Largest Flowering Magnolia?

greenthumbzdudeFebruary 5, 2013

So several years ago I bought this flowering magnolia called Jane. Turns out its a dwarf. Since I have a large backyard it just doesn't fit right into the landcape. I need something that will grow huge but flowers in a way similar to Jane.

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I have a Jane, and I think it is a poor choice for a Magnolia. Mine doesn't do anything for the senses, but DW likes it, so....

M. grandiflora blooms big flowers, grows big, but the blooms are mostly above head level. Smells nice.

M. virginiana grows well, but the foliage is sparse at best. A nice clump of 3 stems blooms a lot of 3 inch fragrant flowers, blooms from June into late July. The leaves are small, semi-deciduous (mine keeps most of them until spring), but you'll never think you can hide behind the clump unless you get very, very drunk.

M. ashei/macrophylla grows big (sort of slowly), makes big leaves (huge leaves) and the biggest flower of any North American tree. The blooms are less than overwhelming however. They are nicer in bud. After they open, they are like limp white cloths on the tree. The stench is remarkable. After 3 days of whitness, you are left with large brown petals that mercifully fall off soon after.

The Oriental Magnolias seem to have a long bloom time. M. liliflora makes a decent amount of flowers in their spring flush, and a few open over most of the summer. If you are a stickler for clean flowers, they will disappoint though, because the heat causes the tips to brown. Still, the large purple buds are nice, and DW likes the smell. Trees are not large, and multistemmed for the most part.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 6:09PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

How big do you want? The smallest magnolias still grow 10' tall and more. By now there will be some 'Jane' around that you can walk under.

If you want something bigger the (very) common choice is saucer magnolia. Multiple named forms of this on the market. If you want a more conical shape there is 'Galaxy', like 'Jane' a USNA hybrid but of different parentage, one of them (M. sprengeri) becoming a sizable tree.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Maybe a Cucumber tree?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:57AM
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Cucumber tree is huge and hardier than grandiflora but I still prefer grandiflora. The advantage cucumber tree has is its greater tolerance for shade. In leaf, there is no tree more tropical looking than cucumber in the North!

How cold are you? several grandifloras will thrive down to Zone 6b.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:15PM
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Oh my............there are several features one should consider when choosing what magnolia to plant aside from size of tree and bloom. In your zone, you'll also want to consider when the bloom opens for instance. Flower shape. Scent. Cucumber tree in and of itself (m. Acuminata) is not so magnificent a bloomer, but it has some hybrids bred from it, like Yellow Lantern makes a nice bloom show. I've one from an arboretum labeled Leonard Messel(loebneri). I know it isn't but I sure would love to know what it is. Aside from a lovely shade of pink, the tree appears to be almost ever blooming, certainly not confined to one part of one season. I have a magnolia macrophylla and it is indeed the largest bloom of any native magnolia. Had to laugh about the comment on it's .......uhm......aroma. I tell people it smells like old gym socks.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:20PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

Yes, Magnolia macrophylla and M. tripetala do have large flowers. Yes, they do smell like dirty gym socks.

If you're viewing them from a distance, they're fine. If you have them right by your back door, you'd better not be bothered by "unpleasant" smells.

I prefer Magnolia virginiana and M. fraseri - Magnolia virginiana has very pretty blooms with a nice lemon fragrance - It does tend to hang on to its leaves for most of winter, though - Gets to looking pretty bedraggled by March. Magnolia fraseri is hard to find, but worth trying to find. It is in the umbrella group, with large, eared leaves and large, floppy flowers. Unlike most other members in this group, the flowers do have a pleasant scent.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:42AM
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The one that comes to my mind is Tripitala, but as mentioned the smell can be rather, pungent and relative. Ive read that it can be pleasant and all the way to (as discribed) dirty gym socks lol.

