Plants: Magnolia 'Butterflies' - cucumber magnolia

19.02. 2008 08:30:51 (Milan Havlis)
Topic: Plants / Deciduous Shrubs

Magnolia 'Butterflies' - cucumber magnolia

Another unique jewel among magnolias is this yellow flowering hybrid. It is a cross between m.denudata and m.acuminata (cucumber magnolia). It was raised by Phil Savage in Michigan, USA, in 1988 and patented three years later.

Medium-sized flowers are unusual and truly gorgeous. The colour is clear yellow with a very light greenish tint on the outer petals towards the bottom of the calyx. We have had it for a few years now and never experienced colour fading to light yellow or even cream which is something the English, for instance, complain about. The shape is something between goblet and tulip, with shorter and 9-12 narrower petals which open wide only as the flower matures, revealing beautifully contrasting red stamens. The whole shrub, when in full bloom, looks like covered in butterflies, hence its cultivar name. This hybrid is really precocious and flowers at a very young age, often 1 or 2 years after grafting. Flowering season begins with other late magnolias i.e. end April to mid May.

Leaves are obovate, fresh to mid green, quite large and nicely matt. As on every magnolia, there is a large number of them which makes the shrub look very dense and healthy during the year.

It grows slowly to medium fast and it is advised not to enhance growth rate by effective fertilizers. Reason is when it grows at its natural tempo, given balanced nutrients in common garden soil and in full sun, it makes short, fully mature branches with flower buds at the tip of each branch. Overall size is between 3 and 4m with an equal or only a little smaller spread.

Magnolias are not supposed to be pruned. You can prune old shrubs if ill, or trim them to shape or to reduce size, or make an elementary cut to young plants of unsightly or unhealthy appearance. Do this as soon as possible after flowering to secure setting of flower buds for the following year. Be aware that each magnolia can respond differently to pruning.

Deciduous magnolias are quite easy plants. All they need is light, well-drained, acidic soil with equal moisture throughout the year. Once established they can do with occasional drought but will not look as nice as the ones with regular watering. Just pay attention to how to plant your magnolia. First, find it a spot where it will live forever and ever. It does not like transplanting. And as it makes shallow roots reaching well over its spread stay away from disturbing the roots by digging or messing about around it. Just cover the soil with bark mulch and do not plant anything else near it after say the second year after planting onwards. You could damage the very important top roots that absorb maximum moisture and nutrients from the soil. Also avoid planting magnolia too deep. Thus you could be digging its grave. It is extremely hardy withstanding temperatures even lower than -30°C (USDA zone 4), just make sure it is not in a too exposed windy area.
Milan Havlis, Specializované zahradnictví
Chlumec 23, 382 32 Velešín, Czech republic