I have found no sadness that cannot be lifted, at least in some part, by the beauty of a Japanese Magnolia in full bloom. Walking beneath the mature trees at Tallahassee Nurseries, Dorothy B. Oven Park, or Maclay Gardens will boost your spirits as sure as any remedy. Take a slow walk beneath these trees with a friend or loved one, and you’ve got all you need to start the year off right.
While anyone can enjoy the trees at our local parks, you can bring home your very own Japanese Magnolia, to enjoy every year in your own garden. Take a look at a few of the benefits these trees bring.
• The gracefully arching branches, often sensuously draped in spanish moss, offer a feeling of elegance to your garden.
• They are a Tallahassee Tradition, going back decades, and planting them today will connect you with the past.
• Their beauty is breathtaking, lifting the spirit of all who see them in the dreary, late days of winter.
• The varieties that form trees are very hard-to-find these days, seen mostly in the gorgeous older neighborhoods of Tallahassee. Planting them in your own yard shows a discriminating taste, a preference for the finer things in life, like displaying a fine antique in the home.
• Our stock is locally grown in Havana, FL by a former employee of Tallahassee Nurseries who produces these plants just for us.
• These trees mature at a small enough size to offer no serious threat to homes and buildings during extreme wind events.
Japanese Magnolias bloom in the late winter, anywhere from January to March depending on the weather. The earliest blooming varieties will start after a week of temperatures in the 70’s, while later blooming varieties require consistently warm weather to bloom.
In the shadiest locations, one to three trunks tend to rise vertically with the branches extending horizontally from the trunk.
Planted on the edge of a wooded area, with heavy shade on one side and sun on the other, the branches will spill out into the sun like a waterfall frozen in place. This creates a majestic living arch that casts cool shade and beckons you to walk underneath, to set a chair down, to share quiet moments with friends beneath these outstretched arms.
In full sun, a mass of codominant trunks grow up and out, creating a huge fountain of graceful branches, foliage, and flowers.
They are generally easiest to grow in dappled light, under mature trees or on the edge of a shaded wood. They can handle direct sun in the morning as long as they are shaded in the afternoon.
While they can survive in full sun locations, you should expect the trees to look rough for at least the first 2 to 3 years before they become fully established. Japanese Magnolias in full sun are very prone to foliage damage from summer heat and humidity. If you attempt to grow them in full sun, plant them on a wide mound of soil, incorporate a great deal of organic matter like finished compost, top with a thick layer of mulch, and keep the plants well watered from spring-fall. It’s much easier to grow them in shady environments with rich soil where they will naturally be happy and flourish with minimal input.
Japanese Magnolias require very little care. Maintaining a thick layer of mulch is the best and most important care you can give. Create a wide ring of mulch that is 4’-6’ across, and refresh that mulch at least once per year to keep it 4” deep. Water frequently in hot or dry weather. In good soil they require no fertilizer, however, one application of general purpose organic fertilizer in the spring can give a boost to stubborn specimens.
There are a few categories of Japanese Magnolias, the largest split being bush form and tree form. Bush form varieties like ‘Ann’ and ‘Jane’ are readily available. They are lovely plants that form large shrubs with many small blooms in late winter to early spring.
Tree form varieties are nearly impossible to find nowadays. The most impressive Japanese Magnolias you see in the spring are all tree form varieties, growing 20’-30’ tall with huge blooms from 6”-10” across! Tallahassee Nurseries is incredibly lucky to have a relationship with a small, local grower who produces these trees just for us. (Learn more about that Tallahassee tradition HERE). The large, graceful Japanese Magnolias at Maclay Gardens are tree form varieties. You can also spot stunning examples of mature tree form Japanese Magnolias in the lovely older neighborhoods of Tallahassee like Betton Hills and Waverly.
Japanese Magnolias In stock as of 2.20.2021
• Darrell Dean: dark purple blooms, one of the largest growers, Tallahassee Nurseries has a large specimen of 40’ tall or more with a strong straight trunk and a gorgeous spring display
• Full Eclipse: another dark purple flower, tree form variety grows with a more upright shape than spreading
• Japanese aka Soulangeana: the most common tree form around town, large light pink blooms
• Black Tulip: small trees grow 20’ tall, dark purple, nearly black flowers
• Jon Jon: tree form variety, blooms are mostly white with a rose-pink blush at the base on the petals
• Pink Goblet: produces a spectacular display of huge, soft pink, cup-shaped flowers in the late winter, tree form variety
• Dark Shadow: giant reddish purple blooms cover this tree form variety
• Butterflies: small trees of 20’ produces deep yellow blooms
• Ann: bush form variety blooms later in spring with countless, smaller, pinky-purple blooms
• Jane: bush form variety blooms later in spring with countless, smaller, dark pinky-purple blooms
*This article was written by Jonathan Burns (Tallahassee Nurseries Outdoor Manager, FNGLA Florida Certified Horticulture Professional) informed by years of personal observations growing in the Tallahassee area.