Magnolia tree in bloom

If you prefer your magnolias to bloom in the summer or you want to trade one big spring show for a month or more of flowers later on, there are a number of choices among the hundreds of cultivars and hybrids of the 30 or so species of magnolias commonly found in cultivation. The Little Girl hybrids of Magnolia liliiflora — and Magnolia grandiflora cultivars Bracken’s Brown Beauty, Edith Bogue and Victoria — are all hardy in Zone 6 and bloom or rebloom during the summer.

Choosing a magnolia is a delicious problem. Reading catalogs helps. So does joining the Magnolia Society, 6616 81st Street, Cabin John, Md. 20818. Good sources for magnolias include Gossler Farms Nursery, 1200 Weaver Road, Springfield, Ore. 97478, (541) 746-3922, catalog $2, and McCracken’s Nursery, which is found only on the Internet, at

Unnecessary Staking

Q. As I walk around the city or suburbs I see newly planted young trees with everything from no support stakes to as many as four stakes. Is it necessary to stake newly planted trees? If so, how should it be done?

A. Stake only when necessary, not as a general practice. Trees that are container grown or balled and in burlap can usually stand on their own after being planted and don’t need staking. If your new tree has too large a canopy compared to the size of the root ball and won’t stand up, or if it will be in an unprotected site where strong winds are common, use one or at most two stakes for support. Using three stakes, so that nothing less than a hurricane can move the tree, prevents it from undergoing the stresses from everyday wind. Trees respond to those stresses by growing thicker, better-tapered trunks and stronger root systems. An overprotected tree grows up to be a wimp that isn’t prepared for the real world when the stakes are removed.

Use a material that spreads out the pressure and has some give, such as inchwide plastic webbing, rubber hose, or inner tube sections. Never tie a stake directly to the trunk because the constant shading causes uneven growth. The stake should not be a permanent fixture. Remove it as soon as its job is done; never leave it for more than a year.

Poppies in the long grass, frogs croaking for mates, wasps droning lazily at the window, tomatoes and strawberries ripening in garden pots and crickets buzzing at dusk: these are the sights and sounds of an English summer. Except that they have all been recorded in the last week or so, even as shops are decking out in shiny baubles and cranking out Christmas carols.

Phenologists who track the subtle changes in the seasons over decades have reported for some time that plants and animals are breeding, flowering, fruiting earlier and earlier.

But this year earlier-than-ever autumn colours and fruits have been mixed with prolonged signs of summer wildlife such as dragonflies, butterflies and grass snakes, and spring flowers such as magnolia, apple blossom and honeysuckle blooming – making it a truly extraordinary season. Summing up this topsy-turvy behaviour, a swallow – whose arrival in northern Europe traditionally marks the start of summer – was spotted this month at the RSPB bird reserve at Saltholme on Teesside.

Nature is certainly alive with freak occurrences and oddities, but even ecologists agree that what is happening now in nature reserves, in gardens and along hedgerows and verges is remarkable, prompting comparison between 2011 and the previously notable years of 1986 and 1975.

“Our countryside is much more flowery than it should be,” says Matthew Oates, a National Trust ecologist. Richard Bullock, another professional nature watcher at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust conservation project in London, reports the sounds of crickets, grasshoppers and marsh frogs croaking into the first week of November.

“These are sounds really more associated with when they breed, when they are territorial; they are normally most vocal in May and June,” says Bullock.

“Autumn has been a bit weird,” admits a spokesman for the Woodland Trust.

Conservation groups relate unusual occurrences around the country, particularly in the south and west, but also in the north of England. There are reports from South Yorkshire of common darter dragonflies on sunny days this month, toads and frogs that would usually be hibernating were seen last week, and there was a rare sighting for so far north of a Cetti’s warbler; and as well as the swallow at Saltholme, RSPB staff there spotted dragonflies in the wildlife garden and pondskaters, which should also be hidden away in sheds and tree cracks for the winter.

Readers’ replies on Twitter followed a similar geographical pattern: flowering bulbs and queen wasps have been seen from Devon to Peterborough; TV wildlife presenter Nick Baker reported queen bees, spiders and fruit flies at his home near Exmoor; there were tomatoes on the vines at a north London community garden, strawberries fruiting near Oxford, poppies, sea rocket and fennel flowering in Suffolk, and buddleia blooming in Mansfield.

As unusually warm weather is forecast for this weekend, there is general agreement that the mild autumn is behind many of the unusual sightings. But this year’s particularly early spring – the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology reported that some spring species recorded their earliest appearance since records began in the late 1700s – and a poor summer and drought in parts of the country are all thought to have played a part.

At Rutland Water in Leicestershire, for example, the local wildlife trust reported the highest count of wildfowl in more than three decades in October, with more than 30,000 birds visiting. “This is due to the record low levels in the reservoir, exceptional warm weather in October and now November ensuring the amazing abundance of submerged plants continues to bloom and provide an abundance of food,” said Tim Appleton, the reserve manager.

