Jane Magnolia Tree or Shrub to Brighten the Spring Yard

Jane magnolia
David Beaulieu

Jane magnolia (Magnolia x 'Jane') is a hybrid plant with tulip-shaped spring blooms that change from burgundy to pink and white. It is one of the eight "Little Girl" hybrids developed for a hardiness to match their beauty. Some call them Jane magnolia trees, and some call them shrubs, but what many people grow would best be described as a large, multi-branched shrub. It is suitable for USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 8.

Jane Magnolia Flowers and Foliage

The flowers Jane magnolia are fairly large, especially relative to the overall size of the plant. Under ideal conditions, the blooms can reach 8 inches across when fully open. The flower color is displayed in two different time periods. When the flower is still closed, the color is burgundy-purple, and the flowers are shaped like tulips. After the flower has been fully open for a while, the color of the outer side of the petals fades to pink. The petals are white on the inside.

The bushes come into bloom in a zone-5 garden in the second half of April and finish blooming in the second half of May. Re-blooming may occur, but on some bushes, it never amounts to much. Blooming later in spring than star magnolia trees, Jane is at less risk of losing its flower buds to frost damage.

Jane magnolia flowers come before the leaves do, as on other spring standouts, such as witch hazel and forsythia. The flowers themselves are preceded by buds that look like pussy willows. The new leaves sport a bit of copper color, which gives way entirely to green in summer, only to return in fall prior to the leaves' eventual yellowing.

Growing Jane Magnolia

Plant Jane magnolia shrubs in a spot where the soil drains well. An acidic, loamy soil rich with compost is best. Water needs are average for this bush. It can grow to 10 to 15 feet tall when mature, with a spread of about 8 to 12 feet. But it is a slow grower. Plus, you may wish to keep it more compact through pruning (it all depends on your landscaping goals).

Sunlight requirements are trickier to specify. Gardeners in the north should grow theirs in full sun. If you live in a warmer climate, the best spot for your plant may be one with morning sunlight, but with some relief from the pounding sun in the afternoon. In the coldest zones, you might want to consider spreading mulch around the shrub's base to protect the roots in winter.

In cooler climates, Jane magnolia is typically planted in early spring, but in areas with hot summers, it may be preferable to plant in fall. This gives the bush a chance to get comfortable for several months before having to face the blazing heat of summer.

To fertilize, you can spread compost around your bush in spring and water it in. Then, in early fall, use a fertilizer geared to acid-loving plants, such as Holly Tone. Specific challenges of magnolia care include magnolia scale and leaf spot.

When and How to Prune

Jane magnolias are shrubs that bloom on old wood. Prune (if you need to) just after flowering. As a general rule of thumb, the earliest-flowering trees and shrubs set flower buds the previous year, so be careful not to prune at the wrong time and end up losing flowers.

However, there is no rule stating that you have to prune Jane magnolias at all, although it is advisable to prune away any suckers that might develop to keep the shrubs looking neat. Some growers prune their bushes lightly, simply to nudge them into taking a slightly different shape than they would on their own. But that is up to you, and many folks give their Jane magnolias a green light and allow them to take their natural shape, without any pruning.

Uses for Jane Magnolia in Landscaping

Jane magnolia is most commonly used as a spring specimen, similarly to other flowering trees and flowering bushes for spring, such as:

For companions, one idea is to grow Jane magnolia with other acid-loving plants that like the same sun and soil conditions.

Just One of the Girls

Jane magnolia is one of a series of hybrid plants called "Little Girl." The group is made up of eight sisters. The other seven are:

  1. Ann
  2. Betty
  3. Judy
  4. Pinkie
  5. Randy
  6. Ricki
  7. Susan