The Girls: All About Tulip Magnolias

The yellow flowers of Forsythia bushes are blooming now so the Saucer Magnolias (tulip trees) will be next.  The Saucer Magnolia blooms in early spring and can sometimes be damaged by frost, resulting in fewer blooms or no blooms.

‘Ann’ Tulip Magnolia

In 1955 Dr. Francis de Vos a geneticist with the U.S. National Arboretum and in 1956 horticulturist William Kosar developed 8 new shrubby type saucer magnolias that bloomed later in the season in hopes of lessening frost damage and increasing blooms. 

These were known as the “Little Girl” magnolias and are the ones you find in most nurseries today.  (Ann, Betty, Jane, Judy, Pinkie, Randy, Ricki and Susan) They are smaller and more shrub-like than the standard Saucer Magnolia which can reach 25’.

The “girls” only grow to 15 feet tall and since they don’t form a dominant leader they are best left as oval shaped shrubs instead of trying to prune into trees.   The four most popular are ‘Ann’ (deep purple-pink), ‘Betty’ (pink-purple), ‘Susan’ (red-purple), and ‘Jane’ (light pink-purple). 

They will flower best when planted in full sun but will tolerate light afternoon shade.  Due to their smaller size they are an excellent accent plant in flower beds or as anchor plants in a widened bed at the corners of a house.

Pruning should be done after blooming but not after mid-summer.  The best time to fertilize is in the spring.  Well-drained soil is preferred.  The girls are slow growers so don’t expect them to gain more than a foot per year. 

Their blooms are a welcomed sight each year and signal that spring is almost here.  Even after their showy blooms have faded away the shrub is an attractive addition to your landscape.   

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