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Franklinia Tree

Franklinia alatamaha

Family: Theaceae (tee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Franklinia (frank-LIN-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: alatamaha (uh-lah-tah-MAH-hah) (Info)



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

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

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)


USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

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)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade



Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Mid Fall

Late Fall/Early Winter


Grown for foliage



Provides winter interest

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From semi-hardwood cuttings

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:

Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible


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


Morrilton, Arkansas

Eureka, California

Fairfield, Connecticut

Glastonbury, Connecticut

Lewes, Delaware

Dahlonega, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Winnetka, Illinois

Clermont, Kentucky

Georgetown, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Versailles, Kentucky

Beverly, Massachusetts

Loreto, Massachusetts

Roslindale, Massachusetts

West Tisbury, Massachusetts

Temperance, Michigan

Saint Joseph, Missouri

Reno, Nevada

Camden, New Jersey

Buffalo, New York

Franklin Square, New York

Homer, New York

Staten Island, New York

Asheville, North Carolina

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Thomasville, North Carolina

Akron, Ohio

Chardon, Ohio

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

Morrisville, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Sandy Springs, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

Alexandria, Virginia (2 reports)

Nellysford, Virginia

Orlean, Virginia

Castle Rock, Washington

Concrete, Washington

Kenmore, Washington

Morgantown, West Virginia

Philippi, West Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 16, 2016, jaylizz1 from Reno, NV wrote:

Okay, this is my third try and I know the trick now. First I'm in Reno, Zone 5a. We have harsh dry winds year round with a really intense blue sun because of our elevation. The sun comes up at 430 and goes down at 900 in the summer. Our soil is full of salt because we were once the Great Basin. When you dig where I am it is like chipping the ground. The shovel doesn't just go straight down. I planted 8 of these guys this time here is what I learned. They like acidic well drained soil but that can come in many forms. I'm an electrical engineer who did well in chemistry so here is what it means to have an acidic soil for those who don't know. When water hits carbon or decaying carbon or on the ground old plant leaves leaves, petals, etc.. you get carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is a... read more


On Feb 10, 2016, DavidLMo from St Joseph, MO wrote:

I have one tree (purchased - expensive) here in NW Missouri Zone 5B.

Am trying to grow more from seed.

From other comments ... "Easy to grow if you know the trick."

That's helpful.


On Nov 28, 2015, RIGHTandreason from Fairfield, CT wrote:

A wonderful native tree. I have read extensively on this tree, rooted cuttings and grown from seed. The skinny on this plant, the why it died out in the wild, may have been due to the growing of cotton in the surrounding fields. It was never a prevalent tree to begin with and suffered from being extremely sensitive to the residue of cotton farming. Rain, floods and such washed and continue to wash this cotton seed meal residue pathogen into the very soil that made up the natural area where it grew. Attempts to reintroduce it into former ranges may be difficult at best as the cotton seed meal residue is very persistent in the soil. I have about 350 seedlings that are about 4 inches tall . Easy to grow if you know the trick. I will look for variegated foliage, darker foliage,different size f... read more


On Aug 10, 2015, jadc from Philippi, WV wrote:

I have grown Franklinia here in Philippi, WV for more than ten years. It took several seasons for it to bloom, but now it does so every year starting in August and lasting into late September. The tree has survived winter of -10F nd a bit lower with no damage. The soil here is mostly clay with a bit of loam I have use a commercial fertilizer on it once years ago, but the plant seems to thrive without it The late season flowers are spectacular and really go well with the red autumn foliage.


On Jun 17, 2015, lovescout from Portland, OR wrote:

I live in Portland, OR and purchased two 1.5 caliper Franklinias as replacements for the two Birch I removed next to the street. I planted them in January and one of them is doing very well. The other seems to be very dry. I water them fairly regularly, but it has been very hot for this part of the year. Any suggestions? Anything I have done to one I have done to the other. I have used fertilizer (triple 16, if I'm remembering correctly) on them about a month ago, but again, one is thriving while the other seems to be dying. The one that isn't doing as well is closer to the driveway, but I'm not sure if that would effect anything. They are also in morning sun and stay in the sun pretty much all day. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



On Feb 11, 2015, arbol from Nelson,
Canada wrote:

I heard this spectacular little tree was a fussy transplanter, but I thought I would give it a go anyways. I must admit that I did not provide an ideal growing medium in terms of pH and soil texture, but the tree is persisting into its 4th year. Also might add that I am in what would be a USDA zone 5. Must say thanks to the northernexotics (Aug. 9th 2014) subscriber for providing such excellent information with regards to its specific growing requirements. Unfortunately, I must dash your hopes of being the most northernly grown Franklinia in North America as you are at 43 degrees latitude and I am just under 50 degrees latitude. I am sure there will be other reports of specimens even further north in time.


