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Evergreen or southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) are some of the finest ornamental flowering trees in North America.
Varieties like ‘St. Mary,’ ‘Little Gem,’ ‘Samuel’ and ‘Timeless Beauty’ flower in abundance at an early age, but other varieties can take up to 10 years to flower in profusion. All magnolias are heavy feeders, so fertilizing in March, May and July with a granular growing food like 12-16-12 around the tree’s “drip line,” plus regular watering through the dry summer months, will produce healthy plants and greatly increase the chance of flower production each year. At times, plants and trees can become too comfortable in their rich, moist soil and sunny locations, but there are ways to get them to flower. With these methods, however, comes the risk of leaf damage, dead branches or sometimes even total tree death, so only try these steps as a last resort. Restricting water to the plant in the late spring or early summer (using just enough water to keep trees alive), or taking a shovel and driving it into the tree’s roots in a few places in late fall, will both cause enough stress on the plant that it thinks it might die. Nature will then kick in and the plant will start to produce flowers, set seed pods and try to reproduce itself. Usually at this point, the plant will then continue to flower regularly year after year. You can then return to your regular watering and fertilizing schedule.