Formerly classified as Michelia yunnanensis, (which is what we are comfortable calling them), these pearls of southern China have been lumped into the Magnolia family by taxonomists and are now referred to as Magnolia laevifolia, (syn. yunnanensis). But, regardless of the class you choose for them (yes, plants are judged by their families too) these new selections are destined to become anchors in the temperate gardening world. In its native habitat, Michelia yunnanensis grows in high elevation pine forests as a tall, understory shrub or small tree. With roots heavily mulched by the fallen needles, this species can withstand temps of 10-20 degrees F. