Magnolias are a favorite tree among many home gardeners. They are easy to maintain, needing only a good start in most cases to grow into a healthy, self-sustaining tree. However, magnolias have been known in some cases to have difficulty flowering. There are a number of issues to consider if your magnolia isn't blooming.
Verify Your Variety
Flowers are part of the natural reproductive cycle of plants. Depending on the type and variety of plant, flowers come forth at different times of the year based on various climatic cues. The magnolia flowers early, blooming in March or sometimes even late February (depending on the region). As such, it can be susceptible to damaging late frosts that can affect flower blooming.
If your magnolia isn't blooming, be sure that the the region you live in can support your variety of magnolia plant. The southern magnolia, for instance, is recommended only for zones seven through nine. Other varieties do well even as far north as Canada. Make sure you've selected a variety that can thrive and flower where you live.
Be Cautious With Lawn Fertilizer
Assuming that you live in a suitable climate for your specific magnolia, there are a few other factors to consider. If you are regularly seeing flower buds but no flowers, Royal Botanical Gardens of Canada notes that, "Nitrogen will cause the buds to abort and since this is the main component of lawn fertilizer, it may well be the problem." Consider the placement of your tree: Is it in the middle of the yard? Does grass grow right up to the trunk? Are you fertilizing the lawn? Many individuals begin fertilizing their lawns in early spring, right at the time that magnolias are flowering. By mulching an area around your tree, and keeping lawn fertilizer away from the root system, you may be able to correct the problem quite easily.
Set Proper Expectations
Magnolias are slow growing trees, and in some cases do take awhile to flower even in ideal conditions. This is completely natural, albeit a little frustrating. If you can discover whether your magnolia was propagated by seed or by graft, you'll be able to gain some insight. Burncoose Nurseries points out that, "If you grow tree magnolias from seed they may well take 10 to15 years until they first flower." By contrast, a grafted tree will flower much earlier. Most trees purchased in pots from gardening centers are grafted. However, this doesn't guarantee an immediate display of flowers, so be patient. If your magnolia is grafted and has not flowered in three to five years, Burncoose Nurseries indicates that you may have a problem rather than a late bloomer.
Check Soil, Water Levels, and Nutrition
In the early years of caring for your magnolia, be mindful of your magnolia's needs. They need well watered, slightly acidic soil with good drainage. When troubleshooting for flower growth, it will be much easier if you can rule out factors such as unsuitable climate, insufficient rain, or poor soil nutrition. Perform a simple soil test to determine whether your magnolia is getting the nutrients it needs to thrive; after that, you should be able to look at how herbicides, insecticides, and the various growth cycles of grafted versus seeded magnolias may be affecting flowering. Getting your magnolia back to flowering should be easy if you take a simple, pragmatic look at some of the basic needs of your tree.