There is some debate among experts, however, about whether they are witnessing a second spring or if next year’s has come early.

“I think what’s happened is that that very warm, late spell in October has really fooled a few things into thinking spring’s turned up early again – forgetting the fact they haven’t had a winter,” said Bullock.

While the current confusion of seasons is especially colourful – and noisy – phenologists who track flowering plants, migrating birds, egg laying and other signs of the seasons have been reporting for some time a definite trend towards earlier springs and autumns.

A paper led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, published in 2010, analysed 25,000 trends for 726 species and calculated that on average seasonal events were occurring 11 days earlier than a generation ago.

Not all these changes matter. There is some concern that animals and insects that should be in hibernation are using up valuable energy reserves by not sleeping, but Baker points out this could be counteracted by the fact there is still plenty of food for them to eat. Meanwhile, after a poor summer, many flowers and animals are taking the opportunity to benefit from an unexpectedly long breeding season.

Problems do arise, however, when some species react quickly to the changing conditions, and others take a longer time to adapt.

“It’s really rather important to many species that their life cycle is synchronised to other species,” said Dr Stephen Thackeray, who jointly led the 2010 paper. “For example, birds need to lay eggs at a certain time of year so when chicks hatch there’s enough food to feed them. The important aspect is there’s no guarantee the changes are the same for all species, so there’s the potential to desynch those species.”

• This article was amended on 14 November to remove an incorrect reference to hibernating

We have experienced a fairly mild August with many days feeling like spring.
There are signs of spring everywhere in our city and district. Many tree buds are swelling, and as the days lengthen more plants come into bloom. Blossom is appearing and green leaves begin to show on the branches of many deciduous trees. Among the most attractive of the early trees are the flowering cherries, plums, peaches and magnolias. Camellias are reaching their flowering peak and many rhododendrons and azaleas are showing their first stunning flowers. Many of our native kowhai trees are about to burst forth in bloom, the early varieties showing off their beautiful golden yellow flowers providing a feast for native birds.

As soil conditions permit, gardeners can look forward to increased activity in the garden. It is a busy time for seed sowing, spraying and fertilising. Buds, shoots, flowers and seeds are sprouting and growth becomes more rapid as daylight hours increase in length. As it becomes warmer, soil temperatures continue to rise. Early spring growth can be difficult with changeable cold snaps, wet weather and frosts possible. Many winter annuals such as primulas and polyanthus are right at their peak now and are making an impressive display.

If you are into seed sowing then now is the time to be sowing trays of summer vegetables and flowering annuals inside or in a greenhouse. These will be ready for planting out in late September or early October to give a well established summer show for Christmas.
Once the flowering of indoor cyclamen has finished, pot grown plants can be transplanted outdoors into the garden in a sheltered location, best under trees where they are well shaded where they will often perform for many years.

Roses are starting their new season’s growth. Regular sprays with Grosafe Freeflo Copper mixed with Enspray 99 Oil will help prevent fungal diseases and insect pests.
Apply a mulch to all bushes along with a dressing of rose fertiliser. Prune hybrid tea and floribunda roses now and feed all roses now as the new growth starts to come away.
It is time to prune all shrubs that flower on new wood produced in the coming spring and summer. Hardy fuchsias and a number of shrubs grown for the colour of their stems in winter such as the red stemmed dogwood, smoke bush and maples can be trimmed for shape.


It is also time to prune hydrangeas, if this has not yet been done, trim down to a fat double bud to ensure you are not cutting off this summer’s flowers. To keep the flowers blue and purple, feed now with aluminium sulphate (aka Tui Hydrangea Blue). For pink and red colours, fertilise with Tui Garden Lime.

It is time to divide up perennial and herbaceous plants, such as hosta and daylily, that have become congested. Replant the outside parts of the plants and throw out the centre portion.

Magnolias are one of the most striking of the early flowering trees and shrubs. We have many quite stunning specimens, coming into flower at the moment, dotted around the city.
The range is extensive containing many varieties of great horticultural merit, including the white star flowered “stellata” types, a great array of tulip flower types and the magnificent evergreen types.

Choose your site for planting a magnolia very carefully, as they resent being moved or transplanted once they are established. Some grow into quite large trees and require ample space to make a great display. Avoid overcrowding them in your garden and do not cultivate ground under them as their fleshy roots are often near the surface and should not be disturbed. Plant them in a full sun position, sheltered from strong winds and where the roots can be kept cool. They enjoy moist rich free draining soils just slightly acid (pH 6.5) with plenty of organic matter added such as peat moss, well rotted animal manure, organic compost or leaf mould. Always plant new trees from the garden centre at the same soil level as they were in their pot and stake securely. Do not tread the root ball firmly as they do not enjoy the soil being compacted.

Mulching routinely insulates the shallow roots from direct sun and helps to retain moisture. Water frequently (without drowning) the roots as necessary while plants are getting established and during dry periods. A top-dressing with an acid fertiliser such as that suitable for camellia, rhododendron and azaleas or sheep pellets after planting and then in the spring once per year will maintain healthy growth. Note that these plants detest lime so never apply it.

