Brackens Brown Beauty MagnoliaMagnolia grandiflora 'Bracken's Brown Beauty'
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Magnolia grandiflora 'Bracken's Brown Beauty'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia is likely the fastest-growing and densest variety of this popular tree. It can add 2 feet of growth each year when young, soon becoming a gorgeous pyramid that will ultimately reach 50 feet. The leaves are glossy and attractive, with pronounced brown backs, especially visible in spring. It begins to flower almost immediately, with 4-inch white, fragrant blooms smothering it all through late spring and early summer. A perfect specimen for a larger garden, and also superb as a fast-growing screen or avenue. It can be grown on a south-facing wall in zone 5, and thrives in coastal gardens too.
Plant Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia in full sun for the best results, especially in colder areas. It grows well in most soils, favoring richer, well-drained soils. Once established it is very drought tolerant, as well as being left-alone by deer, pests and diseases. It is tolerant of salt-spray too. With its natural dense growth no trimming is needed – just plant and admire.
The southern magnolia has a special place in the hearts of many Americans. Redolent of the Old South, plantations and Gone With the Wind. It is also a beautiful tree in its own right – one of our handsomest and dramatic native trees. The large, glossy leaves and amazing fragrant flowers make for a plant that is always captivating. For growers in colder areas, though, or for someone who wants to see a substantial tree sooner rather than later, the decision of which variety – there are many – to grow is an important one. Especially in colder zones it is essential to choose the right tree, one that is reliably cold-resistant, and that is where Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia steps up. Although found at a nursery in the south, it has proven to be reliably hardy in zone 6 and also, if properly situated, in zone 5. It is also fast-growing, adding about 18 inches every year while young, and yet staying dense and bushy. The foliage is pretty special two, with abundant brown ‘felt’ on the lower side, especially noticeable on new growth. That adds a rugged charm to a tree that is an all-round top pick. The flowers may be smaller than in many varieties, but they are seen even on young trees, and produced in amazing abundance.
Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia is a fast-growing evergreen tree, growing as much as two feet a year when young, so that a 7-year tree will be 12 feet tall, and continue to grow rapidly, with a mature tree being up to 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It is important to choose a planting spot that will accommodate a tree of that size, because it won’t be so many years until it gets there. Don’t plant under overhead cables or over underground services, and plant it at least 15 feet from buildings, fences and property lines. This tree is densely-branched, so it stays dense and solid, despite the rapid growth-rate, and it keeps its branches close to the ground, forming an attractive pyramid of branches and leaves. This dense, compact structure is pretty unique among Southern magnolia, which is usually more open. The bark on mature stems and trunks is dark gray and relatively smooth, with the texture of elephant’s skin – not that you will see much bark unless you prune up the lower branches.
The evergreen leaves are between 4 and 8 inches long – smaller than in many other varieties – and they are smooth ovals tapering to a short point. Their leathery texture and glossy, dark-green color makes them especially attractive year round. Young leaves are bright, light-green, with a dense light-brown underside, making a lovely two-color effect in spring. As they mature the colors darken, to deep green with dark-brown undersides.
Normally it can take 20 years for a Southern magnolia to bloom effectively, but with Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia blooms are seen even on very young plants, and by 5 or 6 years of age large numbers of blooms form, in a spectacular display. The main flowering season is typically from early May to mid-July, but may vary, depending on your climate zone. After the initial big display sporadic flowers can recur all the way into fall. The flowers are smaller than normal, usually being about 4 inches in diameter, flat, open saucers of creamy-white, with thick, lustrous petals surrounding a yellow center. They have a fragrance often compared to gardenias, with a touch of citrus, and are wonderful to experience. These are followed by small ‘pine-cone’ seed pods that release bright red seeds in fall. Being smaller than usual, these pods don’t present much of a litter problem.
Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia is a superb larger tree for a lawn specimen in a garden, or for filling a corner of your property. It does cast year-round shadow, so consider that when choosing a spot for it. It also makes a great screening plant, growing fast and having many great features. Space plants 15 feet apart. Grow a pair framing an entrance gate, or space them 30 to 40 feet apart for an avenue. With high salt-tolerance it is also very suitable for coastal areas.
This is one of the most cold-resistant varieties, and thrives from zone 6 to zone 9, in both the hot, humid weather of the South-east and Gulf, as well as in the more Mediterranean climate of the west coast. It can also be grown in zone 5 in a very sheltered position, perhaps in the angle between two walls or as an espalier on a south-facing wall.
We recommend planting Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia in full sun for the best results, but a little shade during the day won’t cause much of a problem. Deep, rich, but well-drained soil is best. This tree is very drought-resistant once established, and tolerates dry conditions well. It grows in all kinds of soils, except for very alkaline ones.
Not only deer resistant, but normally free of any significant pest or disease problems, Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia is very easy to grow. With its dense growth coming naturally, trimming is probably never going to be needed unless you need to raise it for clearance. Remove lower branches while young, to avoid scarring the trunk.
You could find the southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, growing naturally between central Florida and southern Virginia, usually in moist areas near swamps and rivers, but not in areas where the ground is saturated with water. Although smaller there, it also grows on coastal sand dunes. Wild trees can be over 100 feet tall.
Ray Bracken lived a long and full life as a prominent part of the South Carolina nursery industry, and Ray Bracken Nursery in Easley is well-known. In 1968 he had 2,500 seedling southern magnolias growing, and he spotted one that looked very special. After studying it further he was granted a patent in 1985 (PP# 5,520, now expired) giving it the official name of ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’.
Since its discovery, Bracken’s Brown Southern Magnolia has become the bench-mark for density, rapid-growth and prolific flowering. Always in demand, but rarely available, we are happy we found these trees, but if you want one, order it now, because we know what a big seller this magnolia is.