Magnolia Grandiflora hardiness

islandbreezeFebruary 1, 2009

How is everybody's Southern Magnolias doing with this bitterly cold winter we're having? Anybody have any idea if a small 4ft grandiflora would survive -12 degrees? That's the coldest we've reached here in my yard, and all the leaves of my magnolia are toast, but still wondering if it will come back...anybody had any similar experience?

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

-12 is cold, but not anywhere near a record for the species. Things like humidity, wind, the length of the cold period, and soil moisture levels will make a difference. If I had to bet, I'd bet that your tree will come back (at least from the roots) if it was healthy to start with, but thankfully, I don't have to bet.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 8:32AM
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Wow, another magnolia post. :) I had -12 here followed by another night at -8. So far not many problems, but I've learned from experience that Magnolia grandiflora will fry below 0 and -5 in full sun here. I do recall in 2007 we had a night around -6 followed by a -3, which burned the leaves much more severely on grandiflora than this year, so I was expecting the worse after the -12. The difference is though it was colder, we had AT LEAST 18 inches of snow cover and VERY little sun during the 2009 cold snap.

I've learned to start with larger plants, water well from Sept-Nov, spray with anti-dessicant in Dec, and most importantly watch the sun angle in winter and plant appropriately, thereby minimizing winter burn.

Magnolias will recover from complete defoliation. In an exposed area I have even had a 4ft BBB recover completely from defoliation and about 6 inches of tip dieback after the -6 in 2007. It has no leaf burn *so far* this year and has reached about 6 ft.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 6:44PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Since hardiness varies within the species making the whole species the topic can only go so far.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 7:14PM
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I have no idea what cultivar it is, but I do know its not BBB. I also know that we hit -5 last winter, and it recieved about 50% leaf burn, but recovered fully and then some, growing back fuller and lusher than the previous year. This is its second winter in the ground, in an exposed site, only blocked by a few deciduous trees. We've gone below zero at least 5 times this winter so far(holding my breath).

I don't usually visit the tree forum, tend to stick to the palm and banana forums, so please excuse my posting if magnolias are a common theme. I know that they're supposed to be zone 6 hardy, but we're experiencing the coldest winter I can remember, definitely zone 5 temps.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 7:31PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I find this all quite interesting. Two years ago I went to Memphis. Was the first time I was "down south" since the tree bug hit me. The difference in the size and shape of the Southern Magnolias amazed me.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 8:26PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Leaves can be short and skinny to long and broad, most hardy forms can be subzero hardy to a considerable degree with perhaps others not really good much below zero or even having problems above it. We had a recent cold and snowy episode here in the Seattle area. Some well-established 'Little Gem' near me are quite burnt. Don't know how cold it got but someone not far north of here is claiming 8 degrees F.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 9:05PM
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These things can suffer for two or three years after being planted, but then resist the cold better. My recommendation is to be patient and nurse them along and then if they are still damaged after being in the ground for 4 years, you may be in a zone too cold. Of course they can do well until a particularly bad winter, but I would not give up on one too fast. Edith Bogue is supposed to be hardier than most, but I have heard of a number of other hardy selections.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 7:57PM
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Thanks everybody. Hopefully mine will resprout leaves this spring, as I have no idea where to buy southern mags up here in Michigan. The one I have now was given to me by a friend in Chicago.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 8:36PM
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picea(6A Cinci- Oh)

Arrowhead Alpine in Michigan has a selection of Southern Magnolias Called Tony. It is a selection from a group of seedlings that are from the most northern native population of southern magnolias in the US. Gee Farms is near Arrowhead Alpine and they may bring in some southern magnolias in the spring.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 10:26PM
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Thanks for the great tip David! I was afraid I'd either have to order a small sapling through mail order or drive down to Cincinatti to get larger trees.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 5:25PM
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picea(6A Cinci- Oh)

HI Islandbreeze,

If there is a variety and size you want such as Brackens Brown Beauty now is the time to ask your local nursery to bring one in for you. Most nurserys are placing there orders now.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 9:24PM
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Well after seeing at least 5 lows of below zero weather, one being -8 and the coldest being -12, I went outside to take a look at my 5' Grandiflora. Looks like there is still a little green on a couple leaves, not to mention the wood itself is still green. So it looks like my tree is going to make it, putting it through its second winter here in the ground in Southeast Michigan. I wouldn't have expected a tree this small to survive such harsh temperatures, especially since I have no idea what cultivar it is.

It was purchased from a Lowe's in Chicago, so there's really no way to tell. Anyway, good news. It should releaf in the spring.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 6:04PM
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I read somewhere that Brackens Brown Beauty, while cold hardy, is easily damaged by heavy accumulations of snow and ice. Has anyone else come across this "info"? I chose Edith Bogue instead after reading this.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 7:29PM
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There may be something to BBB and potential snow/ice damage. I have a few grandiflora cultivars (Bogue, Little Gem, Victoria, Majestic Beauty, Greenback and BBB). After a few heavy snow/ice storms the only ones that had any any degree of storm damage were the BBB. Maybe the orientation of the leaves just don't shed the snow as readily as the other varieties. Still, it was really only very minor damage to a stray smaller branch here and there. It wouldn't stop me from growing them in cooler climates. As far as Little Gem goes, it is usually rated as hardy to 7 (minimum 0 F. I guess). I haven't really noticed any burning on mine. Actually, I have a wee bit on the older leaves of the Victoria which is supposed to be hardier (but the Victorias are in full sun/all day and the Little Gem is somewhat more shaded from winter sun, so direct winter sun may be a contributing factor here. Will post again in the Spring once any and all damage finally gets revealed. Let's hope the ground hog was wrong!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 9:44PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

9' tall, 5-yr old Victoria MG here in full sun/exposure has just a few partially browned leaves (& some blown off) after -8F (-22C) & soil frozen for weeks at least a foot down.

Even straight MG can survive -20F (-29C) w/considerable leaf-loss, like my brother's 55-footer in 1994, tho it is protected fairly well by his house.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 9:13AM
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Thanks everybody. I don't mind if it loses its leaves in late winter, as long as it puts out new leaves each spring. Although it would be nice if it was evergreen year round. Just wondering now how big it has to grow before I can expect it to flower.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 9:39PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

We have some lovely Saucer Magnolia that bloom most years, and we are near Lansing. I would say these Magnolia are pretty tough and take the winter cold pretty well. Blooms are usually affected most by late frost or cold snaps. Two years ago that May cold snap gave us one day of Magnolia blooms, then killed ALL of the blooms and buds. Last year, 2008, we had a better showing! Trees by my mother near Kalamazoo have bloomed faithfully (if not frosted in late spring) for many years, despite some incredible cold and snow down there from Lake effect weather. Tree leaves over summer are always nice.

I am not sure if Southern and Saucer are the same, to answer your question. We are now rated 5b for a zone up here, but it does get downright cold at times. -15F is not as low as it gets here in the country.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 8:36PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I'm going to dig an 'Edith Bogue' out because it came apart in wet snow. Foliage is unexceptional anyway.

When there are no high mountains, deep valleys, deserts or other specific identified factors preventing a plant from growing wild in areas north of its existing natural range then there is an implication that it is simply too cold for it farther north. Individual specimens can be grown for sometimes comparatively long periods north of the native range because the natural distribution reflects climate conditions over centuries rather than decades.

Out here Californian trees like tan oak and coast redwood survive as planted specimens in western Washington but are scorched periodically by hard winters, showing why these do not grow natively north of southern Oregon, where Californian climate conditions begin to occur.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 11:11PM
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krazyaroider(Hamburg, NY 14075 Zone 6)

I will chime in as we are dealing with similar Zone and Southern Magnolia cultivars.

I am trialing some of the hardier Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) cultivars in my Hamburg NY, yard.
Here are the results as of July 1, 2008:
1) Unnamed clone from Appalachian Gardens - Regrowth is fair, however the tree is planted near a large Norway Maple that is slated to be removed this summmer. I am quite sure there is root competition from the Norway Maple...

2) 'Pocano' - Planted late April 2007. No tip dieback. Regrowth is extremely vigorus and tree looks very healthy. Has dropped some leaves, but has replaced them. Had to pinch some growth that was emerging near the base, left other growth for food making. Tree was purhased from Rarefind Nursery.

  1. 'Edith Bogue' - Planted late April 2007. leaves look same as last fall, no tip dieback.Bought from Forest Farm Nursery and is grown from a cutting. Extremely healthy and vigorus growth and has dropped very few leaves from last year.