Magnolias are rarely affected by pests and diseases with any problems usually due to unsuitable soil conditions or deficiencies. Pruning, if necessary, is best done after flowering only to reduce size and remove damaged branches.
Some of the notable deciduous varieties are as follows:

Magnolia Genie: produces stunning blooms of deep rich purple and red. This tree can suit small and large garden situations alike only growing 3.5m high by 2m wide.
Magnolia Vulcan: produces deep port wine red flowers up to 25cm across. A Felix Jury hybrid that is much sought after and grows 4m x 3m.
Magnolia Stellata Jane Platt: The very best of the pink flowering stellata varieties. Green foliage and gorgeous rich, deep pink flowers in spring, grows 1.5m in 10 years.
New release Magnolia Stellar Gem: this is the latest release from Taranaki breeder Vance Hooper of Magnolia Grove. It was raised as a seedling of Starwars x Genie and flowered years from seed when a little over knee high. (New trees from seeds can often take up to seven or more years to first flower) It truly fits the guideline of a modern garden magnolia in that it is compact, relatively disease free, heavy flowering and produces flowers from the first year. The compact upright habit is reminiscent of the Genie parent, and the purplish pink pointed star flowers are reminiscent of Starwars. Medium sized foliage is also in scale to the size of the plant. There are limited numbers available in store now.
Have a good week.
Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre.

Magnolia Blooming Problems – Why A Magnolia Tree Does Not Bloom

Magnolias (Magnolia spp.) are all beautiful trees, but they are not all alike. You can find deciduous magnolias that drop their shiny leaves in autumn, and evergreen species that provide year-round shade. Magnolias can be shrubby, medium tall, or towering. The some 150 species in this tree family are known for – and often grown for – their fragrant, frothy flowers. Plants grown from seed can take a very long time to flower, while cultivars have been developed for rapid blooming.

If your lament is “my magnolia tree does not bloom,” take action to help the tree. Read on for information about magnolia blooming problems and what to do to encourage those beautiful flowers.

Why a Magnolia Tree Doesn’t Flower

Whenever a flowering tree fails to blossom, the first thing to do is to check its hardiness zone. The plant hardiness zone indicates what type of weather your tree will survive.

Checking hardiness zones is even more important with warmth-loving magnolias, an iconic tree of the American South. Each species has its own hardiness zone but most like it warm. For example, southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 9.

A magnolia planted in a too-cold climate may not die, but it is not very likely to flower. The flower buds are more sensitive to cold than any other part of the tree. This may be why you are singing the “my magnolia won’t bloom” blues.

Others Reasons a Magnolia Tree Does Not Bloom

If your magnolia blooming problems are not related to the climate, the next place to look is the planting situation. Magnolias can grow in shade but they bloom best and most generously in full sun.

Soil quality might also have a role in the problem. It is best to use rich, acidic, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, amended with organic material.

A soil test can help explain why a magnolia tree doesn’t flower. Lack of minerals or micronutrients might be your problem. If you offer the tree nitrogen-rich amendments, like alfalfa mulch, the soil may be encouraging vegetative growth at the expense of flowers. Add whatever elements the plant is missing by making holes a foot deep and 6 inches apart around the drip line of the tree. Put the nutrients in the holes and water well.

Magnificent native magnolias are all around


While there are over 200 species of magnolias (magnoliaceae) worldwide, when someone says look at that beautiful magnolia tree, there is a good chance they are referring to the quintessential native, the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).

And why not, there is so much to like – from their 12-inch shiny dark green leaves on top with striking shades of copper, to cinnamon brown with felt-like hairs on the underneath, to huge creamy, highly fragrant flowers. It is no wonder they are so popular that they are the state flower of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Native magnolias are easy to spot all over town, in our yards, road medians, and swales, including beech magnolias (Fagus grandifolia) and the magnolia forest stands such as the trails around Lake Overstreet in Maclay Gardens.

Magnolias may be the oldest form of woody flowering plants on earth, dating back almost 100 million years. They have been around so long they evolved before the bees did, and, as such, rely on beetles instead of bees for pollination. Magnolias are named after French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715).

The southern magnolia usually blooms in the late spring with highly scented eight- to 10-inch white flowers, which are followed by reddish three- to five-inch oblong fruits with bright red seeds appearing in the fall. Reaching up to 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide, the southern magnolia gets quite large, but if it’s too big for your yard, don’t despair, as there are a number of excellent smaller cultivars from which to choose. I am going to mention several popular cultivars.

My personal favorite is Bracken’s Brown Beauty, which usually tops out at 30 feet with a 10- to 15-foot width. Its five-inch long leaves are gorgeous rust colored felt on the underside. It will bloom within two to three years from grafts. The flowers are five to six inches long and creamy white with a lemon scent. It has a lovely pyramid form.

The Little Gem is probably the most popular cultivar of the southern magnolia. It grows slowly to 20 to 25 feet with a 10- to 15-foot spread. Besides being a good choice for a small yard, it can also be grown in a container.

