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PlantFiles: Banana Shrub, Port Wine Magnolia
Magnolia figo

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Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia (mag-NO-lee-a) (Info)
Species: figo (FYE-go) (Info)

Synonym:Liriodendron figo
Synonym:Magnolia fuscata
Synonym:Michelia figo
Synonym:Michelia fuscata

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

34 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Shrubs

Height:
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

Spacing:
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:
N/A

Bloom Color:
White/Near White
Cream/Tan

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Foliage:
Evergreen

Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

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There are a total of 22 photos.
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Profile:

15 positives
6 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive AZ_Gardener On May 30, 2013, AZ_Gardener from Queen Creek, AZ wrote:

I've changed my rating to Positive because I now realize I made a mistake on my first few plants. I'm going on my second summer now with 2 plants. The trick here in the Sonoran desert is to water them everyday and never let them get direct sunlight unless it's past 5 PM in the summer. They do grow slowly through the summer, and they survive our winters outdoor with no problems.

Positive Phellos On Apr 9, 2013, Phellos from Port Vincent, LA wrote:

Love this plant! I have had one at my parent's house since I was a kid. It has had more flowers this year than any other. I have no idea how old it is. Its trunk at the base is about 2 ft in diameter. At about 2 ft high it starts to multi-trunk. It grows well over the roof of my house and, as a kid, I would climb it to get onto the roof.
Last year, I noticed something that I never would expect from this tree. It had a papery thin layer of rotted bark from the base to where it starts to split about 2 ft high. I peeled the bark away to find aerial roots all around the base! Is this normal? Last Spring was incredibly wet and the Winter preceding was mild. Does this have something to do with it, or is there another cause?

Negative mightyv On Sep 23, 2012, mightyv from Gulf Hills, MS wrote:

My plants leaves are black, and the plants did not flower since planted 3 years ago. They are planted in semi shade with afternoon sun. Any suggestions?

Positive PhillyLover On Jan 25, 2012, PhillyLover from Philadelphia, PA wrote:

Planted a small one about 2 years ago in part shade. It has more than tripled in size. Flowering this spring.

The foliage seems to be thinner and longer in part shade, almost like Ficus benjamina, at least on my 3' tall plant.

Positive GSP42 On Jul 4, 2011, GSP42 from Americus, GA wrote:

When I moved into this house, the plant was already in the front yard, I had been calling it the bubble gum tree, before I found out what it was. I estimate that it is at least 30 feet tall, the power company has to keep cutting the top out of it to keep it from touching the power lines. It provides ample shade year round to park the cars under. In the early spring before it flowers it releases a smell that reminds me of the pink bazooka bubblegum I used to chew as a kid. I can't think of any other scent that describes it better. Smells great! Everybody who passes by it about that time of year can't help but comment, because the smell is so overpowering. I have talked to people who drove by on the highway and they say they smell it 200 yards before they get to it. I wish I had information of how to get more started from the one in the yard. It doesn't resemble a bush or shrub, but is more like a young magnolia tree, I guess it has been there for at least 40 years.

Positive dustyshoes On Apr 4, 2011, dustyshoes from Fort White, FL wrote:

This plant was planted by original home owner in Ft. White, FL by the back door of an enclosed back porch.

It is about 8 feet tall and we have lived here for 9 years. We have not given it much care. We do not water. It is an understory surrounded by oaks and long leaf pines. Gets early morning sun.

Considering it's incredible heady scent, when flowering it does not attract bees, butterflies, or hummingbirds.

Positive d2436 On Apr 27, 2010, d2436 from Canyon Country, CA wrote:

I love this plant! The first spring that it flowered there was no smell from it and soon after flowering some branches died off. This spring the plant is looking very good and I was able to smell its sweet fragrance when gardening close to it the other day. The evergreen glossy foliage is another attribute. It is doing good in organic humus rich soil. It get full sun till about 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon at which point my neighbor's shed provides shade. It gets watered in the morning and in the evening by sprinklers. I definitely recommend anyone looking for a fragrant bush give this plant a try provided you can offer the correct growth zone.

