The magnolia grandiflora is a magnificent tree with broad strapping leathery leaves and can grow up to 80ft in height. Typically the trunk is straight and the tree forms branches which tend to result in a pyramid type crown. The leaves are of particular beauty with their deep green tops and velvet like undersides which are a lovely russet color. The flowers are large and a glorious crisp white with wafts of fragrance and covers the tree beginning spring and all through summer. There are lots of different cultivars – my favorite is ‘Little Gem’ if only because it’s a dense small tree (up to 20ft) and fits well into a smaller backyard.
To grow the magnolia grandiflora, you need to plant the tree in full sun (or partial shade but not full shade). Whilst the tree is pretty drought tolerant, like most trees (and plants), it will grow best in rich fertile and well drained soils. It tends to prefer rather acidic soils so if camelias and azaleas thrive in your garden then this tree is certainly going to do well too. Ideally it copes best in USDA Zones 7-9 although horticulturists are attempting to extend their range with new cultivars which are more tolerant of frost. To propagate, you can grow the magnolia grandiflora from seed (bright red and kidney shaped – can’t miss it) which appear after cone like fruit forms on the tree after flowering. Be forewarned though, it’s a large tree and unless you opt for the smaller ‘Little Gem’ it’s going to need space to grow. Another thing to note is that the leathery leaves take a long time (and I mean a long time) to rot down so if you’re a neat gardener, you may opt to rake up the fallen leaves under the tree canopy and put them in the compost instead.