Japanese or Saucer Magnolias, Magnolia × soulangiana, have long been appreciated for their display of flowers in late winter and early spring. Their primary flaw is that their purplish pink flowers usually open in late winter and are often damaged by late freezes. Fortunately there are many new hybrid magnolias offering larger flowers, later blooming (so as to avoid frost damage) and a wide range of flower colors, plant sizes and habits.
In today’s article, I’ll share with you information provided by Dr. Gary Knox, UF/IFAS Researcher at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, concerning new hybrid magnolias to look for.
Gresham Hybrid Magnolias are noted for producing large numbers of flowers up to 12 inches in diameter on vigorous, small to medium trees. Flowers range in color from deep purple-red to alabaster white and typically occur somewhat later than those of Japanese Magnolia.
Two outstanding Gresham Hybrids are Dark Shadow and Jon Jon. Dark Shadow has deep reddish-purple flowers. It flowers heavily in mid- to late spring and then continues to produce flowers sporadically through mid-summer. Jon Jon’s 12 inch diameter flowers appear one to three weeks after those of Japanese Magnolia and are creamy white with a reddish purple blush at the base. Other promising Gresham Hybrid Magnolias are Winelight, Pink Goblet, Full Eclipse and Darrell Dean.
Galyon Hybrid Magnolias are from Dr. Frank Galyon of Knoxville, Tennessee. He has produced hybrids including Emma Cook, Paul Cook, Raspberry Swirl and Frank’s Masterpiece. Knox’s personal favorite is Paul Cook because of its soft pink flowers that are 10 inches in diameter.
Jury Hybrid Magnolias are known for flowering at a young age. Cultivars include Mark Jury, Atlas, Lolanthe, Athene, Apollo and Milky Way. And the cultivar Vulcan produces flowers that allegedly the most “true red” of all magnolias.
The late Dr. August Kehr is known for his yellow-flowering magnolia hybrids but the cultivar Daybreak is one of his greatest achievements. Daybreak represents a “color break” for magnolias because its flowers are rose pink, not the purplish pink usually found in magnolia flowers.
Gresham, Galyon, Jury and Kehr Hybrid Magnolias are becoming more popular and more readily available in plant nurseries. You may find two Gresham Hybrids, Jon Jon and Dark Shadow, more widely available. Otherwise, these and other magnolia cultivars can be found at specialty nurseries.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, February 21, 2014