There are more than 200 species of magnolia. Nobody knows the exact number of cultivars. And new ones appear every so often. The small or dwarf magnolias have been very popular with growers for some time now, as they perfectly fit even the smallest gardens. They also can be grown in containers which may decorate balconies, patios and terraces. Bigger or big and very big cultivars (more than 10m/ 35ft tall) need more space and should be planted in the garden individually as magnolias are not very gregarious species. To justify their unsocial predilections I must add that magnolias make a perfect specimen and in order to fully enjoy their flower show we need visual access to every individual bloom on the tree. They cannot be overcast by anything, just cannot!
Magnolias are ones of the most ancient plants on earth. They have been with us (?) for millions of years. The structure of their flower is referred to by botanists as very simple if not primitive, for there is no difference between the sepals and petals. Nevertheless, they always look beautiful with their white, yellow, pink, rose or purple tepals, some of them offering not only colour but also delicate smell. Depending on the variety or cultivar magnolia flowers consist of several tepals which vary in size and length. They do not need bees to be pollinated as bees evolved much later in time. Some species (e.g. Magnolia kobus) form original scarlet fruit which may germinate the following spring. Bad new is the self- sown plant takes some time to bloom. Although it is not millions of years but quite close. That is why the quicker solution is offered by good garden centres where you can find a rich selection of quick and early blooming cultivars to suit your expectations.
Having chosen the perfect one(s) you need to secure the right growing conditions for the tree or shrub. Magnolias grow well in rich, moist but well-drained soil, natural or slightly acid. If you add a lot of organic matter, the roots will be grateful. Talking about roots, they are the most fragile part of that ancient plant. They do not like to be disturbed and cannot stand any digging nor heavy traffic. It is also part of the explanation why magnolias dislike close company. Once established, magnolias hate to be transplanted, so select the final spot carefully in advance. It should be sunny but protected from strong winds, which- along with heavy rain- can severely damage the delicate flowers. Thick mulch the area around the trunk which helps to hold moisture and protects the roots from high temperatures in the summer. Young plants may suffer from severe frost and will require some insulation against it. Older magnolias can withstand very low temperatures, though. Only flowers, when they have already opened, are quite vulnerable if spring frost spells occur, but little can be done about that.
Deciduous magnolias form flowers the previous year and they are hidden in big fuzzy buds. They can be admired for the whole wintertime as significant structures decorating bare but still elegant branches.