I think maybe the smell is so strong, depending on the persons sensitivity of smell, it can be just too much? Ive met some people who said stargazer lilies smell like rotting body parts because they are so strong.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 8:29AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Maybe surprising, but cucumber tree is not uncommon here in the mid-Appalachians, at least lower down in the moister soils & north-facing lower slopes. They do look tropical & out-of-place, especially when growing beside a "northern" tree like eastern hemlock.

I don't find my Umbrella mag bloom's odor unpleasant -- strange perhaps.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:52AM
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'macrophylla' can become somewhat invasive even though it's a very uncommon native. I must have the perfect micro climate? as they 'come up' by the hundreds in forest near my two parent trees.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:00AM
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Most of the cool natives will not work in my situation.
I live on top of a hill and its really windy.The large leaves would not last too long. The Cuke hybrids are intriguing, are there any other cultivars out there?

This post was edited by greenthumbzdude on Fri, Feb 8, 13 at 11:45

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:41AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

No magnolia likes it windy, they all have parts that will be damaged if there are strong winds when these parts are present - and the specimen is not in a sheltered position. Even dense and small-leaved star magnolia has delicate flower parts that will be torn if there are gales at bloom time.

The one that stinks is umbrella magnolia, I've never noticed bigleaf magnolia flowers as being at the same level of offensiveness at all. Umbrella magnolia was once mentioned by a British reference as being described as "smelling like a wet goat". This thread may be the first time I have seen bigleaf magnolia depicted as having an unpleasant odor.

My specimen took years to reach flowering size, bloomed for a few seasons and then got taken out by honey fungus.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 12:47PM
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The cucumber magnolia is not uncommon here either in the wild, but then again we are in the appalachian foothills. Greenthumbzdude...........the Yellow Lantern I mentioned is a hybrid off it and there are a lot of hybrids bred off the acuminata worth growing better than the species. Yes on the fraseri, worth searching out. Magnolias are not meant for specimen planting in exposed spots, it's cruel. LOL. Of them all, for fragrence my Edith Bogue is delightful. I've a young sweet bay should be blooming this spring and am anxious to see what it presents. As for the stench of the bigleaf, I went over and stuck my nose in the bloom before I took that shot. You can see how easily it disintegrates and that's when I decided I didn't want to capture a young, opening bud to display in my kitchen. ack. The up side is it doesn't drift and you don't notice it unless you are up front and personal with it. It would never stop me from growing one, it stops our visitors in their tracks.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 3:28PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've been close to the flowers multiple times. "Stench" would never occur to me, I think it's hyperbolic.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 4:34PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

Cucumber magnolia is the only "common" native magnolia here in Indiana. They are still a bit uncommon, though - They mostly grow in the hilly Southern part of the state.

They thrive and do well wherever they're planted, though - I've got one that looks pretty good so far.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:20PM
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Thinking concretely tonight and wondered why bboy was bringing geometry into the equation. I gets it now. I don't think the blooms are stenchy, but literally old, dirty gym socks come as close to describing it as I can get. How one defines smell is so subjective. I'd rank it number two behind hawthorn and in front of #3 bradford pear in unpleasant floral scent. It doesn't seem to waft, however, and you don't notice it unless you go looking.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:51PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

And, I think it was mentioned in a previous post - Smells that are pleasant when diffused can sometimes be nearly nauseating up close. (think autumn olive)

The smell is probably a bit more like old, dirty gym socks that have dried out for a few months - the smell is only nauseating if you literally shove your nose into them and inhale deeply.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:02PM
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Wow Johnnny, you're lucky to have M.macrophylla grow like that! I have a few, but it seems deer like to nibble them.

Bboy, Southern Magnolia is actually one of the most hurricane resistant trees here on the gulf coast, but their leaves are thicker and tougher than other mags.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:56PM
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My Edith Bogue has tolerated our very dynamic weather systems well and that included very minimal damage during the dereco winds we experienced last summer where it left us without power for a week and took down so many other trees we had a 'standing date' with our local tree company to come do work as they could get to us. Other than some minor shedding, the leaves were left intact. It tore the macrophylla leaves to shreds.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:56AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

When I was at the state university a fellow student who was from Louisiana related how when he was staying in an old mansion there a hurricane came and blew over the two old live oaks while the southern magnolia remained standing.

