There is nothing quite like a magnolia in full spring bloom. Magnolia blossoms appear just as the springtime sun starts to warm the soil. These wonderful flowers are enjoyed not only by humans, but also by beneficial garden creatures like hummingbirds, honey bees, and bumblebees.
Magnolia blossoms are large, graceful flowers that bloom in early spring on Magnolia plants. These trees (or large shrubs) are easy to grow in residential yards. Magnolia blossoms also make stunning cut flowers, either by themselves or as part of a custom spring floral arrangement.
Read on to learn all about growing, enjoying, and creating with magnolia blossoms.
Magnolia Blossoms: An Overview
Magnolia blooms in early spring with stunning, large, sweetly-scented flowers. Whether you hope to grow a lily magnolia with long pink petals, a southern type with cup-shaped white flowers, or any other variety, you are assured of a strong, beautiful scent and rich, lemony fragrance. The flowers are not only serene and calm, but they also light up your space from bud to blossom to vase.
Each type of magnolia has slightly different blossoms. In general, magnolia blossoms are bowl-shaped, star-shaped, or a mixture of the two (saucer-shaped). The difference lies in the size and shape of the petals and colour. Some magnolia flowers are only about 2 inches wide, while others can approach 12 inches wide! In terms of colour, magnolia blossoms come in white, cream, yellow/green, purple, and pink.
“In Magnolia, Michelia, and Liriodendron (the Magnoliaceae), the flowers are large and often showy, with numerous spirally arranged petals, stamens, and ovules.The Botanical Garden Volume 1: Trees and Shrubs, by Roger Phillips & Martyn Rix
So what do various magnolia blossoms look like? The lily magnolia has long pink petals like an oriental lily which droop over dramatically as it blooms. The star magnolia has smaller white petals that open wide in a cheery star daisy-like shape. The southern magnolia has elegant cup-shaped white flowers which resemble old-fashioned garden roses.
Descriptions of Different Types of Magnolia Blossoms
Here are some common types of magnolias with a short description of blossom appearance:
- Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora): White 12″-wide bowl-shaped blossoms (Zones 7-9, Native to U.S.A.)
- Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora): Pink/purple 4″-long lily-shaped blossoms (Zones 5-8, Native to China)
- Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata): White 5″-wide cup-shaped blossoms (Zones 6-9, Native to China)
- Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana): Soft pink 6″-wide saucer-shaped blossoms (Zones 4-9, Hybrid of Lily Magnolia and Yulan Magnolia)
- Wilson’s Magnolia (Magnolia wilsonii): White 2″-wide teacup-like circular blossoms with a delicate pink and yellow center (Zones 6-9, Native to China)
- Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla): Cream 8″-wide cup-shaped blossoms (Zones 5-8, Native to U.S.A.)
- Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana): White 3″-wide cup-shaped blossoms (Zones 5-10, Native to U.S.A.)
- Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata): White 4″-wide daisy-like blossoms (Zones 4-8, Native to Japan)
- Little Girl Hybrid Magnolias (Magnolia ‘Ann’, ‘Betty’, ‘Judy’, ‘Randy’, ‘Ricki’, ‘Susan’, ‘Jane’, ‘Pinkie’): Pink/purple 4″-long lily-shaped blossoms (Zones 4-8, Hybrids of Lily Magnolia and Star Magnolia)
- Elizabeth Magnolia (Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’): Yellow 4″-long lily-shaped blossoms (Zones 5-8, hybrid cross of M. acuminata and M. denudata)
Tips for Growing Magnolia Blossoms
The first part of growing magnolia blossoms successfully is to choose a type of magnolia that is well-suited to your climate. Use the Zones included in the list above to help you narrow down your choice (here’s an article about how to find your growing zone).
To grow great magnolia blossoms, focus on providing the following conditions for your magnolia tree:
- Full sun (6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily)
- Air circulation around each branch
- Minimal soil disruption above/around its shallow roots
- Consistent soil moisture (use a quality organic mulch)
- Mindful pruning only when necessary (generally immediately after flowering)
Creating Floral Designs with Fresh Magnolia Flowers
When it’s time to create arrangements from your magnolia blossoms, its best to have the right tools to make the process easy and ensure the product is perfect. Here are some ideas for a simple magnolia blossom bouquet and for creating a custom floral arrangement.
Simple Magnolia Blossom Floral Bouquet
For simple home arrangements, all you need is a pair of sharp pruning shears, water, and a vase. Cut the flowers in the morning or evenings when the weather is cool. Buds that are just starting to open will last much longer than open flowers. Remove most/all leaves for the best blossom hydration.
Place the magnolia blossoms in a vase with clean, cold water. Shield it from direct sun or other heat sources if a long vase life is desired. Vase life can also be increased by trapping the sap inside the cut branch. Some gardeners like to singe/slightly scorch the cut end to trap the sap, while others dip the cut end in boiling water.
Custom Floral Arrangements with Magnolia Blossoms
You can easily create a custom floral arrangement with magnolia blooms. Start with some greenery, then add some supporting flowers, and finish with the star-of-the-show magnolia blossoms! You can even add trailing flowers or vines and other accessory elements to really show off your blooms. Follow the formula below to build your custom magnolia floral arrangment:
- Greenery – Foliage stems form the foundation and helps in shaping the arrangement. Start with the longest branches. Do not overcrowd them at the start. If you find the need to add some after you are done, then you can go back and do so. Also, it is always best to stick the greenery into a floral frog wire base or grid to ensure they are secure.
- Supporting Blooms – Supporting small flowers fill the spaces left by the greenery, and (most importantly) support your statement flowers. Consider which complementary blooms will best highlight the particular type of magnolia blossoms you’ve grown.
- Statement Flowers – The magnolia blossoms! These flowers are meant to steal the show. They should be the largest flowers in the arrangement and should be clearly visible (perhaps even sticking out a bit from the others).
- Whimsy Accessories – Extra whimsical elements can be included to add a little fun and flair. Dot the arrangement with some different-coloured blooms or add some trailing flowers or foliage to visually anchor the vase to the table.
The Parts of a Magnolia Blossom
As discussed above, the shape and size of the flower petals depends very much on the type of magnolia. Some have long skinny petals and others have almost round petals. The petals are arranged in a spiral swirl around the middle pistil of the blossom. There are magnolia flowers with as little as 6 petals and some varieties that can have 20 petals per flower. What a wonderful family of flowering trees!
How Long do Magnolia Blooms Last?
Magnolia blooms for about 2 weeks each spring. There will be some earlier blooms and a few straggler blooms on either side of this main blooming period. The trees tend to look tidier in the first week when all the blooms are fresh. The second week is generally filled with more blooms, although some of the earliest blooms will be wilting and carpeting the ground. The magnolia is lovely in all these stages of bloom.
Cut magnolia flowers generally last for about a week. That said, a flower that is cut in the heat of the midday sun and then placed in a vase in the sunshine may only last a day or two. A flower cut first thing in the morning and stem-scorched immediately can more than a week in a cool, sheltered vase.
Note: All photos in this post are of Magnolia ‘Betty’, which is a hybrid magnolia bred as part of the Little Girl series (crosses between lily magnolia and star magnolia).
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