The southern magnolia is a strikingly attractive tree that grows in much of the deep south. An evergreen species that has great value as an ornamental tree, multiple cultivars are available for you to choose and plant on your property. You do need lots of room for this ornamental to grow, but the flowers alone may be worth the effort. They are highly revered and are the state flower of two southern states: Louisiana and Mississippi.
Magnolia grandiflora, the scientific name for this species, grows as high as 90 feet with a trunk 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The leaves are oblong and leathery, with some reaching 8 inches long. The leaves are thick and possess fine hairs on their undersides. The white flowers of this tree are one of its most outstanding features, blooming in the late spring and sometimes growing to a foot in width. The flowers develop into rusty-colored, hairy pods that contain red seeds. Older southern magnolias have scaly dark bark.
The range of the southern magnolia is from North Carolina to the middle sections of Florida along the East Coast and it goes as far to the West as portions of Texas. In the wild, it thrives near waterways and grows in moist and fertile types of soil. It often grows along with beech trees and different types of oaks, states the Floridata.com.
This species needs full sun, but if none is available will tolerate partially shady settings. The southern magnolia can withstand drought, but you should keep this tree in rich soil that drains well. You have multiple ways to use a southern magnolia, including making this tree the centerpiece of your landscape. The flowers and fruit will be an eye-catcher, and the fragrance of the blossoms is another bonus. The southern magnolia excels as a shade tree or as a way to screen off part of your land from the eyes of neighbors.
The evergreen leaves eventually will fall off when replaced by new ones, causing them to accumulate under the tree along with twigs, fruit and small branches. They take a very long time to decompose, making it necessary to rake them out. The shade under the tree will not allow anything else to grow. Insect pests such as the aphid and the scale can affect the quality of the foliage at times. Southern magnolias have very thin bark that you can unintentionally damage with a lawn mower. Leaf spot is a common disease of this species.
Two cultivars of the southern magnolia suitable for northern climates are the Edith Bogue and the Bracken's Brown Beauty. The former can withstand cold and has shiny green leaves, growing as tall as 30 feet. It develops large white flowers. Bracken's Brown Beauty is also quite hardy and has leaves that are brown and fuzzy below, with a shade of green above. The flowers grow 6 inches wide, according to the University of Connecticut Plant Database. This particular cultivar is relatively easy to transplant.