There are about 125 species of magnolia and a number of cultivars and they include some of the most striking and beautiful of all flowering trees.
The majority are only suitable for larger gardens and arboretums as they grow into large trees. A few will remain more shrub-like, Magnolia stellata and its various cultivars being the most obvious. Another disadvantage for the small gardener is that some are very slow to come into flower, in extreme cases up to 30 years. In a large garden with plenty of other attractions this might not matter but in a small garden every tree and shrub must earn its keep. Fortunately Magnolia stellata comes into flower at an early age.
It is the flowers that are the reason for growing magnolias. They are white, pink, cream or yellow and often wonderfully fragrant. They usually show up well as they are carried before the leaves come out. But this can be a disadvantage as late frosts can spoil the complete crop of flowers before they have even opened.
They need a neutral to acid soil with plenty of humus added to it. Choose the site carefully as magnolias hate to be disturbed once planted and will often die if transplanted. Also be careful when planting and try and get the root ball from the pot without disturbing the roots. Pruning is rarely necessary.
Many magnolias grow very well in towns and cities and one of the most recognizeable signs of spring in urban areas all over the country is the ranks of pink-tinted white candle-like flowers of Magnolia soulangiana.