Magnolia blossoms

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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 by themselves or as part of a custom spring floral arrangement.

Magnolia blossom basics

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 a 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 color. Some magnolia flowers are only about 2 inches wide, while others can approach 12 inches wide! In terms of color, 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.

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)
Southern magnolia - magnolia grandiflora
Southern Magnolia – Magnolia Grandiflora
Lily magnolia (magnolia liliiflora)
Lily Magnolia – Magnolia liliiflora
Yulan magnolia
Yulan Magnolia – Magnolia denudata
Star magnolia (magnolia stellata)
Star Magnolia – Magnolia stellata
Magnolia blossoms on decidious magnolia tree - pink flowers in spring
Hybrid magnolia ‘betty’

Tips for growing magnolia blossoms

The first part of growing magnolia blossoms successfully is choosing 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). Choosing an appropriate variety for your climate zone will help to ensure the flowers come back every year (as the stems and buds need to survive the winter to bloom).

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)
Magnolia blossoms as cut flowers

Creating floral designs with fresh magnolia flowers

When it’s time to create arrangements from your magnolia blossoms, it’s 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 arrangement:

  1. Greenery – Foliage stems form the foundation and help 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. Whimsical Accessories – Extra whimsical elements can be included to add a little fun and flair. Dot the arrangement with some different-colored blooms or add some trailing flowers or foliage to visually anchor the vase to the table.
Pink magnolia blossom

The parts of a magnolia blossom

As discussed above, the shape and size of the flower petals depend 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!

Number of petals on hybrid magnolia
Petals from a magnolia flower (hybrid deciduous “betty” magnolia blossom)
Center part of magnolia blossom
Here is what the center part of a magnolia blossom looks like. This one is from a hybrid magnolia (magnolia “betty”).

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.

Hybrid pink magnolia blossoms
Magnolia blossoms on deciduous magnolia tree (pink)
Magnolia blossom fully open in bloom with long petals
Magnolia blossoms on deciduous magnolia betty
Magnolia blossoms on deciduous magnolia
Magnolia blossoms
Magnolia blossom on tree with mulch in background
Blossom on magnolia tree in late afternoon
Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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