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Early-Blooming Magnolias Often Take A Turn For The Worse

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(credit: Phran Novelli)

(credit: Phran Novelli)

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By Phran Novelli

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - So pretty in pink – until they turn brown, flop, and drop to the ground. Last week’s wintery blast was one of those slaps from Mother Nature that makes you think twice about what you plant. Those early-blooming pink Saucer magnolias (Magnolia x soulangiana) are so beautiful – in the lucky years when frost doesn’t destroy the flowers! Like this year, when the blossoms were often coaxed open by several days of warm weather, then, they go from a stunning sight to a mucky mess overnight when temperatures plummet.

They’re also known by the name Tulip magnolias, as well as Chinese magnolias – which is your giveaway that these plants don’t grow naturally around here.

To avoid disappointment, consider planting one of our native magnolias that bloom later, so you don’t have to worry about winter weather whacking the flowers. The ‘Southern Magnolia,’ (Magnolia grandiflora), is a large evergreen tree with glossy leaves and huge white flowers, followed by bright red fruits that songbirds love – it’s native to the southernmost parts of our area and hardy to about Zone 6. Or chose the smaller, semi-evergreen Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), with fragrant white flowers that fill your summer garden with the scent of vanilla or some say it smells more like lemon – either way it’s very pleasant.

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