Good trees for urban gardens: Magnolias

Star magnolia
Star magnolia

We continue our series highlighting trees that work for gardens in Edmonds. It’s presented by Master Gardener Barbara Chase, who serves on the Edmonds Tree Board.

Magnolias in our Northwest gardens

Magnolias make their entrance in Northwest gardens in March and continue into the summer.

One of the first to show itself is the deciduous Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata, a dependable and trouble-free tree. It is covered in lovely star-like blossoms in white, sometimes in soft pink color. It is often fragrant The tree stays small and is a good tree for a garden with limited space.

Tulip Tree Magnolia
Tulip Tree Magnolia

Later in March the Tulip Tree, Magnolia soulangeana, begins to open its buds, usually white with a pink tinge or deep purplish rose It is covered in blossoms. The tree grows wide horizontally and is in the 20 to 25 feet height range. It is also quite trouble-free.

Magnolia sieboldii ,often referred to as the Oyama Magnolia, is another good choice. The flowers are white, with scarlet stamens, and have a pleasant fragrance. The flowers hang, instead of standing erect as most magnolias. The flowers open in succession over a long period of time in early summer. It is deciduous and grows about 8 to 12 feet high and wide.

The evergreen Southern Magnolia, magnolia grandiflora, also grows in the Northwest. A variety called Little Gem is a good tree for smaller gardens. It grows slowly to 20 to 25 feet and will grow 10 to 12 feet wide. It blooms from spring to summer. “St. Mary” is another good variety that will grow to be 20 feet by 20 feet.

Magnolias are not the easiest plant to transplant. In fact, they can be difficult to move once they have become established, so it is important to select a location that will be permanent. Since most varieties will grow into large shrubs or small trees, be sure to choose a spot where they will have ample space in which to grow.

Magnolias seldom require pruning of any kind. If pruning is necessary, the best time to do it is immediately after they have flowered. They are seldom bothered by pests and are very hardy. Northwest gardeners will want to find room for at least one in their garden.

— By Barbara Chase

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