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Yellow Bird/Butterflies Magnolia not blooming - why?

Wayne Reibold
12 years ago

I have a Yellow Bird Magnolia and a Butterflies Magnolia that I bought about 3 years ago, each are about 7-8' tall and foliage on both always healthy. They're planted in the ground. They each were blooming when I purchased them but have never bloomed since.

I'm trying to figure out why they haven't bloomed the past two summers despite the foliage looking healthy...

They're in a partial sun area and are on a drip system which is only used in the late spring/summer/early fall since otherwise it rains a lot here. The soil is pretty porous so they're not overwatered/sitting in water.

I'm wondering if they need more sun in order to bloom? Anyone know why these type of trees wouldn't bloom? Fertilizer/not fertile enough soil? Hopefully someone knows...

I'm trying to figure out if I should relocate them to more sunny areas and/or if I should start applying compost to soil to try and improve soil condition to encourage them to bloom since I haven't applied compost/fertilizer to them since I purchased them.

Comments (36)

  • whaas_5a
    12 years ago

    My initial thought is too much water.

    What is your definition of partial sun? If they get 6 hours they should bloom

  • Embothrium
    12 years ago

    Not doing well enough to form flower buds, unless you are mal-pruning and cutting these off.

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  • Wayne Reibold
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    I haven't pruned either tree since I've owned them.

    I have a hard time rating # of hours of sun -- does that mean in the peak of summer when we have long days (which is a completely different answer than in winter)??

  • Iris GW
    12 years ago

    Flowers are generally formed during the summer months so I'd say consider how much sun they are getting then. If there is too little sun, I'd say that is the likely reason.

  • Embothrium
    12 years ago

    Out here rainfall falls off markedly right in the middle of the growing season, laying off of watering of a wet climate plant like a deciduous magnolia is not likely to produce desired results - except for a specific instance where an established specimen on a damp and heavy clay soil happens to not need it (and may actually be getting too much).

  • Dan _Staley (5b Sunset 2B AHS 7)
    12 years ago

    I'd say the drip system isn't delivering enough water with the info given. Is this a B7B tree? Glacial till or loam? Adding compost to the soil will disturb their shallow roots and make them unhappy.

    Dan

  • whaas_5a
    12 years ago

    I don't know...If the foilage is healthy I'd argue that lack of water is not the issue.

    Bottomline if the plant is healthy and growing, as it appears you indicate, and the only problem is flower bud creation these items should be the main focus.

    - Lack of sun
    - Too much water
    - Time, may take more time for the plant to begin blooming again

  • Embothrium
    12 years ago

    Too much water highly unlikely with this kind of tree, in this region. The hole in the wall is probably the determination that the planting is healthy-looking, an experienced party viewing the stock might have a different assessment. Poor, twiggy growth too light to bud up well is common with deciduous magnolias not on rich, deep soils.

    I had a 'Yellow Bird' bloom for some years where heavily shaded to the south by overhanging Leyland cypress trees.

  • whaas_5a
    12 years ago

    Can't argue there, but still possible...

    My Magnolia situated near a down spout has limited blooms compared to the others in my yard, yet have the strongest most vigorous growth.

  • Embothrium
    12 years ago

    With liberal watering and fertilization it is possible to get magnolia seedlings several feet tall the first growing season after germination.

  • Dan _Staley (5b Sunset 2B AHS 7)
    12 years ago

    Again, the paucity of clues makes it hard to diagnose the problem. But the

    They each were blooming when I purchased them but have never bloomed since.

    might be something to work with, and maybe the transplant shock has set them back. And the lack of sun and drip system delivery has decreased their vigor, and they are still adapting and working it out.

    Just a thought.

    Dan

  • Wayne Reibold
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Well good news, one of the magnolias has buds on it!! The other still doesn't. I've been reading posts that these magnolias typically won't bloom for 2-3 years after being planted so that probably explains what happened with the one that is now blooming.

    Regarding the one that doesn't have buds, it gets less sun than the one that does have buds. Both were planted at the same time. I'd like to move it but have been reading things that say they often don't take well to moving. Anyone have any experience moving mature magnolias and having problems with them dying? Also when is the best time of year to move them?

  • whaas_5a
    12 years ago

    Personally I would not move a 7-8' magnolia.

    As I mentioned in a couple posts it just may be time before they begin flowering again. This one may need more time. Magnolias do great in partial sun, so if your getting that 4-6 hours of direct sun your good. I have one magnolia with northwest exposure and one with northeast exposure...both are fine bloomers.

    If you do move it, I believe your window of oppurtunity starts in 3 weeks.