He claimed that it did blow all the leaves off of the magnolia, however.

So the point is not changed, high winds can interfere with the decorative value of even this species.

And in my area, with our cool summers evergreen magnolia seems not to firm up the wood as well - structurally susceptible kinds like Majestic Beauty and 'Little Gem' are prone to breaking up under snow loads.

I cut down a young 'Edith Bogue' because all the side branches peeled off under snow, leaving it standing there like the statue of Venus.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 12:21PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

bboy, my 'Victoria' Southern mag is on the front line of my windswept lot, and seems to take it in stride. Only temporary issue is heavy, wet snow that bends branches down, but then they recover.

I'd never have considered using it as a windbreak tree (like my Green giant arbs), yet it is fully functioning as such.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:01PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Dzitmoidonc, why do you say Jane is a poor choice for a Magnolia?

For a dwarf (large shrub) its a superior selection for zone 4 & 5 as it blooms later than most (early May) which is an extremely desirable trait in which April can be riddled with frosts and freezes.

Perhaps there are some new designer choices out there but Jane and Royal Star are the must have selections for zone 4/5.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 10:55PM
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calliope, most of my M.grandifloras were fine after the Hurricane Sandy--a couple in the back got crushed by the deciduous trees that fell down on them at that time. (Winds were around 90-95 mph.)I did have some branches taken down by the recent snowstorm as it was a relatively heavy snow, not fine snow. But they should really fill in within a single growing season. Best was Edith Bogue and Victoria. Some minor damage on the Majestic Beauty and Little Gem but two other cultivars will get removed by me in the Spring due to repeated poor performance with heavy snow. Here, the biggest problem is the wet/heavy snows, not the absolute cold so much. But they are quite resilient, recouping loss of a central leader, and rebranching on lower, lost limbs. Mine also have to put up with the deer, which is why I never limb up but let those low lying branches cascade to the ground. M. grandifloras that have exposed trunks (been limbed up), are loved by the bucks--even though they never ever would consider munching on its leaves.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 2:34PM
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whaas, I've had 2. The first was allowed to expire when it got something that caused the bark to "exfoliate" from part of the trunk about 6 inches from the ground. Trunk dia. was about 3 inches, blooms were underwhelming. So, after the main trunk declined, I cut any shoots that came up.

The second one has been blooming for about 3 years. It does not offer the Wow! of the stellata species (one of Jane's parents). I expect stellata to lose the bloom to frost around here some years, but the promise that 'Jane' blooms are later and would be spared is a false hope for me.

Also, I looked for a red Magnolia, even if it is on the outside of the petals. Turns out they are more purple, almost the same color as M. liliflora. Sieboldii has a very red center, even if you must tip the flower up to see it.

So far as fragrance, if I grow a Magnolia for fragrance, maybe I am spoiled with M. virginiana or M. xLoebneri 'Leonard Messel', but the fragrance of Jane is not in the same class.

To sum up, the flowers are not as profuse as I would have been led to believe, not as fragrant as others I have here. The do get burned by frost, and they lack the charm of M. sieboldii. It could be my cultural conditions, it could be the climate here, it could even be me. Given 60 bucks and a decent nursery, I bet I could find another, better Magnolia to plant. The advantage to Jane is the diminutive size compared to M. stellata, and that is only a few feet less.

Somebody wrote about 'Yellow Bird' Magnolia. (Maybe another thread?) I don't have 'Yellow Bird' yet, but I have 'Yellow Lantern', a different hybrid, and I recommend that for a nice big fast growing tree that makes nice bloom. Not as yellow as "Bird", but a good sturdy tree with large leaves, large flowers and a nice symmetrical shape.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:40PM
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