Magnolia grandiflora - Southern Magnolia
Family - Magnoliaceae
Size - 60 to 80 feet in height with a spread of about 30 to 50 feet. There are numerous cultivars, and there can be variation between seedlings. Grows at about a medium rate with a pyramidal habit. Generally branched to the ground and best left this way since growing anything under them is futile.
Foliage - Alternate, simple, dark glossy green, evergreen. Leaves will feel very thick and stiff. There is variation between selections, some have a very 'brown back' ( a brown pubescence) while others have little. There is supposedly a connection in cold hardiness and being brown backed. Foliage can vary from 5" to 10" in length, 4" to 5" in width. One Magnolia on campus that I grew from seed (Size picture, above) has foliage that is almost strap-like, about 12" or slightly more in length and roughly 3", maybe 4" wide. I have had numerous people over the years ask me what's wrong with their Magnolia when it starts to drop leaves in June - it's normal.
Flower/Fruit/Seed - Creamy white, sweet lemony fragrance, 6" to 12" in diameter. Flowering begins in late May-early June and continues sporadically all summer. Trees grown from seed generally start flowering within 10 years. Fruit is a pinkish red aggregate of folicles about 5" in length, splitting open in the late summer to expose the dark red seeds.
Bark - Dark gray on young trees, almost black, and ridged on older trees.
Pests and Diseases - Very pest free
Landscape Use - Specimen use for the species, as it needs room to grow. 'Little Gem', is a cultivar which stays compact and has unusually small foliage. It is possible it could be used as a selectively pruned hedge. New cultivars of Southern Magnolia are coming out every year. Some are improved, but just how much variation can you get from one cultivar to another? Want a new cultivar? Sow some seed.
Performance - 10 What would the South be without a Southern Magnolia? This tree has been widely planted and is widely grown. There is at least one state that has it for the state tree or the flower as the state flower. It likes a rich, acid, well drained soil but can grow in wet soils. Can grow in full sun to part shade as one can sometimes find seedlings at the edge of woods. Many of the old plantation homes are graced with behemoth Magnolias throughout the south. Hardy to zone 6, some cultivars offer superior hardiness, 'Edith Bogue' being one of them. There is nothing like a sultry evening in the south permeated with the fragrance of Southern Magnolia.