Magnolias (Magnolia) have the largest flowers of any of the trees cold-hardy to this region. They provide an amazing opportunity for large flowers, large leaves, and exotic scents to be a part of any garden. Additionally, their blooms can be found in a great diversity of colors, from creamy white to purple to yellow.
Renowned plant collector E.H. 'Chinese' Wilson once said that "magnolias are aristocrats of ancient lineage possessed of many superlative qualities." The richly scented flowers of some species are enormous, the largest flowers of all cold-hardy flowering trees. Their color ranges from creamy white to magenta purple to yellow.
The Morton Arboretum exhibits 49 different kinds of hardy magnolia specimens. Among these trees are early blooming Asian species and their hybrids. For example, Merrill Loebner's magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill'), northern Japanese magnolia (Magnolia kobus var. borealis), and star magnolia (Magnolia stellta) may bloom in early to mid-March.
A very interesting magnolia is big-leaved magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). With its three foot long leaves, this Appalachian native has the largest leaf of all temperate deciduous trees. Look for the Asian counterpart of big leaf magnolia in the China Collection and be amazed at how closely they resemble one another. Perhaps the most exciting trees in the collection are the yellow-flowering magnolias. You will find the cultivars 'Butterfly', 'Elizabeth', 'Yellow Fever', and 'Limelight'. The yellow magnolias are new and different from many other magnolias. These cultivars bloom mid to late May, reducing their chances of frost damage.
If you love magnolia trees, take a trip to the East Side of the Arboretum to our collection of magnolias and related plant families (Magnoliidae).