Water-saving Native Plant of the Week - Southern Magnolia

By: Woodlands Water | Published 03/01/2021


Water-saving Native Plant of the Week by Bob Dailey: Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). Requirements: any soil from deep moist acid clay to limey soils and afternoon shade when young. This tree grows in bottomlands and is drought tolerant once established. Southern magnolia sports huge, fragrant, and showy flowers in late spring to summer. One of the most beautiful native trees. It is evergreen, has a straight trunk and conical crown. The pyramidal Southern Magnolia does not get extremely large in most of its range. It is usually 50 ft. tall, rarely growing to 100 ft. It has a dense growth of smooth, leathery evergreen leaves that are alternate, 5-10 inches long, shiny on top and rusty below. Fragrant, creamy-white flowers, which discolor easily if bruised, appear on the ends of thick, tough stems all over the tree. They are cup-shaped, about 8 inches across, with 6 thick petals, wider at the tip, where they are cupped. The blossoms open about 9:00 A.M. and close at night for 2 or 3 days; then all the stamens are shed, and the flower reopens, turns brown, and disintegrates. The flowers appear throughout the summer and into fall. The flowers produce conelike seedpods that contain large red seeds. When the pods open, the seeds often fall from their place and hang by silky threads. Southern magnolia is a relatively fast-growing tree. It casts a dark shade, making underplanting difficult. Fallen leaves are messy and never seem to decompose. They can be chopped with a rotary mower and blown back under the branches to recycle nutrients. The tree is relatively pest-free.

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