Jane Japanese magnolia named Louisiana Super Plant for spring 2024

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Japanese magnolias are completing their bloom and flushing out new, light green foliage. These beautiful trees are some of the first plants to signify that spring is just around the corner. With their pink-to-purple blooms, they’re one of the most strikingly beautiful trees.

As luck would have it, this is the perfect time of year to plant them! Local nurseries usually carry more than one variety, and there are many to choose from. One you might want to consider is the Jane Japanese magnolia, which is LSU AgCenter’s spring 2024 Louisiana Super Plant.

Jane is recognized for its vibrantly colored flowers. It’s a notable member of the distinguished Girls Series developed by the USDA National Arboretum in the late 1950s, making it a longstanding favorite in gardens. As its flowers unfurl, they expose a delicate white interior, adding to its beauty. Jane is a magnolia variety that blooms later in the season, reducing its risk of frost damage during the spring.

This tree is relatively slow growing and typically achieves a height and spread of about 15 feet, though it can occasionally reach up to 20 feet, positioning itself as a small-to-medium-sized tree for landscaping. Admired for its striking silvery bark and multiple trunks, Jane is ideal as a standalone feature. Its thick canopy and lush summer leaves also make it suitable for a dramatic hedge. Preferring conditions from full sun to partial shade, Jane is remarkably resilient to cold temperatures.

Jane is a hybrid of Magnolia liliiflora Nigra crossed with Magnolia stellata Rosea. Other members of the Girls Series come with adorable names such as Ann, Betty, Jane, Jon Jon, Judy, Pinkie, Randy, Ricki and Susan. Many of these varieties can be found at local nurseries.

What’s especially striking about these magnolias is that they flower before leaves emerge. Gorgeous blooms on barren stems are the quintessential image of spring in my mind. Large, fuzzy, gray buds break followed closely by gorgeous, tulip-shaped blooms that open into little saucer shapes of delicate pink to white colors.

Most Japanese magnolia varieties are relatively small trees, growing slowly to only 25 to 30 feet high by 20 feet wide. They are multitrunked unless trained to one major trunk. They grow best in full to partial sun in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Be sure to water in well after planting and follow up with routine watering in the first couple of weeks for best establishment. Water during droughts in the first year. Skip fertilizer in year one, but you can begin fertilizing in the spring of year two.

Magnolias prefer a loamy soil with a lower pH of 5.0 to 6.5, but they can tolerate alkaline soils. Iron and manganese chlorosis can be an issue in soils with high pH, causing yellowing of the leaves. This issue can be corrected after soil tests confirm an iron or manganese deficiency with elemental sulfur to help lower the pH. Fertilize with ferrous (iron) sulfate if iron is deficient. You may apply a water-soluble, complete fertilizer with micronutrients at the recommended rates to combat manganese issues.

Trim branches up to keep the tree looking tidy, and keep the many trunks trained to either only one trunk or just two or three. It’s best to prune after flowering. Be sure to apply a 2-to-4-inch-thick layer of mulch. Magnolias are shallow rooted, and mulch helps moderate soil temperatures and conserve moisture.

Scale is the main insect problem for magnolias. Use horticultural oil in cool weather to help control. Once it heats up, use another type of organic spray to control. This is because placing oil on the leaves in intense sun can burn the plant.

These magnolias make a great accent specimen or foundation tree for framing your house. Be sure to plant a good 10 feet away from the house or awnings.

The flowers are extremely fragrant and make gorgeous cut flowers to bring in, arrange and enjoy. The room will be filled with spicy, sweet, invigorating scents, and the colors will warm your home.

Tree with pink blooms.

The Jane Japanese magnolia has been named the Louisiana Super Plant for spring 2024. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Tree with pink blooms.

Japanese magnolias are widely grown in all areas of the Gulf South and considered by many a favorite among the small flowering trees. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Tree with pink blooms.

Japanese magnolia flowers are extremely fragrant and make gorgeous cut flowers to bring in, arrange and enjoy. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

3/6/2024 4:48:33 PM
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