Positive addycakes On Apr 20, 2010, addycakes from Hephzibah, GA wrote:

I just moved into an old house in Hephzibah, Ga. All along the foundation are multiple banana shrubs. Given that the house was rented for several years to a business, very little care was given to these shrubs and they have done very well. I was surprised that they require so much care. I was told these are rare and not available at any local nurseries. I may try to propagate them just for fun!

Positive 35022gardener On Jun 10, 2009, 35022gardener from Bessemer, AL wrote:

How exciting to see info on this shrub. We live in Birmingham, AL and nobody here has this plant or knows much about it. We planted our "figo" in 2004 It has grown to appx 12 ft. Very healthy and blooms well. The problem is, it is too big for its site. I need pruning info. How much will it tolerate etc... Please advise.(I'm new to this web site-hope I can find your answer).

Neutral musaboru On May 2, 2009, musaboru from Ontario, CA wrote:

I would describe the fragrance more like very ripe apples with a hint of banana. A very delicious scent that changes in intensity through the day. Most of the time, I cannot detect any fragrance in my dry climate, only during certain parts of the day. The flowers are short lived for me unfortunately.

I think this plant is somewhat more difficult to care for than M. x alba. It has a finicky nature and mines drops its buds and leaves for unapparent reasons (maybe the soil was too wet or it wasn't getting enough sun). I am actually very afraid of killing it more so than M. x alba.

Neutral bigred On Apr 14, 2009, bigred from Ashdown, AR (Zone 8a) wrote:

I planted a small banana shrub several years ago.It has grown very well in the shade of a very large oak tree receieving mostly high shade with a short period of sun in the late afternoon. It now stands apx. 15 ft. tall. Always loaded with blooms this time of year.

We allowed it to grow in it's natural shape until this year.Had to limb it up as it was starting to block the pathway.

Positive cedar18 On Jun 29, 2008, cedar18 from Lula, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Blooms here mid-April to early May. Grows on the east side of our house which is why I thought it did so well, but I see from postings it handles colder zones than listed. A wonderful evergreen shrub that most people are not familiar with. And you don't forget that Juicy Fruit gum fragrance!

Positive xstemboatr On May 15, 2008, xstemboatr from Virginia Beach, VA wrote:

I garden in Virginia Beach, Virginia and feel very fortunate to have a 15 ft. michelia figo bush on my property. I love it ! On a warm day it sends it's fragrance throughout the neighborhood. It is my most favorite specimen in my garden. My banana shrub is in full sun and seems to thrive in our humid climate. It is probably 30 yrs. old + .

Positive MissWeed On May 30, 2007, MissWeed from Raymond, MS (Zone 8b) wrote:

I bought my Michelia 3 years ago on sale at a local nursery. It was small, scruffy, with very few leaves. It is now 6-7 feet tall, 7-8 feet wide, & very thick. The blooms are wonderfully fragrant, but it's a beautiful shrub even without them. I'm going to try to root some cuttings this year.

Positive huntspatch On May 15, 2006, huntspatch from Huntsville, TX wrote:

My banana shrub was purchased for me by my parents at Hodges Gardens in Louisiana nearly 20 years ago. It has been moved twice: once because it grew too large for its site, and once because I moved and did not want to leave it. It has been in its present spot 15 years and has grown taller than the usual descriptions (probably because it is searching for sun in a very shady location), but blooms profusely nevertheless. I love the fragrance, and in between bloomings it makes a dense evergreen mass. HUNTSPATCH

Neutral violabird On Mar 2, 2005, violabird from Barnesville, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

Being a new fan to the 'Banana Shrub', I've been doing as much research as possible, I'd like to share my findings.

One of the classic evergreen shrubs of the old south, the banana shrub, originally from China was introduced to United States in late 1700s. It was named after Pietro Antonio Michele, 1679-1737, a Florentine botanist.

Michelias will thrive in a compost of sandy loam and leaf mould, preferably acidic. They can be propagated, in summer, by cuttings of half-ripened shoots placed in sand, under a glass, in heat. (I would assume in shade)

Although they are not particularly fast growing, they may be pruned after blooming, but is best when allowed to grow to natural size and shape. The nursery specimens of banana shrub tend to look thin and scraggly, often with light spotted leaves, but thrive once they are planted in the ground. (I found a good shot of epsom salts greened it up quickly)

The shrub assumes a looser more open form when grown in shade. Grown in sunny situations, they tend to be more compact with denser foliage that is lighter and more of a yellow green.


