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Southeast Regional Reports

Spring-Blooming Magnolias for the Southeast

Your guide to the best species and cultivars for an early display unspoiled by frost

‘Spectrum’ magnolia centers this display of multiple species of early blooming magnolias. Photo: Jennifer Benner

Nine out of 10 people who hear the word “magnolia” in the Southeast think of images of luxuriously large, creamy white flowers floating atop dark green and brown fuzzy-backed leaves; they may even close their eyes as they recall humid air heavy with rich perfume. That image is of the infamous Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora, Zones 7–9), a stately summer-blooming native tree. But that tenth person will think of perfect cuplike blooms in delicious shades of pink smothering smooth gray, bare branches set against a blue sky. Ahhh, yes! Those are deciduous, early spring-blooming saucer magnolias (M. × soulangeana, Zones 4–9). Along with star magnolias (M. stellata, Zones 4–8), and ‘Jane’ magnolias (M. ‘Jane’, Zones 4–8), these are just a few of the most popular deciduous Asian magnolias planted in the Southeast.

Brown-out can put a damper on an early magnolia display

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