Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is native to the Southern U.S. (USDA hardiness zone 6-9). The species grows upward of 60 - 80 feet tall with a pyramidal habit when young and developing a rounded canopy at maturity. These evergreen magnolias are cherished for their attractive glossy dark green foliage and showy fragrant flowers. Large 5 to 6 inch pure white goblet shaped flowers appear sporadically from mid-spring thru late-summer. Ornate cone-like seed pods form after flowers have shed their creamy white tepals (petals).
Young trees may not bloom for 3-5 years after planting. Its shallow roots may eventually lift sidewalk pavement as the tree ages. Southern magnolias grow 30 to 50 feet high, and some varieties need lots of room. This tree is happily suited to large commercial and residential properties, golf courses and public parks.
Four large cultivars are ideally suited for planting on wide boulevards, medians, parkways, urban parks, industrial sites and golf courses. Undersides of leaves are either green or rusty brown as noted.
- ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ (50 feet x 25 feet) - rusty brown back leaf
- ‘Edith Bogue’ (40- 50 feet x 25 feet) – green back
- ‘Claudia Wannamaker’ (50 feet x 30 feet) – green back
- ‘DD Blanchard’ (50 feet x 30 feet) – brown back
Smaller growing cultivars are also available at garden centers:
- ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Hasse™ (35-40 feet in height)
- Teddy Bear® and ‘Kay Parris’ (25-30 feet in height)
Little Gem grows very shrub-like and may encompass 20 or more feet of ground area. Hasse exhibits a tree-like habit and branching is primarily upright. Teddy Bear and Kay Parris grow slowly and are better choices for small landscapes.
Leaves and flowers are proportionally smaller that the species. The glossy foliage is thick and leathery, and dark green over both the upper and lower surfaces. Kay Parris foliage is reddish brown on the underside.
Trees shed older leaves in spring as new ones emerge. Occasionally, its evergreen boughs are weighted down and snap off under heavy snow and ice loads.