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Gardening Guide: Growing Magnolia Stellata

The magnolia stellata, a tree that most of us know better as the star magnolia, is a gorgeous tree that can be a wonderful addition to any garden. The magnolia tree is revered as having some of the most beautiful cultivars, but many of them are very large in height and spread and are therefore not always an option for individuals who have less yard space to work with. The magnolia stellata is a fantastic exception because it grows as a large shrub or a small tree and doesn’t require you to sacrifice a lot of ground space in your garden. There is a lot to consider about the star magnolia before making the commitment to grow one in your yard. Keep reading to get a better idea about what this species has to offer your yard.

The Beauty of the Star

The star magnolia has an undeniably romantic and whimsical appearance for a tree. It’s a perky and welcoming tree that you might imagine planted in front of a picturesque cottage. In full bloom the star magnolia produces thousands of dainty flowers with thin petals that flare out in a star shape. This species is an abundant producer and fills its branches with soft white flowers before it even bears any leaves. The almost snow-like appearance can flatter any sort of environment whether it is residential or commercial, and is a quite good for attracting the attention of passersby. It is also relatively small, averaging about 15 feet in height with a 15 foot-wide spread. This means that more people can enjoy the beauty of a magnolia tree even if their yard is on the smaller side.

After the flowers have withered and fallen away from the tree it will begin to produce small green leaves. Like most other variations of magnolia, the stellata variety has a glossy texture to its leaves that gives it a crisp and almost fresh appearance. Therefore even when the flowers are gone you will still have a beautiful, perky green tree to admire. When the magnolia stellata is young its trunk and branches are covered with a shiny, reddish-brown bark that eventually matures into a smooth, silver-grey bark. In the winter the magnolia will lose its leaves and remain completely bare until the spring growth season. This variety does tend to keep its roots close to the ground and therefore a bit of twisting roots may be visible in parts of the ground surrounding the tree. Some people find this to be a charming trait while others see it as a nuisance.

The Ideal Environment

The star magnolia is originally from Japan, and therefore it tends to prefer a moist environment that doesn’t become too cold in the winter nor too hot in the summer. In the United States, the star magnolia is recommended for zones four through eight. Ideally the star magnolia would thrive in an environment where the threat of frost is gone before the tree starts to produce flowers. If a significant frost does occur after the tree has begun to produce blooms then the flowers stand a real risk of dying. That being said, the tree itself is quite hardy and can adapt to a variety of environments, although the less-idealistic ones might not be rewarded as greatly once the bloom season arrives.

This magnolia species really thrives in full sun although it can stand partial shade, especially in areas where the sun can become pretty intense during the summer months. If you are considering this tree for your own yard then it’s probably good to note that the magnolia will really thrive if you can provide it with an organically rich soil that offers plenty of nutrients. If you need to, you can always use a good quality fertilizer to enrich your yard’s existing soil or you can even add your own organic compounds.

Additional Things to Consider

The magnolia stellata does have a few traits that some people may find to be a slight annoyance. First, the wood of this tree is quite soft and can break easily. This is usually only an issue for people who want to grow this tree in an area that receives a lot of snow or ice during the winter, which can weigh down and eventually break the branches of the tree. The stellata is also prone to attracting insects called magnolia scale. These bugs are about half an inch wide and will spend the winter months snuggled up in the branches of this magnolia tree. They feed on the sap which allows for the production of the excrement called honeydew. This is a sticky, white or colored substance that can usually be seen coating the branches or trunk of the tree. Unfortunately this sweet substance can also attract other insects to the party!  The stickiness and moisture of honeydew can also cause mold to grow and settle into the wood of the tree. If precautions are not taken then this plague-like insect can cause serious long-term harm to the magnolia tree or even cause it to die.



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