On Jan 25, 2015, giegertree from Savannah, GA wrote:

Sadly, some moron here in the South has perpetuated a myth that the Franklin tree needs to grow in wet/mucky conditions since it was found along the Altamaha River.

NOT! It grew on the upper banks above the river, having excellent drainage. This is the main cause of Franklin trees croaking here in the Deep South, leading to root fungal problems!

A humusy, rich soil with excellent drainage (but never really dry) is necessary. Partial shade or under pine (high shade) is ideal this far south.


On Sep 28, 2014, wvbotanist from Morgantown, WV wrote:

As a botanist, Franklinia alatamaha was on my "to have" list. On field trips during graduate work at UNC, Chapel Hill, I saw many Gordonia to which it is related. Actually, were it not a "nomen conservandum" then it would be of the genus Gordonia.

I obtained my Franklinia about 16 years ago as the result of the power company giving vouchers for trees they cut along my property. I was taking care of my mother at the time in the home where I grew up and now own. It is 5 acres of an old farm. I planted it in an area with sun, but as it turned out, poor drainage. It almost died. In desperation, I moved it "down back" to an area my dad had planted with hemlock, oak, hickory, birch, beech and tulip poplar in 1937 when they bought the almost treeless property. It is just bel... read more


On Aug 9, 2014, northernexotics from Guelph, Ontario,
Canada wrote:

I live in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, USDA zone 6a. It is negative 23 Celsius winters on average. My franklinia survived with minor twig die-back after 10 days of negative 34C temperatures in the unusually frigid winter of 2013-14. It is planted on the south side of the house protected from winter winds on a 6ft x 6ft x 3 ft pile of soil mixed specifically for the franklinia, and is similar to my rhododendron soil mix. I cover the franklinia with commercial nursery felt in winter and treat it no differently than my rhododendrons, hardy camellias, magnolia grandiflora "Edith Bogue", hardy crepe myrtle and magnolia virginiana "porcelain Dove" for over-wintering. It is planted on a mound of soil to ensure perfect drainage, always, particularly after an all day rain, the winter snow melts in Ma... read more


On Feb 13, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This legendary tree is the latest of the ornamental flowering trees to bloom, and it would be a valuable contribution to the garden for that reason alone. (Here in Boston Z6a it blooms from mid-August to late September.)

But it also has spectacular scarlet fall foliage and a graceful open upright habit (at least when young) that integrates well with other plants in restricted garden spaces. In habit it somewhat resembles sweetbay magnolia (M. virginiana).

Here in the north, establishment can be a gamble. It takes several years to get established, during which time it can be killed by a hard winter, and should receive winter protection. Once established, it's reliably hardy. I have a local friend who grew a specimen from a quart-pot plant, but I recommend start... read more


On Dec 3, 2013, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is an expensive and rare plant that does well in southeast Pennsylvania in locations with good quality soil and shelter from strong winds. My main employer planted one from the Bartram estate in Philadelphia in her back yard and it is doing well, growing about 1 ft/yr so far. Pretty big solitary flowers, good red fall color, and neat, clean habit.


On Jul 2, 2013, bobbieberecz from Concrete, WA wrote:

This is one of my favorite trees in the garden (and I have MANY!). It survived a transplant 1 year after the original placement. The first 3 years the buds didn't open before our frosts hit, but last year they finally became delightful flowers and, true to their reputation, kept poking in and out of the red/orange foliage. I'm in the mountains of northwest Washington state and our winters can get to 5 degrees. My tree gets mid morning sun into the afternoon, then, about 3PM, shade. It gets watered regularly with the other flowers in the bed and my soil is sandy loam with fertile mulch. It loves it's spot and is really putting on the growth this year (its fourth).


On May 14, 2013, tdculp from Lima, PA wrote:

I recently bought a house in media, pa and to my surprise i have recently been informed that we have 4 Franklinia's on the property. 3 of them are along the roadway and are about 20' tall and one closer to my house and is about 12' tall. It has beautiful flowers last october right after we moved in.


