Magnolia Flower: Health Benefits, Meaning + Interesting Facts

After a long, cold winter comes spring with beautiful blooms of Magnolia, which provide a splash of color to your outdoor space. Highly prized for their decadent scent, beautiful flowers, and large, leathery leaves, Magnolias are undoubtedly one of the most stunning additions to any landscape. 

With star-shaped flowers fluttering in the spring breeze, creating a breathtaking sight that keeps you spellbound for days, Magnolias are a must-have for your space.

While Magnolia is coveted for its beauty, there’s much to know about the ornamental plant. What’s so special about them? Can you distinguish between the Southern Magnolia and Star Magnolia? What’s the true meaning of Magnolia? 

This article covers all you need to know about Magnolia flowers. Let’s get started!

Plant Description

Magnolia is a medium to large flowering species characterized by aromatic twigs and large, showy flowers, usually bowl-shaped or star-shaped. Magnolias are widely grown for their scented blooms, which come in pink, yellow, white, green, and purple colors. 

The flower buds are enclosed in tepals (the outermost whorl of flower parts), making them distinguishable and unique from other plants with petals. After flowering, the plant produces fruits, mostly red, pink, or orange-colored fruits hanging loosely from the thin stems.

Magnolia Flower History

Indigenous to the United States, China, and East Asia, Magnolia is esteemed for its aesthetic value, so it’s mostly seen in gardens. The deciduous tree ranks among the most primitive plants in history, and fossil records suggest that Magnolia dates back millions of years¹. 

It’s quite interesting that Magnolia emerged before bees and other flying insects. Owing to this, the plant depends on beetles for pollination². Magnolia flowers have strong carpels to protect them from any damage caused by the eating habits of beetles. 

First cultivated in China, Magnolia spread to other regions due to the Ice Age. Asia has been cultivating Magnolias since the 7th century, hence the long traditional use of the plant for therapeutic purposes. Whether grown as shrubs, trees, or espaliers, Magnolia complements any landscape. 

In 1780, the first magnolia species, Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana), was introduced to Europe and subsequently to America³. Over time, Magnolia became widely spread, giving rise to numerous species. The plant species was named “Magnolia” in honor of Pierre Magnol⁴, a notable French botanist. 

Interesting Facts

  • Magnolias are believed to be the earliest flowering plant, with fossils dating back over 20 million years. 
  • Magnolia belongs to the family Magnoliaceae.
  • Mississippi and Louisiana claim Magnolia as their state flowers.
  • The beautiful flowering plant derives its name from a French botanist, Pierre Magnol.
  • There are over 210 magnolia species varying in size, shape, and color. 
  • Magnolia may be deciduous or evergreen.

Magnolia Flower Types

There are countless Magnolia species with their unique, beautiful blooms and fragrance. Let’s consider some of these varieties, their characteristics, and their growth requirements.

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern Magnolia, also known as bull bay, comes to mind when Magnolia is mentioned. The larger evergreen tree grows up to 60-80 ft and has glossy leaves and fragrant blooms that make it unrivaled among other species.

Unlike other varieties that prefer full sun, Southern Magnolia thrives best in partial shade, grows in fertile, well-drained soil, and blooms after ten years. In addition, it can withstand drought and flooding. 

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)

Known as a tulip tree due to its shape and bright colored flowers, Saucer Magnolia is the most commonly grown magnolia cultivar in the U.S.

A cross of Lily Magnolia and Yulan Magnolia; Magnolia x soulangiana grows as a small tree or shrub with blooms in shades of pink, white and purple in early spring.

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Native to Japan, Star Magnolia produces white star-shaped flowers with long petals in early spring. The slow-growing plant reaches a height of 15 to 20 feet with a round crown spreading to 10 to 15 feet when mature.

Due to its compact nature, the shrub is mainly grown in small gardens. 

Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

While Sweetbay Magnolia is closely related to Magnolia grandiflora, it’s smaller and cold-hardy with creamy white flowers and glossy dark leaves.

The flowers boast a strong vanilla scent while the bark is mildly scented, reminiscent of bay laurel. 

Depending on the climatic condition it grows in, Sweet Magnolia may be deciduous or evergreen. Moreover, the beautiful shrub grows best in full sun or partial shade locations under the right soil condition (moist, acidic soil).

Loebner Magnolia (Magnolia × loebneri)

A look-alike of Star Magnolia, Loebner Magnolia has multiple stems with star-like flowers that bloom in early to mid-spring. Towering at 20 ft, the hybrid flowering plant is cold hardy and thrives best in acidic soil. Its flowers are sparsely spaced on the tree, having 10-14 narrow white petals.

Other Magnolia species include Umbrella Magnolia, Kobus Magnolia, Lily Magnolia, Cucumber Tree, Ashes Magnolia, etc.

Lifecycle of Magnolia Flower

Magnolia Flower in bloom on a tree

Depending on the species, care, and attention, the average lifespan of magnolia flowers varies from 80 to 120 years.

Generally, propagation starts from seeds germinating into seedlings; however, cultivars may be grown from cuttings or grafting. The seedlings grow into a tree, about a few feet high, and bloom when it’s 8 to 10 years old. 

