When you think of the old South, with its formal gardens and homes rising out of the soil, you cannot help but think of the trees around that home. One of the trees that stands out among the best and most symbolic trees of this wonderful and rich culture is the stunning and wonderful Magnolia grandiflora.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 6, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articlces may not be able to respond to questions.)
With a smell that is among the most fragrant and strongest of the native trees of America, Magnolia grandiflora will grow in zones 7 to 9 and can reach a height of upwards to 70 feet tall. There are smaller varieties of this standard natural wonder like 'Little Gem' that will grow into a small shrub about 15 feet tall, and trees that will grow everywhere in between. There are many other wonderful and stunning magnolias that can be grown in the garden but, for this article, we are going to focus on the grandiflora that is the stunning standard of the South.
The biggest and best information I can give anyone concerning this wonderful tree is to plant it for the future. Give it room to grow and turn into the wonderful and huge tree that it is meant to be. While there is some wisdom in staking this tree, there is much to be said for letting it grow and take its own course in life. The twists and turns, bends and angles that the tree will take will add character to any garden.
Never move a tree once planted unless you are ready to do some heavy digging. The roots of the grandiflora are unlike any other tree but other magnolias. They are long and rope-like and they are all needed if you are to move this tree. This is why, even in the market, it is rare to see a tree with much more than a two or three inch trunk. A tree any bigger just would not make the transition well--if at all.
But the leaves - yep they fall all year long. They make a wonderful mulch and are great for compost but if you are one of those perfect lawn and garden people, this tree is just not for you. They will fall at will any time of year, with more leaves falling in the summer if the tree becomes stressed. To help with the summer windfall of leaves, make sure your tree stays watered with the rest of your garden year round but especially during the long, hot, southern summers.
Magnolias do not like to be in standing water. In fact, they do not like to be wet very much at all. They like their soil to be moist but overall do not like to stand in water and are not good for pond or marsh areas. They will die if they are in the way of salt water and many suffered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but there have been many reports I have heard of trees coming back to life. These are among the survivors of this and countless other harsh storms that might break the tree but, from the ruins that remain, it will rise again and once more be the strong focus it was born to be.
So if you have the room and have the time to care for such a wonderful tree, this is a very rewarding tree that will be stunning in the garden. If you have the room, give one a chance and let it show you just how easy and stunning this tree can be.
Thank you to Frostweed for these images.
About Mitch Fitzgerald
I am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.