias
Jane Magnolias

Magnolia Care

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.

Southern Magnolia GiftThe 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!

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12 years ago I was sitting around, talking with two of my favorite, fellow Plant Geeks. We were trying to figure out why so many, superior plant varieties were not available to the public and were seldom offered in Garden Centers. Instead, the stores sold less attractive, older varieties, proven to be disease and insect prone. They also sold the sprays and chemicals that their customers would eventually need. The Ah Ha moment hit us and a company was formed. We decided that we would only offer the highest quality plants that must be Easy to Grow.
  • janice H

    my southern magnolias leaves are beginning to shrivel up. could frost have had an effect on the leaves?

    • AllisonTrees

      Frost doesn’t bother these trees, unless you live up north outside of their growing zone. It sounds like your tree might need a little more water. When the leaves turn brown and start to curl upwards this is a sign of under watering. Correct this by holding a hose at the base of your tree and count to 20, but be careful not to over water your tree. Also, if the leaves turn black and look as if they’re too heavy for the tree then this is a sign of over watering.

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  • grace

    Would sour cream help a southern magnolia tree…it’s acidic

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  • Valerie Bee

    A tree service came two days ago to remove a storm-damaged maple tree in my yard. The owner of the service also ruined my 45 year old magnolia. Without asking, the tree guy took it upon himself to also remove multiple lower limbs from the magnolia so that I now have 7 feet of empty space below the branches left. It’s ugly and mangled looking and I’ve lost my privacy. His decision to limb up my magnolia has also resulted in more yard work for me, as I used to just store the fallen leaves under the magnolia skirt which reached the ground—-until I could get around to raking them.

    I know the lower limbs will not grow back. I have heard that I could possibly weight down the existing lowest limbs with ropes and bricks or stake them to the ground in a gentle curve without putting stress on the point where the limb attaches to the trunk. Is this recommended? I have been crying every time I go outside and see this ruined tree in my front yard. The tree service owner told me he thought he was “doing me a solid” by tidying up the tree and that I was the homeowner he’d ever worked with who didn’t like a magnolia that was limbed up. I’m sick over it. Can someone please recommend whether or not to try to weight down the branches? Does anyone have an idea how long it might take, if ever, to fill in a bit where all of the empty space now is?

    Thank you!
    Valerie in Richmond, VA

    • OH MY, that is terrible!

      I have heard of folks using rocks and hanging them from branches, this would allow them to start ‘reaching’ for the ground. However, this can and will most likely result in the limbs being much more weak and able to break under slight stress. Your best bet is to let nature do work and it will eventually start growing new limbs where the old limbs were removed.

    • GlubGlub

      Hi Valerie,
      We used to live in Virginia and something similar happened to me..
      I asked a neighbor to trim a limb and he misunderstood and lopped off a branch that was almost 1/2 of the tree.. I was so upset I was sobbing..I couldn’t even talk to him for 3 days.
      I looked at your tree photo and I would suggest..fertilizing it so it recovers from any shock.. {Check to ensure you use the right fertilizer in the right quantity.. Usually there are slow-release pellets.I use organic from Home depot.
      Perhaps planting something around the base to distract from the “wounds”
      Even if you just put some nice bark and a row of larger “border” stones at the edge of the circle.
      Then you will make a small shrine and your eye will be less likely to go straight to the missing branches. Your tree is still quite a Beauty, but I totally understand your loss.
      Over time the cuts will darken and be less visable.. perhaps someone can “clean” them up a bit.
      Kind regards,

      • Valerie Bee

        Thank you, Ruth! That really helps! I hung some half bricks on it for about 6 months and they helped to weigh down the bottom branches a little, just enough to make it look better. I put a thick layer of mulch around the tree and it is as healthy as it ever was. You’re right… over time the cuts have already darkened and become less visible. The storm that caused me to have to call in the tree “surgeons” had brought down a huge maple onto my roof and ripped off 81 slates. So to help with my anger and feeling of loss, I found a broken slate and wrote on it the date of the magnolia’s ruin and the name of the tree company, and I nailed it to the tree. From that point on, things got better. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post! I believe that I will follow your suggestion to fertilize the magnolia this spring.


        p.s. this is a photo that I just went out into the yard to take to show you how it’s recovered a bit

        • GlubGlub

          HI Valerie,
          Good Morning.
          I’m so glad to see your tree doing better. It really looks nice. I too, would have been furious!
          It’s hard to quantify loss to those who just can’t understand. I remember the neighbor was dumbfounded and my husband said “don’t you think you’re over reacting?” When I stood there with my mouth hanging open and then burst out sobbing. I had to run into the house to calm down” Whew! That was 9 years ago. We ended up trimming the entire tree up about 3 feet to level it out.. Probably took off 8 years of growth.
          But back to your Magnolia. When it comes to fertilizing an Old-Growth Tree. I would talk to a specialist.
          One of the things I’ve recently learned about is Worm Castings. They are like magic. Costco sells good size bags for about 14$ I would buy 3 bags..and spread them out about an inch think starting about feet from the base of the tree and stretching out until you run out. …and I would also sprinkle a layer of slow release organic fertilizer..A whole bag every 3 months starting in March every 3 months during the growing season. It’s my understanding when August hits( during the hottest time of the year, many trees go dormant..then they will shut down and it’s not the time to fertilize. There’s a lot of information on the internet.
          Here’s a sight with a bit of information. Unfortunately, you have to answer 2 questions to access it. I just faked answers.
          And here is a link to the Newport News master Gardeners association.

