Tulip Tree Offers an Early Peek at Spring

These showy blooms are a preview of the spring to come.

Tulip Tree Makes a Great Garden Focal Point

Tulip Tree Makes a Great Garden Focal Point

Tulip trees – also known as tulip magnolias and saucer magnolias – are among the most beautiful specimen trees, perfect as a focal point in the garden or a patio planting for enjoying up close.

Photo by: Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Tulip trees – also known as tulip magnolias and saucer magnolias – are among the most beautiful specimen trees, perfect as a focal point in the garden or a patio planting for enjoying up close.

Related To:

An old neighbor used to say that when the giant tulip tree across the street bloomed you just knew that winter was not over and that we were sure to get a late frost. Sure enough, every March following a mild winter in Georgia we’d get a late freeze, and the beautiful deep purple blossoms that often emerged as early as Valentine’s Day suddenly turned into an unsightly brown mush.

Such is the fate in temperate climates where this early spring bloomer just can’t wait to shout, “Spring is on the way!” 

Tulip trees – also known as tulip magnolias and saucer magnolias – are among the most beautiful specimen trees, perfect as a focal point in the garden or a patio planting for enjoying up close. The Magnolia x soulangeana is prized for its large cup-like purple, pink, yellow or white blossoms up to 4 inches across that typically unfurl in March. If not doused by a late frost, the blooms on this deciduous tree, which can sometimes be fragrant, can last a month before giving way to dark green leaves from 3 to 7 inches long.

Because they grow to only 20 to 30 feet tall, tulip magnolias make the perfect small specimen tree. Most prefer full sun and moist, well-drained soil; they do not tolerate wet feet, nor are they drought tolerant. Magnolias experience few problems with insects and disease so are easy to grow.

Other than its vulnerability to those late freezes, what’s not to like about the tulip magnolia? If that’s stopping you from planting one, know that there are a few varieties, such as ‘Jane’, that bloom later in the spring. Also, the yellow-flowering types, such as ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Elizabeth’, tend to be tougher specimens.

So the next time  you find yourself looking out the window for signs of spring, look to the nearest tulip tree!

Keep Reading

Next Up

4 Flowering Cherry Trees and How to Plant Them

There's no more spectacular harbinger of spring than an ornamental cherry tree bursting into bloom.

Planting Trees

Use these planting tips to ensure your trees get the best start possible.

Planting Japanese Maple Trees

Compact, colorful trees in pots make a lovely addition to a yard or patio.

What to Plant Under Trees

Find out all you need to know about underplanting from a garden expert.

Trash Trees: Avoid Planting Messy, Smelly Trees

Advice for keeping messy tree varieties out of your yard.

How to Plant a Tree

To give your new tree a good chance for success, follow these simple planting instructions.

How to Plant Trees from Containers

Prepare your site by clearing it of weeds and, if you have very sandy or infertile soil, digging in organic matter over a wide area. 

Planting Bare-Root Trees

About four weeks before planting, clear the site of weeds.

How to Plant Container-Grown Trees

Transfer a tree from its container with this step-by-step guide.