Meanwhile, some trees undergo a juvenile stage where they don’t flower till 20 or 25 years later. Biologically, Magnolia produces perfect flowers consisting of male and female parts that beetles fertilize. 

Let’s consider factors that influence the growth and lifespan of Magnolia flowers.

Soil

Magnolia thrives best in loamy, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5 and 6. Alternatively, acidic and damp clay soil supports magnolia growth so long it drains easily and is not prone to flooding.

To promote plant growth, you can enrich the soil using well-rotted manure or compost.

Water

To grow at a moderate level with a healthy root system, Magnolias require an adequate water supply. At the early planting stage, you may need to water the plant regularly till they are established. Also, during summer, you’ll have to increase watering.

Location

Like every flowering plant, Magnolia requires full sunlight to grow but can survive under light shade.

Meanwhile, keeping a young, growing plant in a shaded area is best as excess sunlight can impede its growth. It’s important to know that where you grow your plant matters. 

Planting Magnolias in a sunny or semi-shaded region with reduced access to strong winds prevents frost damage. In addition, you’ll need to consider space for your Magnolia to grow efficiently.

When there’s not enough room for the Magnolia to grow, they compete with other plants for space and other conditions. 

Experts advise providing 40 feet of space for Magnolia plants, irrespective of the variety.

Where Do Magnolia Flowers Grow?

Magnolia flowers grow anywhere in regions with subtropical and tropical climates of USDA zone 7-10. Furthermore, deciduous Magnolia is best planted in late fall or winter in warmer climates and early spring in cold climates. 

Evergreen Magnolia should be cultivated in early spring.

Flowering starts in spring and summer, usually between May and September. Also, depending on the species and climate, flowering can occur twice a year.

What Do Magnolia Flowers Symbolize?

With Magnolia varieties being indigenous to Asia and America, Magnolia flowers hold different meanings in various cultures and locations. The flowering plant depicts many qualities, nicknamed a statement flower. 

  • Considering that the Magnolia has existed for millions of years and adapted to different climates, the Magnolia flower symbolizes endurance, perseverance, and longevity. 
  • In Chinese culture, it’s associated with nobility and purity. Years ago, only Chinese emperors and their families could grow Magnolia, but today anyone can. In addition, Magnolia symbolizes Yin, the feminine principle in Chinese philosophy. The distinct plant is also related to prosperity and good health. 
  • In the Victorian era, lovers sent Magnolia flowers as a discreet communication. The Victorians associate it with poise, nobility, pride, and dignity.
  • According to the philosophy of feng shui, Magnolias planted outside the home connote peace and tranquility, while growing one in the backyard embodies financial success and prosperity. 
  • In Japanese culture, Magnolia is named Hanakotoba, representing dignity, perseverance, and love.

Magnolia Color Meanings

The Magnolia flowers come in various colors, and each has its meaning.

Pink Flower

Pink Magnolia flowers are synonymous with femininity and are usually related to the goddess of love, Venus. This symbolizes youth, innocence, romance, and joy. That said, pink Magnolias are preferred for bouquets and corsages.

White Flower

white magnolia flower in bloom

The white Magnolia flower is linked to the Greek goddesses Artemis and Selene. White Magnolias signify purity, spirituality, faith, and hope. It’s not surprising that they are used for weddings.

Purple Flower

Purple Magnolia flower blooms depict royalty, nobility, and pride. These flowers are classy, elegant, make great gifts, and are usually used at ceremonies and religious rites.

Red Flower

Unlike other Magnolias, this rich, red-colored Magnolia flower is rare, eye-catching, and attention-grabbing. Red Magnolias embody love and passion; they’re a perfect gift for your significant other.

Yellow Flower

Yellow conveys happiness, warmness, friendship, and joy. Other than this, presenting yellow Magnolia flowers to loved ones is a great way to express affection and love.

Meaning of Magnolia Flowers in Dreams

While people seldom dream of Magnolia, seeing one in your dream is symbolic. Generally, dreaming about Magnolia reflects beauty, eternity, sophistication, and grace. 

A dream about dried Magnolia expresses one’s intense sadness and insecurity about the future.

Sowing Magnolia seeds in your dream depicts your inner strength, especially when you’re struggling.

A dream about budding Magnolias indicates the start of a love affair or a new memory.

Dreaming about a Magnolia tree suggests that you’re seeking attention or longing for something. Furthermore, it may reflect the need to be protected from life’s worries. 

Dreaming about wilted Magnolias shows that a relationship will soon end. Seeing a purple Magnolia flower in your dream depicts longevity or the possibility of meeting a relative you’ve not heard from in a long time. 

A white Magnolia in your dream symbolizes wealth and the likelihood of you owning a construction business.

Smelling a Magnolia in your dream signifies that you will delve into charity works, which could indicate an organized and well-planned life. An artist that dreams about seeing themselves under a tree means they’ll be famous for their artistic works.

Dreaming about a burning Magnolia suggests ugly childhood memories.

Playing under a Magnolia tree in your dream infers that you’re missing your childhood days. And a dream about cutting down a Magnolia tree warns about the consequences of your actions.

