GARDENING COLUMNIST: I must have magnolias! All of them!

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Despite the winter-like weather this past week, spring is upon us and plants are growing like crazy. Especially those winter annual weeds. The summer-like weather the week before sent them into overdrive.

Remember to try to get them out of the gardens before they go to seed. Many of them have already gone to seed in the southern part of our reading area. Applying preemergent herbicide this fall helps to prevent a new crop next spring.

The nice weather was welcomed, however. I think that this might be the first year in a long time (or at least if I can remember, which isn’t very long!) that we have had a beautiful Magnolia X soulangiana or saucer magnolia bloom.

This magnolia is the one with large flowers that are somewhat purplish. The earliest blooming magnolia is the star magnolia or Magnolia stellata. These flowers are pure white and tend to take light frost or colder temperatures.

Some of the saucer magnolias were less than stellar as they got dinged pretty hard with freezing temperatures as the blooms were emerging. Mine had brownish outside petals but when it opened, it was fabulous.

I love magnolias and have a star and a saucer cultivar. I selected one of the saucer cultivars called ‘Betty’. This blooms a little later than the saucer, thus more likely to avoid a freeze. Of course, there have been some years when the blooms were cooked by a freeze.

I also like it because it is shorter than the saucer magnolia. Saucer can get to around 25 feet in height and ‘Betty’ is more of a 10–15-foot shrub. On the other hand, the saucer magnolia is beautiful at maturity with the beautiful stem arrangement that develops.

One of the other magnolias I must have is a hybrid called ‘Butterflies’. Wow! This magnolia can be a large shrub or medium tree and has incredible yellow flowers that maintain the yellow color throughout the bloom. The flowers bloom around this time and have a light lemon oil fragrance.

Another beautiful magnolia that isn’t hardy in our area but rather in the south (Zone 7-9) is Magnolia grandiflora or the southern magnolia. This evergreen has incredibly large white flowers that bloom in late spring with glossy green foliage.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The cultivar, ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is winter hardy to Zone 5 and I have seen this grow in southern Miami Valley and have spotted a few in my area. It is a beautiful tree and can get quite large.

The final magnolia for our area is the sweetbay magnolia or Magnolia virginiana. This small tree or large shrub (depending on how you prune it) has smaller white flowers and blooms in June. It prefers moist soil and doesn’t always thrive in hot dry soils.

However, we can grow it around here and the fragrance is outstanding.

Magnolias have been beautiful this year and they are super easy to grow with very few problems except for magnolia scale. This can be controlled and would not be a reason for me to NOT grow them!

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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