Magnolias are amongst the most beautiful of all flowering trees suitable for cooler, temperate climates. They originate from Eastern and South East Asia and the new World from North America to Venezuela. Although these plants are not well represented in local gardens, there are some really stunning Magnolias available from time to time. If your garden is suitable for growing a magnolia shrub or tree, they’re well worth planting. They last for decades and make a magnificent seasonal display. Some are evergreens whilst some of the most exquisite are deciduous, blooming in late winter before the spring leaves unfurl.


Deciduous magnolias are represented locally by Magnolia x soulangeana and some five or six variants of this spectacular small tree. During late winter, the bare limbs and branches are adorned with masses of tulip shaped flowers. They’re cream on the inside of each tepal (petals and sepals that form the flower) and mauve, purple or pink on the outside. Highly fragrant and visually stunning, these plants are a must in the garden. Also available are a range of hybrid magnolias raised in the USA for their late blooming. Known collectively as the deVos and Kosar hybrids, each one is named after a girl. Magnolia ‘Riki’, ‘Pinkie’ and ‘Susan’ have smaller flowers than the above mentioned and bloom some 4 to 6 weeks later. They form many stemmed shrubs or small, bushy trees. Ideal for growing in colder climates where the late flowers are not damaged by frost.

Evergreen magnolias grown locally are all forms or clones of Magnolia grandiflora commonly known as bull bay. A native of the southern states of the USA, these striking trees adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions from the cold hinterland to the tropical coastal belt. Their large glossy leaves have a bronze underside with a velvety texture. The upper surface is dark green with a waxy sheen. Huge white flowers with a delicate fragrance adorn the trees in summer and autumn. Various different named cultivars are on the market including Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ that is of lesser stature than the others. Normally these trees can attain a mature height of some 12 to 15 metres, whereas this smaller form only reaches 6 to 8 metres. Wonderful trees for the larger garden!

Magnolias grow best in:

– Cooler temperate climates
– Rich loamy soils, but can grow in clay as well
– Enjoy regular watering
– Full sun or dappled shade
– Large gardens with plenty of space for the trees to mature
– Evergreen types are good in large pots