What Does a Magnolia Flower Smell Like?

From sweet candy to citrus honey and tart lemon, Magnolia offers a variety of scents.

While the sweet lemony floral scent is the most common fragrance, the intensity of the fragrance varies depending on the species. The flowers are scented, and the twigs and branches are also.

Due to the refreshing and relaxing aroma Magnolia releases, it’s widely used in aromatherapy. 

Southern Magnolia, Yulan Magnolia, and Anise Magnolia are famous for their scents. While Southern Magnolia’s fragrance is more conspicuous when it blooms in late spring, Yulan Magnolia releases sweet, lemony, scented blooms in early spring.

Magnolia gives off a calming yet invigorating aroma that helps relieve stress, depression, and anxiety. 

Furthermore, the flowering plant contains an essential oil called linalool, which supports a good night’s sleep when paired with lavender or linden blossom. It also relieves menstrual cramps and helps tackle symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma, chest infections, and bronchitis.

Are Magnolia Flowers Edible?

No extensive studies confirm that all Magnolia flowers are edible. However, Magnolia grandiflora petals, including its nectar, berries, and seeds, are edible.

In some parts of England, Magnolia grandiflora petals are pickled and used as a spicy condiment for food. Furthermore, in Asian cuisines, the buds are pickled and used as a flavoring for tea, salad, and rice. 

While Magnolia flowers have a strong smell, they are flavorful, serving as a garnish for cakes, noodles, tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and cheese.

You can use Magnolia grandiflora leaf in powder form, mixed with honey and syrup. Small and dainty, Magnolia flowers have gourmet qualities that make them tasty. 

Health Benefits

For centuries, Magnolia species have been an essential ingredient of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The bark and flower buds prove effective against low blood pressure, depression, cancer, etc. Let’s consider some health benefits of Magnolia.

Relieves Inflammation and Pain

Magnolia bark contains bioactive constituents, honokiol, and magnolol, which helps to alleviate joint and muscle pain, menstrual cramps, and headache. In addition, It soothes inflammation and any form of swelling.

Lowers Blood Sugar Levels

The health benefit of Magnolia is far-reaching as it’s composed of bioactive compounds with wide applications. Magnolia helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduces oxidative stress in the liver.

Reduces Blood Pressure

Magnolia bark has antihypertensive properties, which reduces systolic blood pressure and relaxes the aorta. Long-term administration of honokiol, an active ingredient of Magnolia, produces a positive outcome.

Supports Sleep

Magnolia bark works as a sedative, helping to facilitate sleep while relaxing the body and mind. It also lowers cortisol levels and promotes non-rapid eye movement. 

Helps Fight Cancer

Magnolia helps ward off cancer by blocking specific cancer pathways. The shrub contains bioactive compounds like magnolol and costunolide, which may have cancer-fighting properties.

According to studies, these compounds in Magnolia bark prove effective against different types of cancer, including leukemia, breast, and ovarian cancer.

Other health benefits include the following:

  • Reduces gingivitis
  • Supports weight loss
  • Alleviates anxiety
  • Tackles body odor
  • Treats digestive problems
  • Supports brain health
  • Cures cough
  • Manages flatulence
  • Improves liver health
  • Increase cognitive functions

Question: Why Are My Flowers Not Opening?

Typically, many gardeners can’t wait for their Magnolias to bloom in springtime. However, it can be disappointing if Magnolias don’t bud in their season, and this raises the question, “why is my Magnolia not opening?”

Here’s why your Magnolia flowers aren’t budding.

Poor Weather Conditions

Poor weather is the first factor that comes to mind when Magnolia isn’t opening. Extreme cold weather can cause magnolia buds to rot without opening, and this can also result in frost damage, preventing budding in spring. 

Thrips Attacking Magnolias

Magnolia may not bud due to a thrips attack. These tiny insects feed on the buds and leaves of Magnolia, causing black specks, affecting bud development, and resulting in disease.

Pruning

Early pruning before Magnolia flowers can prevent them from budding. While pruning, you may have cut off the buds, affecting the budding process. Experts advise pruning after planting flowers.

Incorrect Use of Fertilizer

Applying too much fertilizer to the Magnolia plant can affect budding. Typically, fertilizer supplies plants with primary nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which supports flowering, promotes leaf and shoot growth, and enhances overall health. Excess nitrogen can inhibit flowering.

Magnolia Flower Drawing

Since the Magnolia has such deep meaning, many people like to draw or tattoo the flower. Here are a couple of drawings for inspiration.

drawing of a white magnolia flower

Final Thoughts

Magnolia is a prized possession for any space with its beauty, significance, and benefits. Also, the Magnolia symbolizes many things, from beauty to purity and nobility, making it a unique flower.

It’s not surprising that it’s a favorite for many people. 

Next time you’re holding a Magnolia, know that you’re not just handling a beautiful plant but a flower with positive symbols and meaning. Also, don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers!

References

1.) Fossil Records dating Magnolia back 60 million years :Link

2.) Beetle Pollination: Link

3.) 1780 U.S. Introduction: Link

4.) Pierre Magnol: His Life and Works: PDF