Darrell Blackwelder column: Deciduous magnolias

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2021

When you think about magnolias, you first thought is large, broad-leafed evergreen trees of the South. However, there are many deciduous magnolias species now in full bloom. Fortunately, they have dodged late frosts and their blooms are quite spectacular. These trees are at their peak as accents in home landscapes and along our parks and highways. Almost indestructible, these plants are fast becoming a favorite planting on right of ways, streets and other hostile landscape locations. Seemingly thriving on neglect, deciduous magnolias can be as compact as a small accent shrub or small tree, 15 feet wide up to 30 feet tall.

There are over 50 different types of deciduous magnolias, however, most homeowners in our area have two types:  the star magnolia (Magnolia stellate) and the tulip magnolia, (Magnolia soulangeana). Both types have cultivars that feature different flower colors, shapes and growth habits.

The star magnolia is somewhat smaller and can be grown either as a large shrub or trimmed to form a small flowering tree.

Tulip magnolia flowers generally are much larger and as the name implies, resembles a large tulip. Colors range from deep purple to pale yellow. Yulan magnolia (Magnolia heptapeta) is very similar to the common purple magnolia but it has white flowers and on a grafted rootstock. These trees can reach up to 30 feet tall and often serves as a shade tree. More detailed information can be found at https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/magnolia-x-soulangeana/

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu .