Magnolia Flower Buds

gauras(Dayton NJ)November 8, 2008

Hi Folks,

How do I distinguish between leaf and flower

buds on a magnolia?

My 3-4' magnolia galaxy has been in the ground 2 years.

Last year and this year it has not put out any flower.

I am including some pictures of the terminal buds. Are

these leaf or flower buds? Can I expect some flowers next


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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Flower buds are bigger and broader, widest at the middle. Looks like specimen is small and shrubby, perhaps a cutting that was not trained into a tree shape. If rather small when purchased is simply not big enough to bloom yet. Although small specimens of vegetatively propagated magnolia cultivars may be seen flowering in nurseries these things do vary. Another thing that happens is a small plant bought in flower then spending some years only making vegetative growth after being planted out. This often happens with camellias for instance, sometimes very small plants being displayed for sale covered in buds and then taking some time to resume flowering in the final planting site. I suspect the reason for this is growers using fertilization regimes that promote premature heavy flower bud set.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 2:39PM
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gauras(Dayton NJ)

Hi bboy,
Yes the plant is very shrubbery. At least about
8-10 stems. I prefer to leave it like that than train it
to become a tree which will take lot of pruning.

Just curious how many years I need to wait for it to flower?
How big does it need to get?


    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 4:01PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

All you can do is grow it well and wait for it to be ready on its own. Should be blooming by about head height if not sooner.

As with orchard fruit trees you can only get so much production out of a small one anyway, so you still have to wait for the specimen to get some size to get the full effect whether it starts blooming (or fruiting) small or not.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 7:31PM
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gauras(Dayton NJ)

Hi Folks,
I pruned all the suckers and just left the
strongest 4 stems intact.

This plant likes to produce growth from the base, I presume
they qualify to be called suckers.

I hope I did the right thing, hopefully the main stems
grow better which much less competition from the suckers.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 2:15PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Actually reducing the total volume of stem tissue reduces overall size increase, because new growth is fueled by energy stored in the stems. But if you want to now try and train it into a tree shape then you will be proceeding as you have done.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 3:50PM
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gauras(Dayton NJ)

I always thought excess starch/energy gets stored
in the roots. I did read somewhere that the suckers
use up energy and slow down growth of the rest of the plant.

Oh well, can't undo things, I will just let the plant decide
itself when it is ready to flower.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 5:09PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Allowing suckers from a rootstock to grow indefinitely without being checked eventually results in a decline of the scion because it is living as a parasite on the stock. The stock will, if allowed eventually make itself whole again by growing its own new top and pushing the scion aside. Where a plant is grown from a cutting the top and roots are all a single organism that is not going to have one part sapping another, like a cancer.

Different parts of the same tree do get priority for energy use at different times of the year. At this time of the year the roots are allowed to grow longer than they are at any other time. During other seasons other parts of the plant are where energy use is concentrated. It's like an organization with a budget, with higher fund use being assigned by the budget committee to different departments at different times. In the case of a tree it is an energy budget instead of a monetary one. The leaves manufacture a certain amount of food which is then portioned out to different parts of the plant. Dormant periods are gotten through by storing energy in stems and roots.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 7:17PM
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gauras(Dayton NJ)

Hi bboy,
Interesting, I just learned about what is a scion and rootstock. Looks like my magnolia could have been grafted.

I see like a graft union (kind of like a swelling at the
flare). Is that what it is called (a graft union?)

But the suckers I mention are all very similar to the scion
They had similar leaves like the magnolia.

Maybe I am confusing suckers? Are suckers always offshoots
of the rootstock?

If so what is the growth from the union which is similar
to the scion? Those are what I pruned to leave the strongest
4 stems.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 7:56PM
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gauras(Dayton NJ)

Hi bboy,
A followup to my previous question. What if
the rootstock is another magnolia variety? Then if I let
the suckers grow, does that mean I have two magnolia varieties
on the same plant? Meaning I will get different kind of
flowers? I am a little confused.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 8:06PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If the leaves are all the same then it is not grafted. If you get different-looking leaves (and stems) coming from below a certain point then you will want to keep these pruned out.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 9:14PM
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