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Magnolia Flower Facts and Care

magnolia tree flowers

Maybe you’ve been stuck by a southern magnolia’s gorgeous flowers and waxy leaves as you walk down the streets of Nashville or Birmingham. Or perhaps you wait for the moment when your neighbor’s saucer magnolia begins to produce its brilliant pink blooms. And maybe you’ve only seen magnolia flowers online and in the movies! No matter the case, we can all agree that magnolia trees produce some of the world’s most beautiful flowers.

Not only are these flowering trees’ flowers beautiful, but the plants have a long history complete with many interesting facts. We’re going to provide you with some of the best facts about magnolias. After you find out a bit more about these flowers you’ll definitely want some for your home. And you’re in luck! We’re also going to cover magnolia flower care tips so you can enjoy these blooms indoors.

Magnolia Information

Common name: Magnolia
Scientific name: Magnolia genus
Bloom time: February through June, depending on the variety
Height: 8 to 80 feet tall, depending on the variety
Width: 5 to 50 feet wide, depending on the variety
Sun: Full sun; light shade in hot regions
Water: water two to three times a week for the first year, then two to three times a month
Soil pH: 5.0 to 6.5
Soil type: Well-draining, slightly acidic
USDA Hardiness zones: perennial in zones 7-10, annual in zones 3-6

Magnolia Flower Facts

It’s hard not to fall in love with the magnolia’s gorgeous flowers and lush leaves. But if you need a few more reasons to give these plants a shot, check out these magnolia facts.

There’s a Lot of Variety

The Magnolia genus consists of more than 200 individual species, and you can find multiple varieties within each species. The plants can range from towering trees—check out the 122 foot tall southern magnolia in Mississippi—to large shrubs like the lily magnolia.

While many people associate magnolias with waxy leaves, leaf size and texture can vary between species. The leaves can be small and waxy, large and smooth, and any variation in between.

Along with variations in size and form, you can find quite a bit of diversity within the flowers themselves. The majority of the blooms are some variation of white and pink and waxy in texture. The sizes and shapes can vary a bit, from large flat flowers made up of wide tepals to conical blooms made up of upright narrow tepals.

Magnolias Have Been Around for a While

Magnolias are thought to be some of the oldest plants in existence. Well, sort of. Scientists think that ancestors of present-day magnolia species first appeared as long as 95 million years ago!

Since magnolias are so old, they don’t have true petals and sepals. Instead, they have tepals, which are flower parts that cannot be differentiated between petals and sepals.

They Have a Close Relationship with Beetles

When magnolias first appeared, insects were around but bees weren’t. That means that magnolia plants evolved to be pollinated by the humble beetle. These beetles stumbled from flower to flower, unknowingly pollinating the flowers in the process.

Since beetles aren’t the most gentle of insects, the flowers have tough carpels (the female parts of flowers). The carpels also mimic the male flower parts known as stamens, which encourages the beetles to spend a longer amount of time on each flower.

To limit self-pollination, the flowers have also developed a nifty mechanism. During the day, the flowers are open—the stamens are not releasing pollen but the carpels are able to accept pollen that the beetles bring from other flowers. When night arrives, the flower’s tepals close, trapping beetles inside. The flowers’ stamens start releasing pollen as the carpels stop accepting pollen. When daytime arrives, the tepals open, and the pollen-covered beetles travel to a different flower to cross-pollinate.

The South Loves Them

Numerous magnolia species are native to the southern United States, and this area has embraced these trees as its own. They are specifically enamored with the aptly named southern magnolia. This tree’s large white flowers and waxy leaves have come to be seen as an iconic symbol of the south.

The southern magnolia is the state flower of Louisiana and Mississippi, and also the state tree of Mississippi.

You Can Find Them Throughout the World

Although magnolias have become monikers of the south, they are native to other areas of the world as well. In fact, only eight magnolia species are native to the United States! The other 200 species originated in areas including Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and South America.

They Can Be Deciduous or Evergreen

Magnolia leaves can either remain on the trees year-round or fall off the trees in the fall. It all depends on the individual species of magnolia tree.

Cut Flower Care for Magnolias

Since magnolia flowers are gorgeous, we understand if you want to cut a few blooms to use in flower arrangements. Providing your cut flowers with the proper care will help them stay fresh for as long as possible.

First, ensure that you are getting the freshest flowers possible. It’s best to choose a flower that is just beginning to open, as this will give you the longest-lasting bloom. Aim to cut the flowers in the morning when it’s still cool outside to ensure the flowers are not wilted.

Use a sharp and sanitized pair of pruning shears to make a clean cut of the stem—don’t worry too much about the length since you can always trim it later. As you cut the blooms, place them into a container filled with clear water. Once you’ve cut all the flowers you’d like, bring them into a cool area ASAP.

Now it’s time to arrange your gorgeous magnolia flowers! Start by finding a vase you’d like to use and nestling your flowers inside. Once you determine how long you’d like the stems to be, give each stem a fresh cut at a 45º angle. Remove any leaves that are near the bottom of the flowers to ensure they won’t be sitting in water.

Fill the vase with about two inches of water and add a packet of flower food. If you don’t have premixed flower food on hand, you can add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of white sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach per quart of water.

Once your arrangement is set, it’s time to put the flowers somewhere where they are out of direct sunlight and heat. Your magnolia flowers should last at least a week as long as you keep them out of the sun and change the water every few days.

Popular Types of Magnolias

As mentioned above, there are over 200 species of magnolias and hundreds of varieties within these species. If you’re looking for a magnolia for your home or just want to learn more about these flowering trees, check out this list of popular magnolias.

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Perhaps the most iconic magnolia, the southern magnolia is the tree that southern grandmothers tell stories about and homeowners dream of. These trees often grow over 50 feet tall and can top 70 feet. They are covered with large waxy leaves that are dark green on top and burnt orange on the undersides. The flowers consist of large white tepals that combine to form blooms up to a foot in diameter. And don’t forget about the flower’s sweet floral fragrance!

Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata)

This is another large magnolia tree that’s native to the United States. It can tolerate cold temperatures more than almost any other magnolia, so it’s a good choice if you live in an area where winters regularly remain below freezing. The flowers aren’t the showiest in terms of magnolias (although they are one of a few types of green flowers), but the tree itself makes for a wonderful shade tree.

Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora)

If you want a magnolia that grows as a large shrub rather than a tree, the lily magnolia is one good option. The plants rarely grow over 12 feet tall which makes them a great addition to smaller yards. And the flowers are gorgeous! The narrow petals grow pointed upward and are an alluring blend of light and dark pink.

Learn More About Flowers and Plants

While there’s no denying that magnolia flowers are beautiful, they’re just one of many flowers you can choose from! We find the vast array of flowers stunning and think you deserve a chance to see them all! That’s why we constantly mix up the flowers you can find in our popular new bouquets.

And if you’re interested in learning about how to care for different types of plants, we’ve got you covered! Start with rosemary plant care and move on to others when you’re done.

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