Powell Gardens' Prized Magnolia Collection
Powell Gardens, Kansas City's botanical garden, has collected more than 300 varieties of magnolia, with about half of those still on trial in the nursery. As we evaluate those, we invite you to enjoy a dozen of our prized varieties. They typically begin blooming in mid-March and continue through June. Stay tuned to our blog for updates on bloom times this spring.
Southern Magnolia Magnolia grandiflora hardy selections
This is the classic evergreen tree that is a symbol of southern gardens. It is marginally hardy in Kansas City so needs to be grown in a sheltered spot and a proven hardy cultivar selected. Huge, fragrant white flowers appear sparingly over a long period of time from late May into July.
Sweetbay Magnolias Magnolia virginiana varieties
Sweetbays are either deciduous or partially evergreen with long leaves that display a beautiful silvery underside. Sweetbay’s flowers are small but intensely fragrant, perfuming a whole garden space while in bloom in mid-May into June. It is currently the most widely planted KC Magnolia.
Umbrella Magnolia Magnolia tripetala
This magnificent native magnolia has huge leaves set at the ends of its stems to create an umbrella-like whorl of foliage. The large creamy flowers have an unusual scent that is usually considered rather unpleasant. This magnolia usually blooms over a few weeks in May.
Medicinal Magnolia Magnolia officinalis varieties
A Chinese magnolia similar to Umbrella Magnolia with whorls of huge leaves so it is known as the propeller tree by gardeners. All wild trees in China have been debarked and killed for medicinal use so this tree survives only in gardens.
Star Magnolia Magnolia stellata
A Japanese Magnolia that is found wild only on a couple mountaintops. It blooms abundantly in very early in spring before it leafs out, so is literally foliated in starry white flowers. The flowers emit a soft sweet scent, usually blooming in March or early April. The flowers have some tolerance to frost and early spring’s inclement weather. It is the third most common magnolia grown in our region.
Lily Magnolia Magnolia liliiflora cultivar
This shrubby magnolia is known as the mulan “woody orchid” in its native China. It has tulip shaped flowers in mid-spring that are often dark pink or purple. It usually blooms in late April to early May. It is an important parent to many hybrid magnolias with dark pink or purplish flowers.
Little Girl Magnolias Magnolia hybrids between Star and Lily Magnolia
These hybrid magnolia cultivars are shrubby small trees and have become the second most popular magnolias planted in Kansas City landscapes. They bloom fully in April with some repeat bloom through the season. Popular cultivars include ‘Jane’, ‘Ann’, ‘Susan’, ‘Betty’, ‘Randy’ and ‘Pinkie.’
Yulan Magnolia Magnolia denudata cultivars
This magnolia was probably the first magnolia cultivated around 4,000 years ago and is loved for its goblet-shaped pure white, elegant flowers as a symbol of divinity. It blooms very early in spring and is literally covered in flowers before eat leafs out. Unfortunately the flowers are very sensitive to frost so flowers are often marred by spring cold snaps.
Saucer Magnolias Magnolia x soulangeana (Lily-Yulan Magnolia hybrids) cultivars
This was the most popular garden magnolia in Kansas City as the tree is simply stunning when in full bloom. It has large, pinkish or purplish flowers in early spring before it leafs out but flowers are subject to frost and freeze damage. When the flower season is mild the trees are simply spectacular in flower.
Cucumbertree Magnolia Magnolia acuminata
This is the only magnolia that will become a spectacular large shade tree in our climate. Its flowers are greenish yellow in late spring after the leaves emerge. The flowers may not be showy but it is the only magnolia with yellow pigmented flowers and it produces beautiful fruit that look somewhat like a cucumber which is how it got its name.
Butterflies Magnolia Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ (Yulan x Cucumbertree)
This magnolia blooms in April before it leafs out and is covered with YELLOW flowers for a simply spectacular springtime display. It inherited the best of the yulan magnolia with early bloom before it leafs out but the yellow flowers come from its cucumbertree parentage.
Rosemarie Magnolia Magnolia ‘Rosemarie’ (New, Complex hybrids)
New, complex hybrid magnolias have simply huge flowers that bloom when the plant begins to leaf out in late spring. Rosemarie is one of the best with magnificent, rich pink flowers of heavy substance and large size.