Stellar Ruby MagnoliaMagnolia figo 'Stellar Ruby' (PP# 29,778)
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Magnolia figo 'Stellar Ruby' (PP# 29,778)
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Stellar Ruby Magnolia is a new and exciting evergreen shrub with a dense, pyramidal form, growing quickly to 12 feet tall and ultimately approaching 20 feet. It has an upright habit, and it makes an elegant evergreen shrub anywhere in the garden. In spring, and continuing through summer and early fall, many clusters of 3 to 5 blooms develop between the leaves. These are rich ruby-red, with a yellow center, and they have a unique and powerful fruity fragrance. Grow this plant around your home, out in shrub beds, as a specimen or as a screening plant.
Full sun or partial shade suit the Stellar Ruby Magnolia perfectly. It grows best in moist but well-drained soil, enriched with organic material, but established plants have some drought tolerance. It is free of pests or diseases and deer usually ignore it. If you want a very neat, compact shape, or a hedge, trim in early summer, after the spring blooms are over.
Southern gardeners may know the banana shrub, a broad evergreen with inconspicuous flowers but a powerful scent that fills the garden. It has never been considered an important garden plant, with a sprawling habit, and taking years to begin to bloom, as well as only being hardy in the warmest zones. All that has now changed, thanks to the hard work and dedication of one man, Thomas P. McCracken, a dedicated plant-lover with vision. His breeding has given us the Stellar Ruby Magnolia, an improved form of the banana shrub, with a dense, upright habit, hardiness into zone 7, and best of all, clusters of blooms all summer that are longer-lived, a rich ruby red, and just as fragrant. This plant has now leapt to prominence as a top-rated evergreen shrub, perfect for a hedge or foundation planting, and truly a great addition to any garden.
The Stellar Ruby Magnolia is an upright evergreen shrub with a dense habit, growing rapidly to 12 feet within 10 years, at which time it will be just 5 feet wide. Over time it will probably approach 18 feet in height. The leaves are leathery and oval, resembling perhaps the leaves of its relative the southern magnolia, but smaller, between 4 and 6 inches long, and about 3 inches wide. Their rich, glossy surface and dark green color makes this plant an excellent foliage evergreen, even when not blooming.
While the old banana bush took years to flower, the Stellar Ruby Magnolia begins to bloom even when it is young and small, so you won’t be waiting long to admire its beautiful blooms. These are carried in clusters of 3 to 5, sprouting from between the leaves on the upper parts of the branches. Each bloom is about 2½ inches across, star-shaped, with 6 broad petals. They resemble the blooms of the deciduous magnolias, and the petals are colored a rich ruby red, with many stamens and a yellow center like a miniature pineapple. Altogether a very charming bloom. Flowering is very dense in spring, and continues through summer and into fall, so that there are almost always blooms on this attractive plant. Each bloom lasts 3 to 5 days, and since the flowers in a cluster bloom one after the other, each cluster could last up to 3 weeks. The powerful scent of the blooms is fruity, resembling both bananas and pears, and certainly adds a unique element to growing this plant.
With its dense, upright habit the Stellar Ruby Magnolia is incredibly useful and versatile in your garden. Plant it between windows as a foundation evergreen around your home. Plant a specimen on a lawn. Grow it at the back of your shrub borders, as an attractive backdrop. Plant it at the edges of a wooded area or along a pathway. Use it for a fast-growing screen by planting at 3 or 4-foot intervals in a row. It can be left to grow naturally or trimmed once a year to keep it neat and dense.
The Stellar Ruby Magnolia is more cold-hardy than older forms of this plant, and it will take brief dips to minus 5 degrees (into zone 6) and grow well in zones 7, 8 and 9. In colder parts of zone 7 it should be planted in a sheltered location, perhaps against the wall of your home.
The Stellar Ruby Magnolia can be grown in a wide range of light conditions, from full sun to relatively deep partial shade. In shade it may flower less and be more open in its growth, but it will still thrive. This plant grows best in moist but well-drained soils and is not so happy in very wet or very dry soil. The soil should be rich, and either acidic or alkaline. Add plenty of organic material when planting, and use more as mulch, keeping it clear of the trunk and foliage.
No special maintenance is needed for your Stellar Ruby Magnolia. If you want to trim it, do this after the first flush of spring blooms, so that it has a full season to grow and bloom well the next year. This tough plant is trouble free, with no particular pest or disease problems, and it is deer resistant too. It is also salt tolerant and once established it is not troubled by periods of drought, although it will grow best with a steady supply of moisture.
The banana bush, Magnolia figo, is native to China, and it has been long used as a background evergreen in southern gardens. It was originally thought to be a type of tulip tree (Liriodendron) and then it was placed in a group called Michelia. Recent DNA analysis has confirmed that it is in fact a type of Magnolia.
Thomas P. McCracken owns McCracken’s Nursery in Zebulon, North Carolina, and he is a keen plant lover and breeder of the unusual. In 2004 he crossed together two distinct varieties of this plant, Magnolia figo var. crassipes and Magnolia figo var. skinneriana. By 2010 he had a batch of seedlings in bloom, and one stood out, for its many larger, richly-colored flowers, fast-growth and dense, pyramidal habit. Tests later showed it was also more cold-resistant than other varieties of this plant. By 2014 he was ready to start propagating it, so he named it ‘Stellar Ruby’ and received a patent for it in 2018. This new plant is turning the heads of all the nurserymen and gardeners who see it, and it is sure to become a classic.
We love being able to offer new and exciting plants like the Stellar Rub Magnolia, and you will be amazed when you see it in bloom in your own garden. Easy to grow, fast and reliable, this trouble-free shrub is sure to please everyone. Orders are already flooding in, so order your specimens now, while we still have stock available.