This post, “Magnolia” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


One of the signature plants of the deep South is the Magnolia grandiflora.  This majestic, evergreen tree has large, glossy dark green leaves and huge, fragrant, white blossoms.  Every thing about these trees is big.  These trees are big – 60 to 90 feet, the flowers are big – 12 inches across, and the leaves are big – 8 inches long.  The cones that come after have shiny, bright red seeds.



We did not plant our tree, previous owners did that for us.  However, this giant of a tree must have room to grow, and the planters of our tree put it too close to the house.  It does give us welcome shade in the summer, but there are problems with this magnolia. 


Nothing grows under it.  Shallow roots are exposed making it difficult to walk around this tree.  As it grew larger and grass was dying out in an ever expanding area, I decided to make the entry garden.  The shape of which was determined by magnolia shade and root area.  So far things are working out well.


Another problem is the falling leaves.  They are large, leathery and never seem to decompose.  It seems as if things are falling out of this tree nine months of the year.  First, it is the leaves.  As new leaves come out in the spring, older leaves drop off.  By the thousands.  A mulching lawnmower takes care of the ones on the lawn, but in the garden where they cannot be raked, I have a stick with a nail on the end and pick each one up.  Next, comes the thin outer sheath of the flowers.  These will decompose rapidly, but still are unsightly on a newly mown lawn and freshly swept walkway.  Lastly comes the cones.  These are not large or spiny, but stepping on one is not pleasant.


So, with all the above negatives, why would anyone plant one of these trees?  If they are planted as a specimen, free standing tree, there is nothing lovelier.  The leaves tend to fall straight down around the trunk and would not have to be raked often.  Several homes in our area have them planted out in the yard and never have the problems with debris like we do having it close to sidewalks.  The showy, red seeds attract birds and are eaten by squirrels.  This makes a wonderful shade tree planted in the right spot.



The flowers and large leaves are often used for seasonal decorations and floral arrangements here in the South.  Either left their natural green or sprayed gold or silver, these leaves are used in door, mantel, and stairway swags.  So while this can be a high maintenance tree, it is extensively planted for its large, saucer-shaped, fragrant flowers and large evergreen leaves.  It can be grown to zone 7, and some new varieties are said to survive to zone 5.  Low care is also another plus to this tree.  No spraying or extensive pruning, etc. is needed. 


This is the state tree of Louisiana and Mississippi, and throughout the South there are many people who find this evergreen tree to be very splendid tree indeed.




  1. April 27, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Magnolia’s are interesting in that there are hundreds of micro species each in a very tiny < 100′ area of the forests in the south east.

    The tiny groups of individual species are going extinct and I know several groups are anxiously out collecting specimens.

    It’s one of my favorite trees down here. We have one traditional one and one small version.

    Half of wild magnolia’s facing extinction

  2. flowergardengirl said,

    April 27, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    When I saw your post, I wondered if you were going to discuss the negatives. You did and I think you did a great job presenting the good and the bad. I wanted to put one in my new lawn but thought long and hard before deciding not to for just the reasons you give. I will however steal blooms from my neighbor’s yard to float in a dish in my entry way;) They smell so wonderful and your home must have a wonderful aroma at certain times of the year.

  3. Jan said,

    April 28, 2008 at 4:19 am

    Linda, you are right about the different magnolia species and the problems with extinction. I think a big problem is development in the areas where they are growing.

    Flowergardengirl, there are some downsides to this big tree, and I have to admit a love/hate relationship with the magnolia esp. at certain times of the year. My problem seems to be more of placement of the tree than the tree itself. I just wish whoever planted my tree would have placed it out in the center of the lawn and not next to the entry way and circular driveway. It does look magnificent, have wonderful flowers, and give great summer shade, so we put up with the falling leaf period.

  4. Phillip said,

    April 28, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    I only have one and I planted it but it is the smaller variety “Little Gem.” So far it only seems to be sitting there but I know they are slow growers.

  5. Jan said,

    April 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Little Gem has become very popular recently because it is a slow grower & will get to about 30-35 feet. Seeing flowers on a very small tree is surprising. The ones I have seen here look great.

  6. Ki said,

    April 29, 2008 at 5:15 am

    I’m jealous your M. grandifloras are blooming already. I can just smell the wonderful perfume. We can actually grow them in zone 6 in NJ and I have a M. grandiflora ‘Edith Bogue’ but it won’t be blooming anytime soon. I think the ‘Little Gem’ would have been a better choice but I wasn’t aware of them when we acquired our tree. Very nice post about the grandifloras and thank you for visiting my blog.

  7. Jan said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Ki, I have seen the Little Gem planted around here, and it is a very nice tree. I kind of wish I had one of those, too, since it is a little smaller and would fit in better on our property. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. donna parlier said,

    January 23, 2010 at 7:41 am

    we have a wild magnolia tree we planted in our yard that gets full sun,,,has lots of room to grow but this tree hasnt grown i know a foot in 15yrs, we live on the eastern shore of maryland is there anything we can do to help this tree
    Thanks for your response

    • Jan said,

      January 23, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      Donna, you haven’t told me what kind of magnolia you have or how large it is, but I will try and help you. Since you write it is a wild tree, I wonder if it could be a sweet bay magnolia? Have you fertilized your tree? Most magnolias need slightly acidic soil and do not like to have their feet wet, but a sweet bay is supposed to like wetter areas. If I were you, I would try fertilizing the tree in the spring. As I have said before you can always contact your local agricultural agent for specific help for your area.

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