Selecting a Magnolia for Your Yard

I love Magnolias, and I’ve encouraged lots of our clients to add these beautiful trees to their properties over the years.  While I tend to use the Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia) most often, there are other species of Magnolias that have a great deal to add to the garden.  Read on to learn about my favorite Magnolia, and those that I should use more.

Magnolia grandiflora – Southern Magnolia
tree
(A mature Magnolia grandifora in bloom)

The Southern Magnolia is one of my go to trees.  It is native, evergreen, flowering and fragrant so what’s not to love?  It’s also available in a range of sizes, from the large straight species to the much smaller ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Little Gem’ cultivars that can fit in almost any garden.  One of the few complaints about this plant is the leaf litter that it produces – like all evergreens, this Magnolia will shed leaves regularly, and these broad, waxy leaves are slow to break down.

Magnolia × soulangeana – Tulip Magnolia
flower
(The showy blooms of a Tulip Magnolia)

A plant that I seldom use, but am often asked about in spring, is the Tulip Magnolia.  If you’ve ever seen a mature specimen in bloom you’ll know why – in early spring these trees put on a show with tulip shaped flowers in a range of colors from white to yellow to dark purple.  Significantly smaller than their evergreen cousins, the Tulip Magnolias make a dramatic addition to the spring garden.  So, why don’t I plant them more?  Their one drawback is their early bloom time and their tendency to get hit by a late frost, which turns their flowers into a soggy mess before they have a chance to fully open.  But for some clients, and in a protected location, the spectacular show they put on in a good year is worth the risk.

Magnolia virginiana – Sweetbay Magnolia
green

Another Magnolia that I don’t use enough is the Sweetbay Magnolia.  Semi evergreen and smaller in size than the grandiflora, but with comparable flowers, this tree is a good choice for smaller gardens where less screening is needed.  With a summer bloom time, frost doesn’t affect flowering, and the leaves of this Magnolia break down much faster then than those of the Southern Magnolia.

Interested in adding a Magnolia (or three) to your garden?  Contact Bright Leaf Landscaping at 919-475-1015 or fill out our online contact form.  Design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!