Magnolia's fragile flowers risk damage from late hard frosts


April 07, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q. Every few years, the flowers of our magnolia trees are damaged by a late hard frost. Afterwards, they look awful. Are there any varieties that are not susceptible to this damage?

A. Star magnolias, saucer magnolias and other spring-flowering magnolias all flower well before the danger of our last frost ends.

Also, the flower tissues of magnolias are very sensitive to freezing temperatures. This makes all of them susceptible to damage from late hard frosts. Even though some of them flower a week or two later than the others, the last hard frost can be equally as late and may still occur during the peak of their flowering period. As long as you have spring-flowering magnolias, you should expect this kind of damage every few years.

Q. We would like to put some containers with plants on the sidewalk outside our rowhouse, but we are worried about their being stolen. How can we prevent them from being stolen?

A. It is difficult to keep people from stealing the plants, however, you can make the containers difficult to steal. One neighborhood in Sandtown / Winchester has solved the theft problem by building permanent planters out of used bricks. The planters are built by a neighborhood resident and have become a great source of pride in the neighborhood.

If you are using pots, they can be bolted to the sidewalk through the bottom of the pot. You will need to use concrete anchors to do this. The other solution with containers is to make them exceptionally heavy and difficult to move. You can do this by using a very coarse sand or fine gravel in the planting medium and by using large, heavy pots.


1. If you are going to plant trees and shrubs this spring, then plant as early as possible. They always adjust better when planted early.

2. Do not cut back the foliage of your daffodils and tulips, but allow them to die back naturally. After flowering, the foliage of tulips and daffodils produce food for the bulb.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1-p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, / users / hgic.

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