What does it take to grow magnificent magnolias?
I remember very clearly the first time I saw deciduous magnolias in full bloom. It was in Canberra, more than 30 years ago, and I used to travel to work by bus through some of the beautiful older residential areas. Driving through the avenues of inner Canberra, I was astounded by these magnificent shrubs and small trees bearing masses of enormous, tulip-shaped pink and white flowers on gorgeous bare branches.
The magnolias that caught my eye all those years ago were probably forms of magnolia soulangeana, a very common and easily grown form. There are many varieties and hybrid forms of magnolias. They are generally long-lived, slow-growing shrubs and trees with fragrant flowers ranging in colour from white through pinks and purples to strong burgundy and blood red. There are some yellow forms too. The shape of the delicately perfumed flowers varies, from the giant saucer or tulip forms to more delicate stellata types with many petals.
Magnolias burst into bloom in late winter or early to mid-spring. Some varieties will grow in the subtropics, especially in the cooler, elevated or inland areas like Tamborine Mountain, Toowoomba, Lismore and Bangalow. In warmer areas, it's best to plant deciduous magnolias in a cool spot with shelter from hot afternoon sun and hot winds.
In frost prone areas, protect young plants for the first season.
It is vital to keep new plants well-watered. If they dry out the leaves will become brown, dry and brittle. Once plants are well established they are more resilient but still require regular, deep watering through spring and summer.