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If there’s any tree that symbolizes the South, it’s the stately magnolia tree. When the blossoms first display their delicate heads in early spring, the sweet fragrances fill every yard and home. These graceful trees can be found in every state in the South, including the native evergreen, Magnolia Grandiflora. This is the classic magnolia tree with the large glossy leaves and huge white blossoms. The Southern Magnolia flower is so revered that it’s the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana.
But, magnolias aren’t just relegated to the Evergreen southern look. They can also be deciduous. Leaves of every shape, size, and feel can be found in the large magnolia clan. Blossoms can range from startling reds to subtle yellows. And there are certain magnolias that are indigenous to China and the Himalayas.
Whatever type you choose for your yard, garden, or container, you will find that they are easy to care for. Growing zones, pruning, and watering needs can vary, so do your research before falling in love with the first magnolia you see. But don’t fret about the pruning. Most magnolias rarely need it. Evergreens like a little in the early spring for shape, while deciduous varieties like a prune right after the flowering period.
If you plants yours in the ground, make sure that you like where its planted. Most types are extremely hard (if not impossible) to move once they mature. Large magnolias are great for adding majesty to a large lawn. Smaller deciduous types can showcase a flower garden or even as a patio container plant. All magnolias love a richly composted, well-drained soil that is either neutral or just slightly acidic. Best of all, your only natural visitors are of the beneficial kind like bees and butterflies. Pests and disease rarely visit, and deer typically go elsewhere to munch.
First glance at the Butterfly Magnolia Tree will make you think a swarm of butterflies are inhabiting the plant. Closer inspection reveals yellow blooms that consist of 10 to 15 petals, thus the butterfly look. Fragrant blooms and orange stamens bring bees and birds in droves. This early spring bloomer will give way to oval green leaves in the summer. Even as the leaves fall in late winter, the Butterfly’s unique pyramid shape stands out even in the dullest part of winter.
The Jane Magnolia continues to compel gardeners, even at the golden age of 60. It first came on the scene in the 1950’s as one of eight magnolia “Girls” created at the U.S. National Arboretum. Besides the obvious dazzle of the pink blooms, the Jane was developed to withstand cold weather as well as heat and drought.
The Jane is also unique from most other magnolias in that it blooms in late spring. Gardeners with even the smallest amount of patience will be rewarded with a show of large fragrant Fuchsia blooms. The flowers give way to leathery dark green leaves in the summer. Its semi-dwarf height (15 feet) makes it perfect as an elegant shrub or an addition to a walkway. And if you’re lucky, you might get the occasional flourish of blooms even in the summer.
The Little Gem Magnolia is the ultimate dwarf tree. Developed by Warren Steed of Steed’s Nursery in North Carolina, the Little Gem is the smaller cousin of the beloved Magnolia Grandiflora evergreen.
Despite the smaller stature, the Little Gem’s 8 inch white saucer blooms rival their bigger relatives. These fragrant flowers can last on the tree for up to six months. The evergreen foliage has a glistening green top with a bronze belly. Bees and butterflies surround the nectar of the giant blooms. If you’re a bird enthusiast, this tree would be a perfect complement to any of your feeders. The flowers give off pods of bright red seeds, which attract a huge diversity of native and migrant birds.