Alta is my third recommendation for a good magnolia cultivar. It has a dense columnar form and makes an excellent screening plant or wind break. Try planting one or several together to form an effective visual barrier for privacy. It can reach 40 to 50 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide.

A newer cultivar for sale in the local nurseries is the Teddy Bear southern magnolia. It is a compact tree with a moderate growth rate to 16 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide. It has six- to eight-inch fragrant white flowers appearing during the warm months.

All the southern magnolia varieties like full sun to light shade and rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. They make excellent lawn trees. Because they have shallow roots, it’s best not to plant them too close to your driveway or house. Also, don’t drive or dig underneath them, so as to not damage their roots.

They are evergreen but will shed some of their older leaves throughout the year. They benefit from staying watered (about an inch per week) for the first year or two. After that, they are moderately drought tolerant but appreciate an occasional watering. Now, before it gets too hot, is a good time to plant them. They are resistant to many pests and diseases. Their seeds are favorites of many migratory birds.

Want to plant a magnolia that most people do not have or even know about? There are two excellent natives I can recommend. The first is the Ashe’s magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei) and is quite rare. This endangered native is found in only a few counties in the Florida panhandle, mainly in forests and ravines, where it grows in the understory of mixed hardwood forests. The Ashe’s magnolia grows slowly as a deciduous shrub or small tree to 10 to 25 feet with an open habitat. It has a tropical effect due to its striking one- to two-foot long leaves and its huge 10 to 12 inch creamy white, very fragrant flowers. If you would like to see an Ashe’s magnolia in bloom in the spring, check out excellent specimens in McCord park off Thomasville Road or the one adjacent to the parking lot at Native Nurseries.

The second rare native is the pyramid magnolia (Magnolia pyramidata). It is a semi deciduous small tree growing 10 to 20 feet tall and five to 10 feet wide. Its strongly scented flowers are three to five inches wide and appear between March and June. It is native to dense, wooded bluffs, ravines, and uplands. Check out the one in beautiful Bear Creek in Gadsden County on the backside of the trail running around the lake.

Whichever of the magnificent native magnolia trees that you choose for your yard will likely not disappoint you and will provide many years of beautiful, fragrant blooms and striking foliage.

Keith D. Post is a Master Gardener volunteer with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County. For gardening questions, email the extension office at [email protected]


Magnolias (Magnolia species) are an integral part of the Southern landscape. There are about 125 species, some of which are native to the United States. Others are native to Mexico, Central America, the West Indies and Asia. Some are trees and others are tall shrubs. They may be deciduous, semi-evergreen or evergreen. They may bloom in early spring before leaves develop, or they may flower in summer when in full foliage. Magnolias are typically pollinated by beetles.

The three main species discussed here are Southern magnolia (M. grandiflora), star magnolia (M. stellata) and sweetbay magnolia (M. virginiana). One hybrid has been singled out for discussion because of its popularity in South Carolina – saucer magnolia (M. x soulangiana). Others are briefly mentioned. All magnolias discussed are adapted to all areas of South Carolina.

Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia) flower.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

General Information on Magnolias

Mature Height/Spread: Magnolias range from the small star magnolia to the massive southern magnolia.

Growth Rate: The growth rate of magnolias depends on the species.

Ornamental Features: Most magnolias are valued for their showy, fragrant flowers, large glossy leaves and striking fruit. Most flowers encountered tend to be white, pink or purple. They may be small (3-inch diameter), with thin, strap-shaped petals (star magnolia), or large (12-inch diameter), with wide petals (Southern magnolia). Magnolias may not bloom for many years after planting if grown from seed. One seedling may not bloom for 15 to 20 years, while another may bloom in three years. Note: The petals and sepals are fused in magnolia flowers. Therefore the correct terminology for these colorful floral parts is tepals. The tepals are arranged in 2 or more whorls of 3 to 6 tepals each.

Leaf size ranges from small (2 inches long and 1 inch wide), as with star magnolia, to large (10 inches long and 4 inches wide), as with Southern magnolia. They are usually dark, lustrous green on the upper side, but may be light green, fuzzy reddish-brown or even silvery on the lower side. The leaves are arranged in an alternate fashion on the stems.

The fruit aggregate or seed cone size ranges from 1 to 8 inches. In some species, these seed cones may be distorted in shape or knobby due to irregular flower fertilization. They are reddish and fuzzy and at maturity, open to expose bright red-orange seeds beginning in the early fall (September through November). The fruit is attractive to wildlife.

Nearly mature, reddish Magnolia grandiflora fruit aggregate (seed cone).
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

The bark of most magnolias is smooth and silvery-gray. This is especially attractive in the winter landscape.

Landscape Use: Magnolias may be used as specimens, screens, patio trees, hedges, border accents and even container plants. There is such a wide variety of form and size that landscape use is dependent on the species being used.

