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  • Writer's pictureJohn Chapin

This Hardy Magnolia Will Add Year-Round Interest to Your Garden

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

Many people in Central Indiana are surprised that there is a hardy cultivar of the beautiful evergreen Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). More compact and dense than the huge specimens seen in the Deep South, the cultivar with a rather mundane name of ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ provides year-round interest in the landscape with 6” long leathery lustrous leaves that are dark green above and rusty brown below, with an undulating surface. The large fragrant flowers, 5-6” in diameter, bloom over a long period in early summer, and are followed by 2-3” long upright cone-shaped pods, dotted with bright red seeds.

‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is regarded as one of the hardiest of evergreen magnolias, and only after the most severe winter will it drop its leaves. However, a new flush of fresh leaves quickly emerges by late spring. In my experience planting this cultivar over the past 30+ years, they are moderate growers, and can be expected to get about the size of an apple tree in our area.

Southern Magnolias are native to the southeastern states, and magnificent specimens over 60’ tall and 50’ wide can be seen at old estates and botanical gardens in the South. There are dozens and dozens of cultivars, and we are fortunate to be able to enjoy a hardy one locally.

Magnolias are mostly sold container-grown, to avoid transplant shock. They grow best in rich, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. They are shallow-rooted and should be watered during dry spells. Adding composted peat to our native clay soil when planting and mulching will make a happier and healthier tree.

Happy gardening!

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