Victoria Southern MagnoliaMagnolia grandiflora ‘Victoria’
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Magnolia grandiflora ‘Victoria’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Victoria Southern Magnolia is a selection of that beautiful tree that is renowned for thriving in areas like the northeast, where winters are mild but summers are cool and damp. It develops into a large, upright tree with dense branching to resist heavy snow, and grows between 20 and 50 feet tall, depending on where in the country it is growing. The beautiful leaves are at least 8 inches long, with a dark-green glossy surface and a furry underside of rusty-red hairs. The fragrant flowers are up to 12 inches across, with thick petals of creamy-white.
Full sun is best for the Victoria Southern Magnolia, especially in cooler zones, and it grows well in most soils, favoring rich, deep, well-drained soils, but very adaptable. Once established it is drought resistant and generally free of pests, diseases, deer damage, and the impact of salt-spray. It needs no trimming or special attention, and is very easy to grow.
Evergreen trees have a special appeal, and the southern magnolia is one that really stands out. Its bold foliage and gorgeous flowers – pure-white and fragrant – bring to mind visions of hot summer days and mint juleps, but those ‘hot summer days’ also limit where it can be grown. Gardeners in northern states, both east and west, can covet these wonderful trees, but they often can’t grow them well. That’s why the Victoria Southern Magnolia was selected in just such an area – British Columbia, where the northwestern climate means the winters are mild enough not to kill this tree, but summers are often not hot enough for good growth from a tree adapted to the heat and humidity of the South. The Victoria Southern Magnolia is different. It blooms well in cooler summers, bringing that southern charm to unlikely parts of the country. Plus, when grown in cooler climates it develops a dense, strong form that resists breakage from snow – always a danger in cooler climates. So if you are in the Pacific northwest, or north-eastern states, this tree gives you the chance to enjoy the coveted beauty of the southern magnolia, without moving your garden to New Orleans.
The Victoria Southern Magnolia is an upright evergreen tree with a good growth-rate, reaching 15 to 18 feet within 10 years, with a spread of about 12 feet. In time it will top 50 feet by 30 feet wide, but in cooler areas it tends to remain smaller. Allow plenty of room, especially for that broad spread, when planting, and place at least 15 feet away from your house, property lines, roads and other potential obstructions. Don’t plant it beneath power lines either. The smooth bark is dark gray-brown, developing a texture like an elephant’s skin. Unless you prune it up you won’t see much of that bark though, because the broad spread of the lower branches tends to hide it. This variety has an unusually dense structure and strong branches, making it very resistant to heavy snow loads, and ideal for areas where winter snow is regular, without severe low temperatures. When grown in warmer areas it generally develops a broader, more open structure.
The leaves are unique and spectacular, big leathery ovals, with a deep-green glossy upper surface. Their smooth, lustrous look and feel really is a joy in any garden, and the underside is covered in a dense, golden-brown coating that only adds to the beauty. They are 6 to 10 inches long, and 3 to 5 inches wide, smooth edged, ending suddenly in a short point. Although deciduous, leaves are dropped in both fall and spring. The flowers appear through summer, over many weeks, coming earlier or later depending on where the tree is grown. This variety is a reliable bloomer even in zone 7 and in areas with cooler summers, but it also blooms well of course in warmer zones too. The flowers are enormous and spectacularly beautiful, up to 12 inches across, with 8 to 12 broad, flat petals of creamy-white surrounding a raised center. They have a rich summer fragrance a little like a lemony gardenia scent, perhaps. Flowers develop into curious seed pods a little like pine cones, that open in fall and winter to surprise us with large, bright-red seeds that remain attached by a silken thread after their release, before falling to the ground.
This is a large specimen tree for a good-sized garden, planted alone or as an avenue or screen. It can be used on a lawn or to fill a corner of your property. It also grows well trained up against a south-facing wall, something that is often done in climates with cooler summers. Simply tie back the branches as they grow – it makes a wonderful wall tree and will bloom well.
Hardy from zone 7 to zone 9, this is perhaps the best variety of southern magnolia to grow in cooler zones, especially in areas with cool, moist summers. It is ideal for northern states, especially in the northeast – but it will also grow well in its natural home – the southeast, and in areas like southern California as well.
Full sun will give you the best results with the Victoria Southern Magnolia, but short periods of shade through the day are tolerated. Too much shade and it will become weak and open, and rarely flower. It grows best in deep, rich, well-drained soil, but this is an adaptable plant, growing in most soils, except for very alkaline ones, and once established it is remarkably drought resistant.
This spectacular tree is generally free of pest and disease problems, and very long-lived. It is deer resistant and also resistant to salt-spray, so it thrives near the ocean. Once established it needs virtually no attention, and rarely if ever needs trimming.
The southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, grows naturally from southern Virginia into central Florida, and west into eastern parts of Texas. It generally grows in moist areas, near swamps and rivers, but it doesn’t grow where it can be flooded, not liking saturated soils. It also grows on coastal sand dunes, but only as a shrub. Trees are very long-lived, and can grow very large. The largest, growing in Mississippi, is over 120 feet tall. It was among the early trees taken back to Europe by early settlers, and Mark Catesby, an English plant collector, brought it to England in 1726. There has always been interest in finding varieties that will grow well in cooler areas, and the variety ‘Victoria’ seems to have been found around 1930 growing in the town of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We don’t know more than that, and even that is disputed, with some experts claiming it was around earlier, in the 1920s, with no recorded origin.
This superb tree won the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from England’s Royal Horticultural Society in 2002 – a tribute to how well it grows in areas with cooler summers. It is always in demand, but not many trees are produced by nurseries, so supplies are always tight. We have some lovely trees available, but order yours now, because they won’t stay in stock for long.