The ideal soil for most magnolias is rich, porous, acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.5) and well-drained. Most tolerate moderate drought and some tolerate wet soils. Magnolias should be planted in full sun or partial shade. The soil in the planting bed should be amended with leaf compost at planting.

Problems: Most magnolias are generally pest-free. They may be troubled by various types of scales, which can infest twigs and leaves. They are also subject to algal leaf spot. Control is not generally warranted.

Magnolias are generally soft-wooded and may be prone to breakage in ice storms. The bark is thin, and easily damaged by mowers and string trimmers. As pruning wounds may not heal well, shaping should be done early in the life of the tree to avoid big cuts. Prune after flowering.

Magnolia roots tend to girdle (circle the trunk or root ball). Cut any circling roots, especially if located at the top of the root ball or close to the trunk. The root system spreads wider than most trees. For this reason, transplanting magnolias is difficult, as so much of the root system is lost. Field-grown trees are best planted in late winter or early spring. Plant container-grown trees in the early fall for best for best root establishment.

Southern Magnolia (M. grandiflora)

Large leaves with rusty brown lower leaf surfaces of Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’).
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Mature Height/Spread: Southern magnolia, also known as Bull Bay, is a handsome evergreen tree that will grow 60 to 80 feet tall and 30 to 50 feet wide. It is densely pyramidal, symmetrical and low-branching when young. The form is more irregular at maturity. The form of seedlings varies considerably. Some are open with a lot of space between branches, others are very dense. Some are as wide as they are tall, others are more columnar.

Growth Rate: The growth rate is variable, depending on the seedling, but generally it grows at a slow to medium rate (1 to 2 feet yearly), but faster when young. It responds to water and fertilization with faster growth. It is a long-lived tree.

Ornamental Features: This tree is valued for many features: beautiful, fragrant flowers; dark lustrous leaves; striking fruit and overall size and stature. The flower is creamy white, large (8 to 12 inch diameter), solitary and very fragrant. It blooms in May and June, but some cultivars bloom sporadically throughout the summer.

The leaves are large (5 to 10 inches long, 3 to 4 inches wide), dark green and lustrous on the upper side. The lower side may be light green, or fuzzy and rusty brown. This is the indumentum, which is the dense hairy covering on the lower leaf surface. The fuzzy, brown fruit is 3 to 8 inches long. The bright red-orange seeds are exposed September through November. Many bird species feed on the ripened fruit while they are still attached to the seed cones. The fruit and seed cones fall in November and December.

Mature fruit aggregate (seed cone) of Magnolia grandiflora with pendulous red seeds.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Landscape Use: The Southern magnolia requires a lot of space, and should be reserved for large properties. It can be used as a lawn specimen, screen, or, with smaller, dense cultivars, as a hedge.

Preferred soil conditions are as previously mentioned. This tree tolerates occasional wet conditions; some cultivars tolerate moderate drought if allowed enough space for root growth. The roots of a mature Southern magnolia may extend up to 3 times the reach of the limbs. If soil is moist, or irrigation can be provided, this tree thrives in full sun. Otherwise, plant the tree in partial shade.

Problems: This tree is mostly problem-free. However, scales may infest leaves and twigs, and beetles may bore into or lay eggs in branches.

False Oleander scale (Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli) Greedy scale (Hemiberlesia rapax), tea scale (Fiorinia theae), and scurfy scale (Chionaspis furfura) have been diagnosed as pests on Southern magnolia in South Carolina landscapes. These armored scales cause yellowing of foliage followed by leaf drop and twig dieback. Typically these scales are pests of magnolias near the coast. Late winter and early summer sprays with horticultural oil will control these scale pests. Use a 2% spray solution (5 tablespoons horticultural oil per gallon of water).

Twig girdler (Oncideres cingulata) is a small grayish-brown beetle that damages twigs by chewing partially through the twig and inserting eggs. Later, the twigs fall to the ground and are the food source for the developing twig girdler larvae. Pick up and dispose of fallen twigs to aid in control.

Black twig borer (Xylosandrus compactus) is a small black ambrosia beetle that attacks many species of trees. These beetles typically bore into 1-inch diameter branches and carry with them the ambrosia fungus. Eggs are laid, and the developing larvae feed on the growing ambrosia fungus. New beetles emerge from the twigs in the early spring. Unfortunately, this fungus is a pathogen of tree tissues, and these branches die from the point of borer infestation outward. Prune out 3 to 4 inches below where branches are damaged, and burn or dispose of prunings immediately. Primarily, black twig borer damage has been diagnosed in the lower half of South Carolina.

In humid climates, leaves may develop leaf spots, such as algal leaf spot. For more information, please see HGIC 2060, Algal Leaf Spot.

Note: Chemical control of diseases and insects on large trees is usually not feasible since adequate coverage of the foliage with a pesticide cannot be achieved.

Leaves are shed as new foliage appears. Unless lower limbs are left on the tree, this leaf litter is unsightly, and often removed by homeowners. Lower limbs are often removed in order to mow beneath the tree. When planting, allow enough space so the lower limbs can drape the ground, hiding the fallen leaves, which will provide necessary nutrients as they decompose.

