When Do Magnolia Trees Bloom?
Are you wondering when your magnolia trees will start blooming this season and how long those blooms will last? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares when you can expect your magnolias to bloom, and how long their beautiful white flowers will stick around.
If you are considering planting a magnolia tree for its gorgeous flowers (what other reason would you need?), it is helpful to know when magnolia trees bloom and how old your tree will need to be before it starts flowering.
The answer comes down to two factors: whether they are evergreen or deciduous and how the specific species behaves. The good news is many hybrids and deciduous magnolias have been bred for cold hardiness.
So, even if the type of magnolia you fall in love with is not hardy in your zone, I’m willing to bet that there is a hybrid that can take its place.
The Short Answer
Deciduous magnolias bloom from early to late spring, with some blooming sporadically into the summer months. Many hybrid varieties have been bred for increased cold hardiness. Most evergreen species bloom in the summer with some continuing into the fall.
The Long Answer
The most important factor in determining what time of year a particular magnolia will bloom is knowing whether it is a deciduous variety or an evergreen variety. It is fairly easy to make this determination based on the tree’s physical appearance, which we will address.
Let’s talk about different species, what group they fall into, and which varieties bloom early versus late in their respective seasons. We will cover ways to determine your type of tree based on physical appearance and at what point in the tree’s maturity it will begin to produce flowers.
Two species of magnolia that are always evergreen. They are also species that contain some of the largest varieties, and the one most commonly associated with the family: the Southern Magnolia. There is a third evergreen species called M. michelia, but it has a very limited climate zone and lives best in subtropical and tropical climates.
Evergreen magnolias tend to have large, leathery, glossy green leaves with a golden brown, velvety underside. Apart from some dwarf varieties, they also tend to be quite large in their growth potential.
The most common variety of this species is the Southern Magnolia. This is the parent tree from which many hybrids have been bred. Grandiflora is a large tree, commonly growing from 60’-80’ tall and nearly as wide. Trees are on record growing as tall as 120’ throughout their rather long lifespan.
M. grandiflora is evergreen, so it retains its wonderful foliage year-round. The leaves are large and elliptical, glossy, and dark green on top with rust-colored velvet on the underside.
These are the leaves commonly used to make garlands around the holidays because they retain their integrity and color for a long time once detached from the tree.
This species begins its blooming season in the late spring but doesn’t ramp up fully until the summer. The white flowers are very large, often dinner plate sized. They are a wonderful creamy white color and quite fragrant. These blooms make spectacular cut flowers, a single magnolia floating in a crystal bowl of water will fill a room with its wonderful, sweet, lemony fragrance.
M. Virginiana goes by a few names, the most commonly used being Sweetbay. Virginiana cultivars are characterized by elongated green leaves with a silvery tone underneath.
The flowers are similar in appearance to those of the Grandiflora, but much smaller, as is the entire tree. Some may reach heights near 50’, but the average size is closer to 30’.
The ‘Moonglow’ variety of this species has a rich vanilla fragrance both in the flowers as well as the leaves, trunk, and roots of the tree. Some varieties have a more citrusy smell. All are white and fragrant and appear in late spring and throughout the summer months.
There are more than 40 species of deciduous magnolias, but in this article, I will address 3 of the more popular species commonly found in gardens and nurseries.
Most deciduous magnolias produce a large number of flowers all at once in the spring. Their cold tolerance greatly depends on how early or late they bloom, with some blooming as early as January/February and some as late as April and into the summer.
M. kobus is a deciduous species of magnolia native to Japan. It is small to medium in size, growing as tall as 25’-30’ over time. It can also be grown as a hedge and will spread as wide as it can grow tall. Kobus magnolias are intolerant of environmental pollutants and are not well suited for urban gardens.
Considered hardy in zones 5-8, Kobus is an early bloomer, so late frosts can be an issue. Kobus magnolias bloom in mid to late winter with flowers in shades of pink and white. This is a late bloomer in terms of maturity, and some trees will not flower fully until about 25 years of age.
The ‘Loebner’ magnolia is a hybrid of Kobus and Stellata magnolia that flowers much earlier in its lifespan than the average Kobus magnolia.
This award-winning variety produces deep to pale pink and even some white flowering varieties. The hybridization serves the purpose of creating trees that bloom a bit later in the year, therefore avoiding the most damaging frosts.
Soulangeana is a cross between the species M. denudata and M. liliiflora. You may know this hybrid species better by the name Japanese Magnolia. Similar to the Kobus, these deciduous trees reach heights up to 35” tall, with some smaller varieties that make a nice shrub or hedge.
Japanese magnolias are the most popularly found deciduous magnolias in the United States and on the British Isles. Their bloom time varies by variety, with most blooming in late winter or early spring. The flowers are typically saucer-shaped and large, in shades of red, pink, and purple. Some varieties have white insides, creating a beautiful bicolor effect when in bloom.
Soulangeana blooms are fragrant, as most magnolias are. The scent of these beautiful trees can carry over into the foliage and bark and has been described as more musky or spicy than other species. I have one in my front yard, and I can tell you this: aside from my tea olive, it’s the best-smelling plant in my garden, and it throws scent like a high-quality candle.
The ‘Verbanica’ variety is a smaller plant, topping out around 10’-20’, and is a late bloomer, making it more cold-hardy than earlier blooming varieties. It flowers at an early age, so it is really a wonderful little tree. It’s quite showy in bloom as well.
Stellata is another native to Japan and has a similar appearance to the Kobus species. If you recall, breeding them together produces a Kobus with more cold tolerance and a delayed bloom time. Stellata varieties bloom later in the season, beginning in March, with some blooming sporadically into the early summer.
Stellata magnolias are very low maintenance and grow to a height of 15’-20’ with a spread of 10’-15’. They make a wonderful shrub, and come spring, they bloom profusely, but only after about 10 years of age. The flowers may require some patience, but the payoff is stunning. This is a moderate-growth species of magnolia and can grow up to 24” in a year.
As the name implies, Stellata’s flowers resemble stars. Long thin petals radiate from the center like a tiny firework. The ‘Centennial Blush’ variety is a favorite of mine (it’s on my Christmas list, in fact).
‘Centennial’ is an intense producer of the most captivating blooms. The flowers have a fully double petal formation, and the color is a pale blush with a slightly darkened underside. It is the star of every garden it graces when spring rolls around.
There are a wide variety of species and hybrids in the magnolia family of trees. They bloom all the way from January through September and as early as 3 years old to as late as 25. With so many varieties, it can be hard to choose just one. A good place to begin choosing is by determining what size tree will suit your space and whether you prefer a flamboyant show in the spring or a subtle but classic evergreen with a longer blooming period.
I would love for you to check out my series of articles on specific varieties of magnolia by color, variety, and size if you want more inspiration. There are so many beautiful varieties to choose from! Magnolias are some of the loveliest flowering trees!