  • Dan _Staley (5b Sunset 2B AHS 7)
    12 years ago

    I wouldn't move it. And Seattle area is very early this year (I was there early Feb and it seemed like early Mar).

    Dan

  • Embothrium
    12 years ago

    We're in USDA 8 here (Seattle area), with a cool growing season. Spring starts in Feb. and lasts into July.

  • ladysmith008
    10 years ago

    I would dearly love a rooted cutting from a yellow magnolia. The only ones I've found for sale are quite expensive. Does anyone know who is selling these in a smaller version for cheap?

  • Ahnna
    9 years ago

    Did your Butterfly Magnolia ever blossom? I have one. This is the 4th spring since buying it and planting it in our yard. It had blossoms when we bought it, but has never bloomed after that first year. It only gets about 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. We live in a zone 4 so I thought it's either too cold for the flowers, or the plant is defective. Suddenly this spring we have 4 beautiful sweet yellow blooms. I love it!
    Hope it keeps blooming in years to come. Good luck with yours. I bet the 2nd one will have blooms very soon if not already.

  • dcbc0397
    7 years ago

    My Butterflies magnolia is going to flower this spring for the first time EVER - I planted it as a little seedling in 1999 and here it is 16 years later, a lovely shapely tree with about 25 flower buds straining to unfold. Worth the wait! I wonder how long other people have waited? We are in Zone 5, which may explain how long it has taken to bloom.

  • iwonder75
    7 years ago

    I have a yellow bird/finch magnolia plant too and it does not flower either. It grows very well but no flowers. I have no idea why. Had some flowers on it when I bought it but never grew any since then.


  • PRO
    Select Landscapes of Iowa
    7 years ago

    The Zone 5, IMO, has nothing to do with the lack of flowers. I planted two Butterflies last year on very different sites- one fast-draining sandy loam and the other a heavy clay. Neither flowered last year but this year each had over 75 flowers. This was after record cold in the middle of November and -20 or below at the very end of February. I'm wondering if the flowering is affected by the rootstock.


  • teeka0801(7aNoVa)
    6 years ago

    how young does magnolia yellow bird bloom? also, what to do about b&b cement ball of clay?? I noticed as I took out one of my trees, the poor root system was essentially going around the ball of clay wrapped in burlap...it was horrible,really.

    What on earth do I do to break this horrible thing up without damaging the roots?

    Should I only buy container grown plants from now on?

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    6 years ago

    your second question about the clay.. ought to be a new post.. i would be interested what others have to say about it... ken

  • Marie Tulin
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I have Yellow Bird. I think I also have Butterflies. I'm sorry I don't know the caliper of YB when it was planted., but it took at least 2 years to have more than a few blooms. It has been in the ground now 3 full seasons and is about 14 feet high and has enough flowers to look like a flowering tree. You may know this, but it completely unlike m.stellata which blooms in infancy. Unfortunately, frost got it this year and what flowers that remained had blackened tips.

    I also have Butterflies, and that appears more vigorous than YB. It has grown faster and was covered in blossoms this year, about 3 years post planting. It was a good sized tree when purchased. It also blooms just a bit later and there's less chance of frost damage. This is a significant factor to consider, even in 6b.

  • teeka0801(7aNoVa)
    6 years ago

    Thanks! I like the tulip looking flowers of the YB... is there any other yellow flowered-magnolia that you know of that has that tulip shaped flower, that kind of comes up on top of the branch...it just looks so cool!

  • Marie Tulin
    6 years ago

    The reason to start your own post/question is because not every one will read your question which is at the bottom of the original thread. But already typed this, so I'll go ahead. I will try to remember where I saw an article that compared the yellow magnolias. Your imagination and google might serve you better than my memory.

    A comparison is useful because the flower color can change significantly from the bud color. Some varieties' flowers are yellow in bud and cream in bloom as the flower ages. In my garden, it was either Elizabeth or Butterflies and I was disappointed

    Also, as I mentioned, check bloom time and your frost date. If you have frost, that is, because I don't think you've included your zone. When you re-post, please put in your zone. (look under "my houzz" and hopefully you'll figure that out) If there's a frost while the tree is in bud the buds will be damaged or completely killed. That is very painful- to the gardener, not the tree.

  • jodybodaford
    5 years ago

    Magnolias prefer the lower end of the pH spectrum, requiring acidic soil to flower, grow and essentially survive. A soil pH between 5.0 and 6.5 is ideal. Anything significantly more or less may result in a lack of bloom, either partially or fully. Performing a soil test serves as the only reliable way to determine your soil's pH level. If it's too high, a number of amendments bring it down, including iron sulfate and elemental sulfur. Lime increases soil pH.