Positive drayton On May 4, 2004, drayton from Spartanburg, SC (Zone 7b) wrote:

I bought my Banana Shrub last spring and planted it in rich compost, not knowing but it has grown exceptionally.
I didn't know if it would make it through our harsh winter nights in upper South Carolina { zone 7 } , but I wrapped the base in burlap and piled about 6 inches of hay around the bottom of the plant and it came through beautifully, no problems!
It has not stopped blooming all spring and looks so healthy.

Neutral birovsek On Aug 23, 2003, birovsek from Bonneau, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

i have just planted one by my front steps . will see how it does next year. easily obtain here in s.c

Neutral Laural On Aug 8, 2003, Laural from Madison, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

A friend just gave me two banana shrubs, one gallon size. I haven't planted them yet as I want to get all the particulars on them. But I am very excited to get them as I have fond memories of them. Wish me luck!

Positive suncatcheracres On Aug 7, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

The house right next door to our home where I spent a large part of my childhood in Gulfport, Mississippi, had a quite large banana shrub near the fence between our two properties, and we kids could reach through the fence and pick these wonderful smelling flowers that do smell like bananas. I have been searching for a banana shrub for years--I have never seen one in a nursery--and now I own the perfect property for growing it in Northcentral Florida, as the climate here is very much like the Mississippi Gulf Coast climate. A wonderful plant that deserves a place in every Coastal South garden.

Positive enalter On Jun 22, 2003, enalter from Leakesville, MS (Zone 8b) wrote:

I tried for several years to root this plant from cuttings with no success. There are two very large trees in our town and about two years ago I discovered seeds on both of these trees and now I have many seedlings of the tree. I have been sharing them with friends to help perserve it here in our town. One of these trees has a trunk on it of at least one foot in diameter.

Neutral justmeLisa On Aug 21, 2001, justmeLisa from Brewers, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

You will love this plant if you like fragrance in the garden! It is in the Magnolia family but it bears numerous flowers on one branch rather than just one big flower. It is happy in moist, acidic soil that is well drained. It is a slow growing shrub and can be damaged by low, teen-level temperatures. This shurb makes a striking speciman plant for the patio. Use a balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8 in late winter at the rate of 1 cup for mature plants. Spread around the root base. Banana shrub is usually not bothered by pests.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,
Anniston, Alabama
Athens, Alabama
Bessemer, Alabama
Houston, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Irvington, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Pelham, Alabama
Prattville, Alabama
Queen Creek, Arizona
Ashdown, Arkansas
Canyon Country, California
Escondido, California
Loomis, California
Montara, California
Napa, California
Ontario, California
Sacramento, California
San Francisco, California
Sonoma, California
Bushnell, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Deltona, Florida
Fort Mc Coy, Florida
Fort White, Florida
Georgetown, Florida
Lakeland, Florida
Mc David, Florida
Mulberry, Florida
Pomona Park, Florida
Riverview, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Wellborn, Florida
Americus, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Augusta, Georgia
Hawkinsville, Georgia
Hephzibah, Georgia
Jackson, Georgia
Lake Park, Georgia
Lula, Georgia
Newnan, Georgia
Thomasville, Georgia
Washington, Georgia
Ahuimanu, Hawaii
Ainaloa, Hawaii
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Bordelonville, Louisiana
Covington, Louisiana
Denham Springs, Louisiana
Doyline, Louisiana
Greenwell Springs, Louisiana
Hammond, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Oscar, Louisiana
Pierre Part, Louisiana
Leakesville, Mississippi
Picayune, Mississippi
Raymond, Mississippi
Raleigh, North Carolina (2 reports)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Conway, South Carolina
Florence, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina
Knoxville, Tennessee
Baytown, Texas
Deer Park, Texas
Frisco, Texas
Harlingen, Texas
Houston, Texas
Huntsville, Texas (2 reports)
Lewisville, Texas
Santa Fe, Texas
Sugar Land, Texas
Virginia Beach, Virginia



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