The Banana Magnolia produces a multitude of intoxicatingly fragrant, creamy yellow, cupped, miniature Magnolia flowers that smell like sweet bananas. As children, we would pick a few of the flowers to put in our pockets so that we could enjoy the fragrance of "banana candy", in the words of Dan Gill
, all day. Like the Sweet Olive, the flowers of the Banana Magnolia are small, only about 1" long or a little longer in this case, and yet their sweet fragrance can easily permeate a large area. Occasionally, and seemingly only rarely, flowers may be followed by small, bumpy, green cones with single-seeded fruit tucked among the scales that ripen to orange. Although, some resources suggest that the seed themselves may not be viable.
The Banana Magnolia is an easy to grow, long-lived, heirloom, evergreen shrub with a naturally upright to rounded habit and rich dark green glossy foliage. It can be used as a large specimen shrub, background shrub, hedge, screen, espalier, or is easily trained into a small single or multi-trunked tree. The Banana Magnolia has a moderate rate of growth when young and when grown under good or better conditions. Growth generally slows as they get larger and closer to their mature size of about 10' high but they may reach 20' with age. Even young Banana Magnolia plants generally flower well even under average conditions and they can be grown as container plants for many years with proper care. Where not cold hardy overwinter indoors under high light and preferably with direct sunlight.
Hardened off plants in the ground can easily take temperatures into the single digits for short periods with no apparent damage. Container grown plants should be protected if temperatures fall below freezing for any extended period of time as the soil may freeze and thus may damage the roots. Plan to do any general pruning immediately after flowering has finished as bud formation is produced on this spring's and early summer's growth. The cone-shaped, brown fuzzy buds are often large enough to be noticeable by fall when they are perched in the leaf axils along the dark stems awaiting the warmth of spring days to open.
Banana Magnolias like similar soil conditions to those of Camellias - moist, acidic, well-drained, humus rich, and moderately fertile. Preferably with an organic mulch, like pine straw, maintained beyond the dripline. Grown in more sun they tend to be fuller and denser, shorter plants whereas with more shade they tend to be taller and slightly more open in habit. Some resources suggest midday shade in hot summer climates. Under good conditions the Banana Magnolia has few pest or disease problems.
For more on information on and growing the Banana Magnolia, or Magnolia figo
, watch Dan Gill on LSU Agcenter's "Get it Growing
" by clicking here
or the "More info from Universities,..." link to the left.
For more on how to espalier Banana Magnolias and other plants from the Mississippi State Extension Service click here