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Magnolia a great landscape addition

By Staff
Sept. 2, 2001
Dear Gardener,
I am contemplating adding a couple of magnolias to my landscape. I did not realize that there are so many choices. I could use some help. Could you tell me about the different types?
Dear Craig,
Magnolias are one of my all time favorite trees. Nothing brings back memories of growing up in the South better than a huge, beautiful southern magnolia. It is no wonder lots of people are adding them to their homescapes, me included.
There are actually about 80 different species of magnolias, but less than 10 are native to North America. The most available species include the southern, the sweet bay, the big leaf, the star and the saucer.
The magnolia that most people think of first is the southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). It is evergreen and native only to a narrow coastal strip in the southeast. Reaching up to 80 feet with a 30- to 50-foot spread, it is a large tree. Its trademark fragrant blooms show up anywhere from late spring through summer. They do best in areas where the temperatures do not usually drop below 10 degrees F. Their fruiting cones with large red berries are very attractive in the fall/winter.
Another evergreen, the sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) grows to around 60 feet. It bears large, fragrant, white blossoms in the springtime. The leaves are smaller than the southern magnolia. They are also silvery underneath and give the tree a silver or white appearance. Its small fruits turn bright red in the fall.
Big-leaf magnolias (Magnolia macrophylla) are great trees that are just starting to become popular. Sporting the largest flower of any native tree in the entire United States, this deciduous tree also has the largest undivided leaves. These leaves are huge, measuring up to 30 inches long and 10 inches wide. The entire tree makes a great conversation piece in the garden. They are medium sized trees reaching up to 60 feet.
Native to Japan, star magnolias (Magnolia stellata) are much smaller than the afore-mentioned native species. Reaching only about 20 feet in height, they are considered a small deciduous tree or large shrub. The leaves are also smaller than other magnolias. The thing that really distinguishes the star magnolia is its flowers. Blooming in very early spring, the petals are narrow and strap-like, sort of like a star. The lightly fragrant blooms cover the tree before the leaves emerge.
Blooming in early to late spring with a profusion of pink or reddish purple flowers, the saucer magnolias (Magnolia Soulangiana) are native to Asia as well. A deciduous tree, the flowers appear before the leaves do producing spectacular spectacle.
Amelia O'Brian, a native of Meridian, holds a bachelor of
science degree in horticulture from Mississippi State University. To submit a question, write From the Potting Bench, c/o The Meridian Star, P.O. Box 1591, Meridian, MS 39302. Or, visit her on the Web at www.thepottingbench.webprovider.com.