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Mr. Smarty Plants - Failure to bloom of Magnolia in Webster FL

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Sunday - May 24, 2009

From: Webster, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Failure to bloom of Magnolia in Webster FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Do all Magnolias Bloom? I live in Central Florida - transplanted a Magnolia 7 1/2 years ago. It is a beautiful tree - very healthy - at least 10-12 ft. It has never had a bloom!! I have another little 2 ft tree that I planted this year in Feb. - It looks terrible - brown leaves - but has 4 flower buds right now! Why is this? What can I do to get my big tree to blossom?

ANSWER:

That's a puzzle to us, too. There are 8 members of the Magnolia genus in our Native Plant Database; 6 of them are native to Florida:

Magnolia acuminata (cucumber-tree) - flowers not showy, only 2 inches across and greenish in color

Magnolia ashei (Ashe's magnolia) - very local distribution, native only to Florida Panhandle

Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia)

Magnolia pyramidata (pyramid magnolia)

Magnolia tripetala (umbrella-tree)

Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay)

According to the descriptions of these trees in our database, the only one that might possibly be blooming without your being aware of it is Magnolia acuminata (cucumber-tree). Please go to the Image Gallery page on this tree and see if there is any possibility it is what you have in your garden. We doubt it, because this tree is shown on the USDA Plant Profile as growing only in two counties in the far western part of the Florida Panhandle. 

It is far more likely that you have the  Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia), so we will do a little more research to find out if there are specific reasons why this tree would not be blooming. We found a website called Magnolia Questions and Answers Page, from the Essence of Magnolias and Southern Creations, Inc. websites. You should read all of the article, but we will give you some excerpts on what it said about blooming. In the first place, you may not even know what your magnolia is-it may have been sold as "Southern Magnolia." You could wait a long time for that tree to bloom. If the tree was grown from seed (pretty rare), it definitely won't bloom for 15 to 20 years. The magnolia is slow-growing, and it must reach a certain size, needs to adjust to its surroundings, and needs plenty of sun to bloom. It's possible that the smaller tree that is already blooming is the named cultivar dwarf "Little Gem," which grows very slowly, but will bloom when only 3 to 4 feet tall. 

We will make a couple suggestions. The first is that while the magnolia needs acidic soil and plenty of water, it does not need water standing on its roots, and they will quickly rot. Make sure the drainage is good. Second, watch the fertilizer. It is a well-known fact that too much nitrogen will discourage blooming in just about any plant. Liquid fertilizer is fine, and probably a good idea for the first few years the tree is in the ground, but cut way back on the nitrogen content. Don't use the same fertilizer you do on your lawn. So, more patience and less nitrogen may be your only possible actions. 


Magnolia acuminata

Magnolia ashei

Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia pyramidata

Magnolia tripetala

Magnolia virginiana

 

 

 

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