The evergreen magnolia is a beautiful tree and can be a fine addition to any garden if there is room enough for it. It can be started from seed, and now is the time to try to get some. Any tree large enough to bloom is a candidate.
The fragrant white flowers are borne from May until late summer, and sometimes well into the fall. Seed cones form after the flowers fade. The cones can be removed from the tree when they turn rusty brown and start to open. Put them in a warm, light, dry place until they open fully, exposing the red seed.
The seed can be planted outdoors immediately. But first the oily pulp should be removed by soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours and then rubbing them. Any seeds that float in the water should be discarded; they are no good.
Plant the seeds about one-fourth of an inch deep, and mulch with a ten-inch layer of leaves to prevent the seeds from freezing. The leaves can be held in place with chicken wire.
Remove the leaves after danger of freezing weather is over in the spring. Keep the soil moist in the spring until the seeds have sprouted. The seedlings require light shade during their first summer.
Another way to handle the seeds is to store them in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag after they have been washed. They should be kept slightly moist in the bag.
Plant the seeds outdoors about April 15, a quarter of an inch deep and without a mulch. Keep the seed bed moist (not soaking wet) until the seedlings appear. Sometimes it takes three or four weeks for them to germinate.
It may be a good idea to try some both ways. After all, this a pretty nice tree.
It takes about six to eight years for your tree to get large enough to bloom.
There is a good collection of evergreen magnolias at the National Arboretum, as well as of Magnolia virginiana and tall hybrid magnolias (Magnolia virginiana M. grandiflora). They put on a very good show during the summer.
One of the fine blooming deciduous magnolias at the Arboretum is Magnolia stellata, the star magnolia, which bears double fragrant white flowers over three inches wide in early April.