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Magnificent magnolias in the Arboretum at Kew Gardens

Tony Hall
27 March 2012
Blog team: 
The wonderfully showy magnolias are in full flower, many dating back to the early 20th century. Colours range from pure white through to deep pinks with some flowers reaching over 20 cm across.

Magnolias put on a spectacular show and draw you in from far away. They are magnificent flowering trees and shrubs that are native to South East Asia, Himalaya and from North America to Brazil.  They really stand out at a time of year when they have little competition.

Kew has over 250 magnolias across the Gardens. Many large trees dating back to the early 1900s. Most are grouped together in the main Arboretum, but they can be found close to the Main Gate, Victoria Gate and close by the Broad Walk. Fingers crossed, without any frost they should last a little while yet. 


On sunny spring days these spectacular magnolias are a wonderful sight, with their large flowers which stand out and draw you in from

a long way off.


Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva' is a medium sized tree but can grow to over 10 m, with large fragrant pink flowers. The cultivar 'Diva' derives from a tree in Caerhays, Cornwall which came from the only Wilson seedling of this typical variety to survive. 


Magnolia stellata is a variety of Magnolia kobus  it is slow growing and makes a medium sized shrub with fragrant starry shaped white flowers. A rare species in the wild, restricted to a small area in western Tokai, Japan. There are many excellent cultivars and crosses with M. stellata, like the deep pink flowers Magnolia quinquepeta x stellata 'Jane' above.

Magnolia cylindrica (above) is a rare large flowered large shrub, with wonderful pink flowers really standing out on their naked branches normally in April.


Magnolia 'Kewensis' (above) with it's striped underside to the flowers, one of the best clones of Magnolia salicifolia, originating at Kew.

These are just a few of the many magnolias at Kew Gardens. Magnolias are easy to grow, tolerant of most soil types, although they prefer good drainage they will also do well in clay soils. Magnolias grow to all sizes, so can even be grown in the smallest garden or patio.e.g. Magnolia stellata. They should ideally be sheltered from frost, which tends to catch the early ones out most years, damaging the flowers.

There are also the summer/autumn flowering evergreen magnolias, like M. grandiflora, with large creamy white fragrant flowers set against their glossy green leathery leaves. Magnolias are such a wonderful genus of showy flowering plants dating back millions of years.

- Tony -


27 March 2012
Go and see them everybody! I went a week ago and they are mind-blowing. Standing in the magnolia grove near the azalea garden, on a blue-sky sunny day, you are transported to a higher plane of existence ... don't miss it!
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