The thick, upright branching habit and dense foliage makes Magnolia grandiflora ‘Alta’ almost appear to be a large shrub.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Cultivars: Please note that there seems to be a significant amount of variation about the mature size of each Southern magnolia cultivar as stated in the literature from various growers.

  • Alta® (PP #11612; ‘TMGH’) – This cultivar has extremely thick, upright branching habit with dense foliage. Dark green leaves have light rusty colored undersides. Grows to 20 to 25 feet tall and 9 to 10 feet wide. Fragrant white flowers to 10 inches in diameter.
  • ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ – This tree is compact and dense, possibly 30 feet tall. The leaves are small (6 inches), with dark, lustrous upper, and rusty brown lower leaf surfaces. The fragrant flowers are 5 to 6 inches in diameter.
  • ‘Claudia Wannamaker’ – This is a vigorous grower with a medium broad pyramid form that is more open than ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty.’ Leaves are dark green with rusty brown undersides. Blooms at an early age and grows to 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide.
  • DD Blanchard™ – This is a large cultivar that grows to 50 feet tall and 25 to 30 feet wide in a pyramidal form. The leaves are shiny green and the leaf undersides are a light rusty orange. It has 6 to 8 inch diameter, fragrant white flowers.
  • ‘Edith Bogue’ – This has a tight pyramidal form (30 feet tall and 15 feet wide). Leaves are narrow, dark green and tan. Blooms at an early age.
  • ‘Green Giant’ – This large cultivar grows to 50 to 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide in a pyramidal form. The foliage is a shiny green with green leaf undersides.
  • ‘Kay Parris’ – This is a small cultivar (20 feet and 10 to 15 feet wide), so smaller than ‘Little Gem’, but faster growing. Shiny leaves have waved margins and coppery velvet undersides. Has 7 inch diameter flowers and blooms at an early age.

    Compact, upright growing habit of Magnolia grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’.
    Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

  • ‘Little Gem’ – This is compact and upright, more like a dense shrub (20 – 35 feet tall and 10 feet wide). Leaves are small (4 inches) and lustrous, dark green and bronze. Flowers are small (4-inches in diameter). Blooms at an early age and sporadically throughout the growing season.
  • Teddy Bear® (PP #13049; ‘Southern Charm’) – This is a compact, upright growing tree with a reddish-brown indumentum (dense hairy covering) on the lower leaf surface. Grows to 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Plants will be more compact in full sun. It has 6 to 8 inch wide, white flowers.
  • ‘Majestic Beauty’ – This is a large pyramidal tree (35 to 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide). Leaves are large and flowers profusely. Flowers are 12 inches in diameter.
  • ‘Samuel Sommer’ – This tree is fast growing, with an upright, ascending habit (35 to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide). Leaves dark green and bronze. Large flowers (to 12 inches or more in diameter).
  • ‘St. Mary’ – This has a compact, somewhat flat habit. It is easily trained for espalier. Early, profuse flowers. Leaves dark green and deep bronze.

Star Magnolia (M. stellata)

Mature Height /Spread: Star magnolia is a dense, oval-to-rounded deciduous shrub or small, multi-stemmed tree that grows 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide.

Growth Rate: It is a slow grower (3 to 6 feet over 5 to 6 years). Cold hardy to USDA zone 5.

Ornamental Features: The flowers of this tree/shrub are relatively small (3- to 4-inches in diameter), pink or white, fragrant, and appear in late

‘Waterlily’ star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) flower.
Jack Scheper ©2002

February and March before the leaves appear. Star magnolias can be damaged by freeze, although they are not as sensitive to cold as the saucer magnolia. (Late-blooming cultivars are available.) The leaves are dark green on top and light green underneath, and show little change in color in fall before dropping.

Landscape Use: This tree may be used as a lawn specimen, border accent, or patio container plant. Ideal soil conditions are the same as previously mentioned. This tree doesn’t tolerate shade and should be protected from late winter winds that may damage open flowers. Avoid placing this tree in a southern exposure where flowers will open early.

Problems: As with most magnolias, this plant is mostly pest-free. Deciduous magnolias are susceptible to powdery mildew. Rake up and dispose of dropped foliage in the fall to aid in control. For more information, please see HGIC 2049, Powdery Mildew.


  • ‘Centennial’ – The flower is 5 inches in diameter, petals blushed with slight pink on the outside. Vigorous and cold hardy. From the Arnold Arboretum as a seedling originally from ‘Rosea.’
  • ‘Rosea’ – (Pink Star Magnolia) – Flower buds are pink, fading to a white flower. Good form and vigor. More than one clone has this name, so buy this plant in flower to ensure desired color.
  • ‘Royal Star’ – Faintly Pink buds open to large, fragrant, double white flowers. From a seedling originally from ‘Waterlily.’
  • ‘Waterlily’ – Very fragrant pink buds open to white, 5-inch flowers. This plant is late-blooming.

