The magnolia tree, that southern icon with the wonderfully fragrant blooms, makes a great addition to any Florida landscape. It requires little maintenance and tolerates humidity and drought. While the Southern Magnolia is the most popular planting choice, there are 209 additional equally beautiful magnolia species from which to choose.
Are you looking for a tree with aromatic blooms to add to your landscaping? Consider the magnolia—that southern icon that soars to heights of 80 feet and bears fragrant flowers the size of frisbees.
There are many species of the famous magnolia—210, to be precise. The one described above is the Magnolia grandiflora, or Southern Magnolia. Other species grow to lesser heights and produce different kinds of flowers.
French botanist Pierre Magnol was the inspiration for this tree family’s name. It’s widely accepted that magnolias are one of the most ancient trees around, with fossilized magnolias dating back 80 million years. Two magnolias on the White House grounds were planted by Andrew Jackson between 1829 and 1837.
Which Magnolia Should You Pick?
The Southern Magnolia is a Florida native and is one of the most commonly planted trees in the state. It has rich, dark leaves that look green, rust-colored, or purplish-black. It grows 80 feet tall and produces enormous white flowers 10-12 inches wide. Homeowners throughout Florida like adding these to their landscaping.
On the other end of the height spectrum is the Magnolia coco—a dwarf species that tops out at eight feet and produces small, fragrant white flowers. It does best in central Florida.
If you adore the Southern Magnolia, add one or more to your landscaping. But remember its 209 cousins. Give those a look because you might find another species that you like.
• Little Gem—a slow grower; reaches 20 feet; cold-hardy; fragrant flowers
• Bigleaf Magnolia—often deciduous; its leaves grow up to 32 inches long
• Lily Magnolia—grows as a shrub or small tree; bears upright pink flowers
• Loebner Magnolia—reaches 30 feet; several trunks; long-petaled blooms
Where to Plant a Magnolia
How tall will your selection grow? Make sure the location you pick has enough room for the tree’s mature height plus its root spread and branch spread (which can be 40 feet).
Does your chosen species drop leaves? Some magnolias, like the Southern, can be messy. They drop leaves and seedpods that must be raked up if the tree is on a lawn.
Consider installing a big magnolia in a bed rather than in the middle of a yard. Leaves and seedpods will fall into the bed; lawnmowers won’t damage surface roots.
How to Plant a Magnolia
Plant trees between August and October. Dig a hole twice as wide as your tree’s root ball and almost as deep. Put the tree into the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball sits just above ground level. Fill in the hole with a mixture of topsoil and cow manure (purchased in bags from your local garden center or home improvement store). Tamp the mixture with your feet. Water the root ball and the new soil and then spread a two-inch layer of mulch over both.
Caring for a Magnolia
Magnolias are low-maintenance, easy-care trees. They require little pruning, except to remove unwanted, crossed, or damaged branches. Prune after a tree is done blooming. Don’t fertilize a magnolia unless it isn’t thriving. In that case, test the soil and add nutrients that are missing from it. Water young trees until they’re established. Older trees tolerate moderate drought.