On Aug 18, 2012, surpriseberry from Edgewater, MD wrote:


Discovered in the wild along Georgia's Altamaha River in 1765 by botanists John and William Bartram, this beautiful landscape tree is considered extinct in the wild. The Bartrams named the plant in honor of their friend Benjamin Franklin. All Franklinias today are descended from those propagated by the Bartrams in their Philadelphia garden. It is a deciduous, understory tree with an upright habit. It can be grown as a single-trunked tree or a multi-stemmed shrub. The fragrant white flowers have bushy yellow stamens and the leaves are dark green and glossy, turning orange, red, and purple in the fall. It blooms in late summer and early autumn, when few other trees are in... read more


On May 25, 2012, blackberrylily from Erie, PA wrote:

I looked for some time for a Franklinia tree - most nurseries were not familiar with it in Erie, Pennsylvania (zone 5). I finally found one and planted it two years ago on the north side of my house. The first winter we had a blanket of snow the entire season and come spring I thought it was dead. It finally leafed out, sending small shoots from the trunk, some of which I pinched hoping to encourage the stronger, top branches. Last winter I wrapped it in burlap and it has sent one green growth out; the top branches are dead. I hope it has some additional growth this summer and I'm not touching it! So far, no sign of its spectacular bloom.


On May 4, 2012, rustyduck from Morrisville, PA wrote:

I had seen a Franklinia at a nursery a number of years ago. I loved its blooms and form. At the time, I did not own a home, so filed it away as a must have for when I did have a yard. When the time came, it was a bit of a challenge for my local nursery to find me a suitable speciman, and it was much shorter than I wanted. I planted it in the fall with care, but was very disappointed the following spring when the buds formed and then dried up. I was about to dig the remains up and start over when I noticed that a small shoot was coming out of the side of the skinny trunk. It grow well last summer. I held my breath this spring, knowing that the Franklinia was among the last to leaf out. It's back! It's only about three feet tall, but it is a survivor! It will be well worth the atte... read more


On Aug 21, 2011, QuercusAlba from Beverly, MA (Zone 6b) wrote:

If carefully sited, this unusual camellia relative performs beautifully in southern and coastal New England. Ideal location here is a warm sunny spot protected from northwesterly winds.


On Dec 12, 2009, holeth from Corpus Christi, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Hardy here. Extremely fragrant. Only specimen I've ever seen is gone. Eradicated about 20 yrs ago from white pines lining a neighbor's border because it didn't fit in. Property owner considered it a weed and destroyed it.


On Nov 20, 2009, CarterGardener from Asheville, NC wrote:

There is a Franklinia tree growing at Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC. The Fall color is an amazing orange, and the bark pattern is like no other! It is approximately 12 feet tall and planted amongst other larger trees.


On Nov 6, 2009, ScudAg56 from Grand Bay, AL wrote:

This facinating tree was first discovered by Bartram in 1765 and was last seen in the wild in 1790. Despite its southeastern location, the tree appears to grow better in cooler climes. It is theorized that glaciation eradicated the tree from almost all of its original range, leaving only a remnant growing in its southernmost portion along the Altamaha River. It is one of the few trees that flower in the fall.


On Jul 2, 2008, fordhere from Akron, OH wrote:

I have had this tree in my yard for nearly twenty years and it has thrived even though it is not listed for zone 5. It is planted close to my front porch so it is protected. The Franklinia is one of my favorite trees. When we bought it at the nursery no one knew anything about this tree and it looked like it was dead (it doesn't leaf until after the other trees).


On Jun 27, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

I was reading about this species. I saw it listed among the most endangered species in Texas. It naturally has a low rate of germination from seeds, and propagation by stem cuttings is always a failure... So bad, I saw so many pictures of flowering individuals, the flowers are awesome!...

edit: I recently read an article where the authros were sucessful on hybridizing F. alatamaha with a chinese relative, Schima argentea, in an atempt to save the Franklinias genome, "stored" in a different plant until it can be used to effectively propagate Franklinia Trees.


On Jan 13, 2001, Ivey from Lyles, TN wrote:

Just a reminder, Franklinia is now known only in cultivation. Don't let this happen to your favorite plant!


On Nov 11, 2000, Chooch from Chatham-Kent, ON (Zone 6a) wrote:

The most famous discovery of American botanists John and William Bartram. The father and son explorers discovered a small grove of this unknown tree growing along the Altamaha River in Georgia in 1765. On a later trip, William gathered seeds to propagate at their Philadelphia garden. They named the tree Franklinia alatamaha in honor of John Bartram's great friend, Benjamin Franklin.

A multi-stemmed tree, the growth Rate is 10-20 feet in 20 years. Creamy white fragrant flowers bloom late July into September.

Dark green leaves turn orange and red in the fall, often in combination with a few late flowers. Subtly striped branches and persistent seed capsules add winter interest.