Saucer Magnolia (M. x soulangiana)

Saucer magnolia, a hybrid of M. denudata and M. liliifolia, is usually a large, spreading shrub or small, low-branched tree with wide spreading branches. It will grow 20 to 30 feet tall and wide. It is deciduous.

Growth Rate: It has a medium growth rate (about 1 foot per year).

Ornamental Features: It is valued most for its early display of flowers. The large white flowers (5 to 10 inches) shaded with pink and purple open in March and April (possibly February along the coast) before the leaves appear. These early blooms can be damaged by early frost. Late-blooming cultivars are available, although the flowers may not be as showy. Leaves are medium green on upper and lower sides. They show little color change in fall.

Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) flowers.
Karen Russ, ©HGIC, Clemson Extension

Landscape Use: This shrub/tree is an excellent selection as a specimen, container plant and espalier. It works well in groupings.

Although it prefers full sun, it tolerates partial shade. As with star magnolia, avoid planting this tree in southern exposures, as bloom will occur earlier. Ideal soil conditions are as previously noted. This tree tolerates occasional wet soil and moderate droughts.

Prune drooping branches if located near a patio or walkway. To increase canopy density and flowering, prune aggressive branches after flowering.

Problems: Saucer magnolias are generally pest-free. They may be troubled by various types of scales, which can infest twigs and leaves (see above under problems of M. grandiflora). They are also subject to algal leaf spot and two-spotted spider mites. For more information on algal leaf spot, please see HGIC 2060, Algal Leaf Spot. Spider mites can be controlled with sprays of insecticidal soap or 2% horticultural oil. Deciduous magnolias are also susceptible to powdery mildew. Rake up and dispose of dropped leaves in the fall to aid in control. Please see HGIC 2049, Powdery Mildew for more information.


  • ‘Brozzonii’ – A large plant (25 to 30 feet tall) with large white flowers, lavender-pink at the base. A late bloomer. May not be as fragrant.
  • ‘Grace McDade’ – This plant has a loose, shrubby habit. Flowers are large, white inside and lavender-pink outside.
  • ‘Lennei’ – This stiff, broad shrub has huge flowers, white inside with dark purplish-magenta outside. It flowers late, and usually sporadically into the summer. The leaves are larger than most.
  • ‘Rustica Rubra’ – This is possibly a seedling of ‘Lennei,’ but is a larger and looser shrub. Flowers are rose-red with white inside.
  • ‘San Jose’ – This is an early bloomer with large, fragrant, rosy purple flowers. A vigorous grower.
  • ‘Speciosa’ – This late-flowering, dense tree has white blooms with flushed purple at the base.
  • ‘Verbanica’ – This is a slow-growing late bloomer. Flowers are rose pink outside, with white at the tips. Young plant blooms profusely.

Sweetbay Magnolia (M. virginiana)

Mature Height/ Spread: Sweetbay magnolia is usually a single-trunk tree, sometimes a multi-stemmed round shrub. It is usually deciduous in the Piedmont and semi-evergreen or evergreen in the remainder of the state. It can grow 40 to 50 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide.

Growth Rate: This tree grows at a moderate rate (1 to 1½ feet per year).

Ornamental Features: The flowers are small (2- to 3-inches in diameter), creamy white and lemon-scented. They bloom in May and June; some bloom through September. This tree may be slow to flower in youth. The leaves are dark green with a silver underside. They are especially attractive when the wind blows. The bark on older, larger stems is silvery-gray and bright green on new twigs. The small fruit are green with red seeds.

Landscape Use: The branches of sweetbay magnolia grow upright, making this tree ideal for outdoor living areas – decks, patios and pools, as well as lawn specimens and border accents. This tree grows freely in coastal areas, and is often found along stream banks and swamps. Although it flourishes in moist soil, it will tolerate moderate drought. It requires acid, well-drained soil, and full sun or partial shade.

Problems: This tree has few problems. Scales may infest foliage and twigs, especially in dry areas where the tree may suffer stress (see above under problems of M. grandiflora). As with other magnolias, mechanical damage and breakage from ice may cause problems.


  • Moonglow® (PP #12065; ‘Jim Wilson’) – This cultivar, named after the late host of the Victory Gardens television show, is more vigorous growing than the species, and has larger flowers. Its ivory white flowers are 4 inches wide with a lemon scent. Grows to 20 feet tall and 18 feet wide.

Other Species & Hybrids

Large, white fragrant flowers form in late May on bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla).
Joey Williamson, ©2016 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Magnolia acuminata (Cucumber Tree) – This is a very large native tree (50 to 70 feet tall, 40 to 60 feet wide). It has small, inconspicuous flowers, light green leaves (6 to 10 inches long) and unusual cucumber-shaped fruit, which turns from a bright green to red in autumn. This is a hardy tree and a rapid grower and is best used in natural areas.

