“In the Yard” column for Nov. 16, 2012

The sweet bay magnolia, native to the southeastern and eastern United States, is the fall 2012 Louisiana Super Plant, said Allen Owings, professor of horticulture at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station.

A plant is deemed “super” based on how well it performs in the Louisiana landscape.

Sweet bay magnolia’s native habitat is swamp, bog, pond or sandy stream, Owings said, but it does well in fertile, moist, well-drained, silty loam, as well. It likes a slightly acid soil, he said.

The tree averages 30 feet in height and 20 feet in spread but can grow larger. The farther south the sweet bay magnolia grows the more likely it is to retain foliage into winter, Owings said.

Underside of the leaf is silver gray. Flowers are creamy white and about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Flowers are present in April and May and have a lemon fragrance. Yellow-green cones open late summer through fall to reveal red seeds.

bullWe’re seeing the sweet bay magnolia more in commercial landscaping, wildlife habitat and as woodland edge trees in large yards.

It grows well as a single, specimen tree or in a cluster of three to five trees.

Ed Cullen

Advocate staff writerbu