Late-blooming magnolias may miss freezes

 

The flowers on this Oriental magnolia on my street were beautiful one day, then brown mush the next after exposure to below-freezing temperatures. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

The flowers on this Oriental magnolia on my street were beautiful one day, then brown mush the next after exposure to below-freezing temperatures. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

Let us take moment of silence to mourn the passing of Oriental magnolia blossoms, cut down in their prime by Jack Frost once again.

I’m not sure whether to pity them for their foolhardiness – daring to burst into bloom weeks before the average last frost date — or admire them for their optimism – this year will be different!

All I know is that every year when their buds start to swell, I start worrying for them, since they can’t do it themselves. And, sure enough, most of the trees in my neighborhood tempted fate again this year and had their flowers turned to brown mush just as they were getting glorious.

Sad!

The varieties in my yard bloomed a little later and missed the freeze. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

The magnolias in my yard bloomed a little later and missed the freeze. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

But the two in my yard didn’t meet the same fate. Their blooms were still tight during the most recent deep freeze and now they’re beautiful. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which variety they are because they were volunteers, dug up and given to me by a fellow gardener who can’t remember what the parent tree is.

But I asked LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings if he knew which varieties bloom a little later and he sent me information from the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Fla. Horticulturist Gary Knox has been collecting data there for five years on the mean date of peak bloom for Oriental magnolias.

Allen says Quincy, Fla., is the same USDA hardiness zone and AHS heat zone as the I-10/12 corridor across South Louisiana. That means you should add a couple of weeks if you live in North Louisiana.

Here are Knox’s findings.

Mean dates of peak flowering for Magnolia stellata and its hybrids:

  • Alixeed – January 27
  • Merrill – February 3
  • Emma Cook – February 10
  • Chrysantheumiflora – February 21
  • Centennial – February 26
  • King Rose – February 28
  • Ann – March 6
  • Leonard Messel – March 1
  • Jane – March 16

Mean dates of peak flowering for other hybrids:

  • Royal Crown – January 26
  • Todd Gresham – January 26
  • Moondance – February 5
  • Pink Goblet – February 5
  • Paul Cook – February 9
  • Apollo – February 10
  • Full Eclipse – February 10
  • Sarah’s Favorite – February 10
  • Candy Cane – February 13
  • Sentinel – February 13
  • Anticipation – February 14
  • Elisa Odenwald – February 14
  • Firefly – February 14
  • Galaxy – February 14
  • Heaven Scent – February 14
  • Rustica Rubra – February 14
  • Forrest’s Pink – February 15
  • Joe McDaniel – February 15
  • March Til Frost – February 16
  • Sayonara – February 16
  • Big Pink – February 25
  • Dark Shadow – February 25
  • Leather Leaf – March 1
  • Jon Jon – March 2
  • Marilyn – March 6
  • Athene – March 8

While I’ve seen Ann and Jane locally, many of these will probably be hard to find outside of mail order.

So, what do you think?

Would you like to have a later-blooming Oriental magnolia to reduce the chances of frozen flowers? Or do you get so much pleasure out of seeing those first flowers on the early bloomers that you’re OK with the risk?

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