          Happy Gardening!
          All the best!

  • Andrew Kragness

    Hi I have a Magnolia in my front yard as part of the city street tree in our neighborhood… We bought our house last year and this tree does not seem to be in good health. What attempts can we take to revitalize the tree’s health and get it back to a healthy state. Currently there are barely leaves no blossoming flowers. My neighbors all have full leaves flowered trees. It is a water issue could it have a diease? How do I know where to start. I can post pics if that helps… It seems like a new concrete sidewalk was pour in recently in the past few years… Could root damage be the problem here?

    Any advice as a starting point would be great. I should also mention most arborist services won’t touch it since it’s technically owned by the city… But we as home owners are required to keep it alive, and we want to.

    Thank you in advance

    • Andrew, the best advice we can give you will be to contact your local agricultural extension office. They are a local agency that will come out and take a look at tree and offer specific regional advice for your situation. We would love to give you more information, but feel as if a partner in your region will be better able to diagnose the issue.

      You can find your county office here…

    • Signify

      It’s been 10 months since the post so I hope that by now you talked to your neighbors about their healthy trees, noting the location, and, if they know it, what cultivar of magnolia they have and you have. My first guess is that something acid-nullifying was placed around the trunk.

  • Laurie Cooney

    The blooms on my magnolia tree browns on the tips after they bloom and before blooming

  • juanita nobles

    My southern Magnolia loose leaves year round, it is about 50 feet high and the leaves have spots on the back. Is this normal or do I need something to fix it? I clean leaves one day and there are many the next.

  • Sherri

    why are my fuzzy pod red some year with red seed and beige other years

  • My Reis

    We have a southern magnolia tree to plant and was thinking about putting it in potting soil until next Spring to plant. the brand is Magnolia Grandiflora tree. Is this a good idea? We’d rather wait until next spring but please advise best time to plant. What kind of potting soil would you recommend if it is possible.

    • Pulling it up and potting it now would be a good idea. Just make sure you keep it protected this winter. Being in a container, it will be very susceptable to frost and freeze damage.

  • Pearlie

    I am terribly afraid of caterpillars and because of this I have no trees in my yard. I simply love the aroma of the flowering bloom of the magnolia. Is the magnolia tree a good way to go?

  • GlubGlub

    I have two new babies to add to my garden. Two young “Yellow Bird” Magnolias. I’d like to do right by them, but really don’t want them to grow into monsters..Supposedly they can grow to 40 ft. Yikes.. Is there anyway to keep them closer to 25 ft? By the by.. our “soil’ is hideous Glue/riock-like Clay. I plan to amend it and raise the bed and dig a big hole..but still worried.
    Appreciate the advice.. Also, it gets up to 115 here in the summer without shade.
    Should I provide a shelter for them in the hottest season?

  • Katherine

    I live in Maine and I love Magnolia trees and grew up with them. Can I grow a southern magnolia in a pot in my house?

    • Signify

      Curious as to why you would want a “southern” magnolia. The magnolia ‘Jane’ is right for Maine, grown in the ground.

      • Marilyn Z

        At my previous house in north central Texas I had Jane and each year as it would burst into bloom, we would get a freeze and I would lose the blossoms. I finally gave up on that variety. Maybe it was just due to this wacky Texas weather, but it proved a disappointment to me.

  • Kelly

    I live north of Seattle and our landscaper planted a magnolia evergreen. He told us that in 5 years it would be fully grown. It’s been 6 and we still have a stick with about 20 leave clusters. What can I do to help the poor thing reach its full potential?

    • Signify

      What cultivar did your landscaper plant. I’d contact that landscaper and ask what gives.

  • Emily

    What a good article, I didn´t know that there were so many types of magnolia trees; I consider them the most beautiful trees with their versatility to bloom at different times of the year. I did a little research and saw that these bloom in acid or neutral soil with abundance of organic matter. They are quite grateful plants and regularly don´t need to prune them for their care.

  • Jerry Hinton

    Can anyone tell me how much magnolia tree limbs usually grow outward each year? Judging from monitoring the one we have for last 4+ years it’s been 4-6 inches, but we’re wanting to plant 2 more between house and road so we need to be sure. Thank you in advance for anyone who provides information.