‘Royal Star,’ the
most popular cultivar, is deciduous perfection. This small tree
is very slow-growing and after a long childhood, reaches a
mature height of 15 feet with a 10- to 12-foot width. It can fit
comfortably into most landscapes, but it certainly deserves a
focal spot for the magnificent show it puts on in spring, when
it is one of the first trees to flower.
Its fuzzy buds
began to open in mid- to late March and can last several weeks.
It is like a singer hitting a high note and holding it longer
than anyone’s expectations. When the song ends, all you can do
All in the Name
The star magnolia
gets its name from blossoms resembling clusters of stars. Before
these stunning white flowers emerge, the branches are covered
with fuzzy, elliptical buds that break open to reveal 3- to
4-inch flowers. The flowers totally cover the tree and are
produced at a very young age.
‘Royal Star’ will
thrive in our acidic, clay soil as long as there is good
drainage. It resents standing in water, and will succumb under
these conditions. Plant it in full sun or partial shade, and if
possible, place it where it can be seen from inside your home.
The only thing
that hinders a great spring show is frost, which can turn its
beautiful flowers brown in one night. For
this reason, try planting the tree in a protected spot, away
from the winds and extreme cold.
Many trees will put on a spectacular
spring showing, but cannot hold on to center stage after that
time. Not this one. It is truly a tree
for all seasons. Even if the display is ruined by frost, this
tree has other “star” qualities.
There is beauty
in its multi-trunked form. Each branch reaches up and out to
produce a lovely oval canopy. If you wish to prune this specimen
for size or shape, be aware that magnolias are bleeders and the
fluid that is released from these cuts can attract insects and
lead to disease. There is some controversy as to when pruning
should be done, either during dormant season, which risks the
loss of buds, or in late summer before bud formation.
In summer, the
smooth gray silvery bark is adorned with jade green leaves that
have a glossy sheen. These leaves turn bronze and fall once the
autumn temperatures and chilling frosts begin. At this point,
the lovely multi-stemmed framework is revealed and the buds that
have emerged on the branches bear the promise of the beauty to
come. When winter arrives and the tree is cloaked in snow, it
still radiates elegance.
This is truly a
specimen worthy of a place in the landscape. It has visual
interest throughout the seasons and a size that makes it a good
fit in most landscapes. When it flowers, your neighbors will
brake for your tree.