The Magnolia Genus

Magnolias are striking shrubs and trees known for their beautiful blooms which appear before the leaves.

These unique plants happen to be older than bees, so you may notice that no bees visit them!

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Magnolias

Magnolias come from the Magnoliaceae plant family, and the genus Magnolia makes up roughly 210 different species.

It’s also a very old genus, with most of the plants having existed before bees evolved, so the main pollinators are beetles and the wind. 

These are widespread plants, some of which come from South America, the West Indies, Asia, and the Americas.

They form a huge part of ornamental gardens across the world, grown both for their glossy foliage, and striking, perfumed flowers, which can have more than one flush in a single year.

The flowers can appear in spring or summer, or sometimes both, where they will have a fantastic display in spring, producing a reduced, second flush in summer.

These blooms can be pink, purple, white, or yellow, which is dependent on the cultivar you choose.

Behind The Name: What Does Magnolia Mean?

The genus name applies to all species within, and as you can imagine, this is a name familiar across the world.

What is less familiar is the plant’s namesake. It was named to honor Pierre Magnol, a French botanist who lived in the 17th century, and helped to create the system of plant families that we still use today.

Magnolia Flower Symbolism And Meaning

Magnolias have plenty of symbolism behind their unique flowers.

They represent the strength in endurance and resilience, and while this is not their only meaning, it is the main symbolism.

The flowers of a magnolia can signal beauty, pride, grace, and femininity, but the meaning behind the flowers is often dependent on the color.

For a detailed breakdown in what magnolias signify, have a look at our Magnolia Flower Meaning And Symbolism guide, which goes into what different flower colors mean, as well as what magnolia flower tattoos can represent.

Uses Of The Magnolia Plant

Besides its use as a focal point in any garden, the magnolia has a number of different uses.

As the wood of a magnolia tree is very strong, it’s typically used in constructing furniture, or even houses! Magnolia acuminata, in particular, is used for this purpose, and you’ll come across it under the label yellow poplar.

Parts of the magnolia plant are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat cramps, respiratory illnesses, and complaints such as toothaches and headaches.

Growing Requirements For Magnolias

Magnolias can be shrubs or trees. If you go for a shrub, you may see them get as large as 20 feet high if you give them enough space, while they may stay more compact at 4-6 feet high.

Magnolia trees are capable of reaching 65 feet high, so you will need to give them plenty of breathing space in order to reach these heights!

Magnolias are hardy in zones 4 through to 9, preferring acidic soil which drains well. They will grow in loam  or sandy soil, or even soil which contains a lot of clay.

Magnolias can thrive in full sunlight or partial shade, and you’ll see the most flowers in a sunny position.

The most maintenance you’ll need to do is to chop crossing branches, and keep sweeping or raking up the fallen flowers, which is a fair trade when you consider how dramatic their displays can be.

For a comprehensive guide on growing magnolias, varieties to try in your own garden, and common care questions, visit our Magnolia Types And Care Guide

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