Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Magnolia Trees

Grumpy Gardener Steve Bender shares tips and tricks on how to plant and care for the iconic Magnolia Tree.


[MUSIC] And now, the Grumpy Gardener. Hi. I'm Steve Bender. I'm Southern Living's Grumpy Gardener. [SOUND] One of the trees that we have here in the South that really gets northerners jealous is a southern magnolia. That's the big evergreen tree that you see Lining streets and, avenues in the South, and it's something that really sets us apart. It's got this huge white, super fragrant flowers. That depending on where you live, can open as early as May or June. Or maybe July and when they're all in bloom you don't even have to look at the trees to know it because the fragrance will fill the entire neighborhood. Here's a couple things to think about. Number 1 they get to be big so if you have a 15 foot square. [MUSIC] Front yard, this is not the tree for you because these things will get to be 50 feet tall. They will get 50 feet wide. Number two, you can't grow grass under a magnolia. It's got the densest shade around. So grass, which likes sun, won't grow there. You're either gonna have to mulch it Or plant a shade-tolerant, ground cover. Number 3. Magnolias are beautiful evergreen trees. We all love the leaves around the holidays for decorating. But guess what? You pay a price because they drop, some leaves, every single day of the year. Not that big a deal. You can probably pick em up in 5 minutes, which is 5 minutes your'e gonna have to spend every day because they drop leaves, everyday. But there's one problem that a lot of pepole will ask me and say, what is wrong with my magnolia? It won't bloom. I've had this dang tree in my yard for 15 years and it won't bloom. A magnolia is grown from seed is a very slow plant to start blooming. And it can take 10 to 12 years from the time that that seed germinates to the tree gets big enough so it can have flowers. Now, what you want to do. Is you wanna go to the garden center, and you wanna buy a named variety, because these varieties are grafted trees, and they're chosen specifically because they have nice form, they got beautiful foliage, and they start blooming at a young age. And I'm gonna give you the names of 2 that you need to look for. The first one is called little gem. And it's not called little because it won't eventually get tall. It'll eventually get to be thirty, thirty-five feet tall, but it has smaller leaves than normal, it has a very compact shape, and then what's really cool about this plant is it will start blooming when it's three to four feet tall. The other one that I really like, and probably the best of all. One that you need to look for is called Bracken's Brown Beauty. Now this is, I think, the best southern magnolia for the garden. It's got a very compact shape. It's very dense. The foliage is absolutely beautiful. It's got deep green glossy leaves on the top. And it's got this rusty underneath, starts blooming at a young age, and it's a absolutely beautiful tree. Now one more thing I gotta tell ya about southern magnolias. And I remember this growing up when I was a kid. My grandfather had these two big magnolias in the yard. And they're great climbing trees. But guess what? They're also the dirtiest trees, that you can have. The bark is just kinda black and it comes off all over ya. So remember if you don't wanna come into the house looking like a coal miners daughter, don't go climbing the magnolia Yeah. You can find out everything you need to know about Southern gardening at Southern Living Magazine at
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