Magnolia fraseri (Fraser’s Magnolia) – This native magnolia is also known as the fishtail magnolia because of the lobed fishtail-like base to the 12 inch long leaves. The flowers are large, white and fragrant. Fraser’s magnolia may be found in the mountainous Upper Piedmont SC counties.

Magnolia pyramidata (Pyramid Magnolia) – The pyramid magnolia is a rarely encountered native tree to the coastal regions of the state. The leaves and flowers are quite similar to Fraser’s magnolia, but smaller.

Magnolia macrophylla (Bigleaf Magnolia) – This tall tree or shrub (30 to 40 feet) has the largest leaves and blooms of any hardy native North American tree. Leaves are 1 to 3 feet long, and the fragrant flowers are 10 to 12 inches in diameter. This tree is rare in South Carolina, and has a preference for calcareous soils with a soil pH near neutral.

False Oleander Scale (Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli) has been diagnosed on banana shrubs in South Carolina.

Immature fruit aggregate and large leaves of a bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla).
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Magnolia tripetala (Umbrella Tree) – This native, deciduous tree grows to 15 to 30 feet tall. The leaves are up to 20 inches long, and the flowers are creamy-white and up to 11 inches in diameter.

Immature fruit aggregate (seed cone) developing on an umbrella tree (Magnolia tripetala).
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

The flowers open after the leaves have emerged in the late spring. This species grows well in partial shade to full shade.

Magnolia figo (Banana Shrub; formally Michellia figo) – Recently, plants in the genus Michellia were transferred to the genus Magnolia. These large shrubs grow to 10 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide, and bloom in late April through early May.

The species is divided into 3 naturally occurring varieties, M. figo var. figo, M. figo var. skinneriana, and M. figo var. crassipes. The flowers (tepals) of the first two varieties are pale yellow and may be edged in reddish-purple. Those of the latter variety are completely purplish-red to dark purple. There are several cultivars of banana shrub available. All are very strongly scented of bananas. Banana shrubs are native to China.

Banana shrub (Magnolia figo var. figo) in bloom.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Magnolia laevifolia (formally Michellia yunnanensis) – This evergreen shrub or small tree grows to about 12 feet tall, and has brown buds that open to sweetly fragrant, white flowers. There are several cultivars available. Some are smaller shrubs, and have a brown indumentum (a dense hairy covering) on flower buds, stems and lower leaf surfaces.

The brown buds of Magnolia laevifolia open to white fragrant flowers.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension


Magnolia x loebneri (Loebner Magnolia) – This deciduous tree is 15 to 30 feet tall with a slightly greater spread. It is a hybrid of M. stellata and M. kobus (from Japan). The fragrant flowers bloom in March-April before the foliage appears, but a couple of weeks later than its M. stellata parent. They have star-shaped flowers with 12 narrow petals (tepals). The leaves are medium green. Recommended cultivars include ‘Leonard Messel,’ ‘Merrill,’ ‘Ballerina,’ and ‘Spring Snow.’

Magnolia x ‘Butterflies’ (PP #7456) – This cultivar is a cross between selections of M. accuminata and M. enudata. The flowers are a buttery yellow. The upright tree may grow to 25 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and flowers in the spring before the foliage appears.

The deciduous Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ has yellow flowers that open during late March before the foliage appears.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

The ‘Little Girl’ hybrids (Ann, Betty, Judy, Randy, Ricki, Susan and Jane) are hybrids of M. liliiflora and M. stellata. These cultivars are later flowering than both the star and saucer magnolias, and their blooms are less often damaged by late spring frosts.

Deciduous, hybrid magnolia (Magnolia ‘Jane’) flowers.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

These ‘Little Girl’ cultivars are hybrids produced by the US National Arboretum and released in 1968. These hybrid cultivars grow to 15 feet tall, and begin blooming just before the foliage appears. The cultivars are listed in order of flowering time, and their flowers range in color from reddish purple to pink. The cultivar ‘Jane’ is one of the most common of the group, with very fragrant flowers – reddish purple on the outside and white on the inside.

Southern MagnoliaMagnolia grandiflora

Magnolias are entwined with the history of the south. Perhaps the one reaching back the farthest into time is a southern magnolia that still grows in what today is Washington State Park in Washington, Arkansas. According to Famous and Historic Trees by Charles E. Randall and Henry Clepper, this tree was planted near an important road junction in 1839 by Gen. Grandison D. Royston. It was near a blacksmith shop where Jim Bowie fashioned his famous knife.

Some call it the Jones Magnolia because two unrelated boys were born to Jones families the same year the tree was planted. Both became Colonels in the Confederate army and one, Daniel W. Jones, eventually became Governor of Arkansas. The other, James K. Jones, became a U.S. Senator. Both laid claim to being the namesake of the tree and James finally resolved the good-natured debate by purchasing the land the tree stood on and making his home there for over 30 years.

Another historic specimen grows on the White House grounds. It was transplanted by President Andrew Jackson from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, in memory of his beloved wife Rachel.

The name magnolia honors a French botanist, Pierre Magnol, who admired the tree so much that he transplanted it to Europe 300 years ago.

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