4) 'Bracken's Brown Beauty' - Planted late April 2007. Leaves look same as last fall. Has dropped few, if any leaves! Later to start into growth, however it is putting on healthy growth. was forming a flower bud, that I removed as the tree may redirect it's energy into growth. Tree purchased from Forest Farm.

5) '- 24 Below' - Planted in April 2008. This tree is growing quite good in it's first year in the ground. Tree purchased from Beaver Creek Nursery.

January 28,2009
Brief winter update on my Magnolias.
Our winter, especially January, has been cold. According to the January 27 edition of the Buffalo News, this January is the coldest ( In Buffalo area) since January 1977 - the year of the blizzard!
This spring will provide me with the results of the best testing (low temperature) for my trees. The lowest temps that we have had are not the actual lowest recorded temps for these Southern Magnolia Cultivars.
I have constructed burlap screens that block the winter sun from shining on the snow and reflecting into the tree. The results will be in after the growing season starts in the spring.
A brief look at all Magnolias show no damage at this point, the true test will be when the growing season begins. So far , so good...

February 25, 2009 - UPDATE:
All of the trees have slight leaf burn - we are having/have had colder than normal winter temperatures. I also believe the amount of wind has been more than normal. I consider this a good test of their hardiness. Trees look good at this point.
All buds on all trees appear good at this point. This refers to the buds being green, flexible along with the stems appearing green. I realise this is early, but I feel confident of their hardiness.
I am looking forward to the growing season and the updates will continue!
~ Gerry

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 1:21PM
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shortleaf2002(5b 6a KCMO, USA)

Hi goodhors,
Saucer Magnolia and Southern Magnolia aren't the same.
I thought you'd wanna know.
Saucer Magnolia is deciduous (loses it's leaves in the Winter) and Southern Magnolia is evergreen. Saucer Magnolia is more hardy than Southern Magnolia. I always look forward to seeing Saucer Magnolia in full bloom in Spring! They are such reliable and pretty indicators that Spring has arrived.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 10:59PM
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krazyaroider(Hamburg, NY 14075 Zone 6)

Arrowhead Alpine in Michigan also has "-24 Below" in the 2009 catalog along with "Tony".

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 9:38AM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Thank you for noting the difference in Magnolias for me Shortleaf2002. I will endeavor to keep them straight! I have a couple Stella Magnolia's, but always enjoy seeing the Saucer types.

The reports on how the newer types are succeeding in NY winter sound really good, makes you want to get some of those new varieties for your own yard!!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 5:51PM
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krazyaroider(Hamburg, NY 14075 Zone 6)

March 9, 2009 - Update

I checked all magnolias - all except for Edith Bogue have minor burn on their leaves. The burn is not severe, however the winter has been colder and windier than normal. My magnolias normally lose leaves in the spring when new growth begins so I am not too concerned with springtime leaf dropping.
The trees have burlap screens on the side where the Sun would normally shine on them in the afternoon and the burlap is on the side that the winds normally come from.

I gently "wiggled" random buds on all Magnolias. A stiff rigid bud indicates winter kill and possible die back. All buds that I tested were flexible indicating that they survived to this point. I have done this last year so I am confident that they have survived the worst of this winter.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 10:26AM
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dan32(6b PA/NJ)

I have four Brackens Brown Beauties in Eastern PA. I had such success with my first one, that I planted a second in close proximity to the first. Two years later, I planted another two (again fairly close to each other) on the other side of the yard.

One winter ago, the original BBB sufered severe freeze damage which killed off most of the crown of the tree. After waiting until July to see what would re-sprout, I trimmed away many blackened lifeless branches and the tree has made a robust comeback (although pretty mis-shapen with the crown missing). What was odd is that it's twin (no more than 15 foot away) suffered NO damage at all.

Last winter, a similar situation with the third and fourth trees (also, no more than 15 foot away from each other). One of the trees held up without a blink, while its mate had ALL of its leaves burned off and is now sitting leafless. I am not sure if it is alive or not.

Our area gets more than its share of ice storms, this winter around 8 of them. The ice tends to weigh down the branches of the magnolias, so I am pretty religious about shaking the ice off of them so that they can stand upright. For the life of me, I am mystified as to why one tree doesn't even blink, while its mate in close proximity has a catastrophic winter.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 5:10PM
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