  • jodybodaford
    5 years ago

    I live in zone 8a. My Yellow Butterflies has not blossomed yet, but it remained stunted in a 10 gallon pot (from a 1 foot sapling to a multi trunked 5ft tree) for years as I moved 3 times over 9 years before it was finally planted in the ground. I know this magnolia does not like it's roots disturbed and it was recommended to me to plant it young and leave it alone. So if we buy one of these that is blooming but then transplant it, it can take a few years to establish the lateral roots before it will bloom again. So if your ph is right, and it gets a good 6 hrs of sun during growing season, and the plant foliage is healthy, you just have to be patient as you had transplanted this after it was old enough to bloom. Oh and the fact that you did not prune it is a good thing. If you do prune it, do so only in early spring after it blossoms. It is my belief that pruning this tree before it has ever blossomed is not a good idea and could make the wait much longer.

  • Embothrium
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Healthy stock blooming when purchased would normally be expected to keep blooming after purchase. Growers use particular fertilization and watering regimes planned specifically to produce attractive specimens as quickly as possible. Reductions in tree and shrub growth (and flowering) after purchase and planting by the end consumer are probably very often due to this same diligent fertilization and watering not being continued.

    Top and root growth schedules, plant nutrient requirements do not change because a specimen has been planted out. New shoots and roots are produced at the same basic time every year, the same mineral requirements are present every year - if the soil on a planting site is deficient it will need to be supplemented if optimum results are to be had. Whether the planting is new or not. This is why potted stock needs to be kept fertilized and potted on, or it will deteriorate - the plants do not turn their growth (top or root) and their mineral needs on and off with changes in horticultural circumstances.

  • HU-654777670
    3 years ago

    Apologies if you have already found a solution. I have had a Butterflies Magnolia for7 Years now. This is the first year for buds and it looks it will bloom. Apparently they need a lot of fertilizer to bloom. Look for fertilizer with a high middle number. It was not about the sun or how much water it gets it had plenty of both. Healthy leaves and good growth pattern. Now I need to know why there are only blooms on the bottom half of the tree.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    3 years ago

    I would disagree with the above assessment re: fertilizers. Magnolia hybrids such as Butterflies seldom require any special fertilization to bloom well. What they do need is protection or shelter from late frosts that can damage or destroy the flowers buds. And that is most likely what is causing the lack of blooms on the top half of your tree - they were cold damaged, while the bottom portion was better protected.

  • HU-654777670
    3 years ago

    Thank you for responding. Yes, tree was likely cold damaged. I live in Canada and the varieties here are.more or less flowering shrubs. My tree did not set up any buds before last year. I fertilized it last spring based on the advice of a landscape expert who told me that magnolias need a lot of fertilizer in order to bloom. Last year there were no buds set up near the top of the tree, only about halfway up the overall height of the tree. I wondered if blooms only set up on old growth as the tree had grown about a foot over last season. I noticed the buds mId-August, which was very early according to anything I have read.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    3 years ago

    Well, I can only say your "landscape expert" is wrong :-) Magnolias of all varieties bloom reliably here without any fertilization at all. Not even the Magnolia Society recommends fertilization unless your soil is deficient in specific nutrients, which requires a soil test to determine. However you will find countless sources that indicate failure to bloom is likely due to cold damage as the buds are developing.

  • HU-654777670
    3 years ago

    As I said, no buds for 6 years. They only appeared after I fertilized it with rhododendron fertilizer early last spring. Buds began appearing mid-August. There’s empirical evidence that fertilizer was what changed the outcome. I assure you it is not cold here in the summer. Soil deficiency could also be implicated for the lack of buds before this year. Whether or not the buds actually open in spring would be a result of cold damage. I will look elsewhere for an answer to why buds didn’t appear in the top 3 feet of my magnolia. It is actually blooming now.

  • HU-572734944
    last year
    last modified: last year

    What is the difference between the yellow bird magnolia tree and the yellow butterfly magnolia tree, besides the name? We are looking to plant a yellow magnolia tree in our front yard, but we can't decide between the yellow bird and yellow butterfly. From pictures, they both look alike, but not sure if one has a more vibrant yellow than the other or if one has thicker flower petals than the other. Any help in physically distinguishing these two beautiful magnolias is great appreciated.

  • arbordave (SE MI)
    last year

    The Magnolia Society journal (Issue 86, Fall/Winter 2009) had an excellent article on the yellow magnolias by Stefan Cover, including descriptions of Butterflies and Yellow Bird:

    The Performance of Yellow Magnolia Hybrids in a Modified Continental Climate