If you have not seen an Ashe's magnolia in a garden or its native setting you are not alone. The diminutive magnolia with the larger than life leaves and flowers is a rarity.
Magnolia ashei is a species of magnolia that baffles botanists to this day. The tree is so perplexing that scientists continuously research why it has not spread past its restrained native range of only six northwest Florida Panhandle counties.
The good news is that this stunner is finally catching on and people are learning how to responsibly propagate the Ashe's magnolia for use in the nursery trade. It has gained so much popularity that it was named 2017 plant of the year by the Garden Club of America.
When looking for a tree to purchase or research, you might be directed to the bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). Depending on what botanist is classifying the plant, this is left open for interpretation. Some call Magnolia ashei a subspecies of Magnolia macrophylla. The difference is evident when you see the two next to each other. The tall, M. macrophylla, towers over its stout cousin. The bigleaf magnolia averages 30-40 feet. An Ashe magnolia grows 15-25 feet. As you can imagine, that is not a mistake you want to make.
The Ashe's magnolia has interesting traits that make it desirable to seek out for a garden project, even if it does take a little searching. It is shrubby in form and only grows to about 25 feet but obtains the same width.
The tree flowers in a relatively short time after establishing itself, sometimes as little as two years, and is even known to produce flowers in one-gallon containers. It will flower much more if its lateral roots are given room to grow.
The tree is also light adaptable in that it possesses unique leaves that allow their size to expand or contract if it is in a lower or higher light area. The leaves grow to a wow-inducing 24 inches long by 10 inches across. Then the tree starts to produce the sweet-smelling blooms that are creamy-white with purple centers. The blooms can reach up to 15 inches across with 9 lazily drooping tepals (petals on a magnolia tree).
In nature, you will typically find an Ashe's magnolia in ravine slopes and mixed hardwood forests of those six Florida counties. Here they number in the thousands not hundreds of thousands or millions.
Sadly, the Ashe's magnolia has been declared endangered. Researchers are worried that the tree is not replenishing its own population and that has them concerned for the Ashe's magnolia’s future in the wild. Adding this tree to your landscape would not just be a great idea aesthetically, it would add horticulture interest and be ecologically friendly too!
|Botanical Name||Magnolia ashei|
|Common Name||Ashe's Magnolia, Ashe Magnolia|
|Mature Size||25 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun, Partial Shade|
|Soil Type||Fertile, Well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acid, Neutral, Alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Spring, Summer|
|Hardiness Zones||6-9, USA|
Ashe's Magnolia Care
For a rare plant, the Ashe's magnolia is incredibly unpretentious. It has been known to grow quite happily in gardens that experience New England winters, while still thriving as it does in its native range. It can be grown with the help of fertilizer in a container on a patio or in the sweltering Midwest summers. Truly the only area where it will not grow in is the harsh deserts of the Southwest United States.
The key to success is giving the Ashe's Magnolia room for roots to grow laterally, a good amount of light, good soil and you will have success.
The Ashe magnolia is pretty easy-going and does not give you many excuses to think twice about including it in your landscape design.
The tree grows as wide as it does high and its roots grow out laterally quite far. So, when planting, it might be a good idea to give it a spot by itself with nothing around it. It deserves a place of pride. The more light it gets, the bigger and the more blooms it puts off.
The Ashe's magnolia will be a small plant when you get it from the nursery, most likely in a one to three-gallon container. The first thing you need to do is dig a hole as deep as the container then expand the diameter to three times the width of the container. Fill the hole with water and add a root stimulator. Place your tree in the hole keeping it straight and upright, replace the soil and tamp it down. Lightly mulch the tree without touching the trunk to a depth of three inches. Water the tree weekly for the first year until established.
Light is not a major concern to the health of the Ashe's magnolia and will only effect blooms and form. Without full sun, the form of the tree will be spindly and have intermittent blooms. The limbs are heliotropic, the plant moves towards the sun, and its form will be affected greatly by that.
Otherwise, there will be no negative health effects. In nature, this is an understory tree and it normally gets dappled sunlight. When it gets an abundance of light it really excels.
The Ashe magnolia thrives in deep sandy soil types that are well-drained and rich in humus. In its native Florida, there is an abundance of clay and limestone in the soil, so it will really take to soils that mimic those conditions. You do not need to worry about pH unless you are growing your plant in a container.
Like most other magnolias, once you have helped it get established with a weekly soaking, you can let nature do what it does best. The only time you might need to be concerned is if you are growing your Ashe's magnolia in a container. Then weekly watering is in order if there are dry or drought conditions.
Temperature and Humidity
The Ashe's magnolia is adaptable to a range of climates but does not do well in hot and dry conditions.
Growing Ashe's Magnolia in a Container
Putting your Ashe magnolia in a container on a patio is a great idea if you are lacking room or just prefer having it on your deck or as an accent. What you need to remember is that this plant will need a lot of root space to grow.
If your tree comes in one-gallon container, then buy the largest possible planter you can and plant your magnolia in the pot close to the surface and let the roots do their work.
The soil you plant in should be a good organic mix of humus, vermiculite, perlite, peat, and compost. Check the pH to make sure it is on the acidic side. You can make the environment perfect for your tree since you are building its home.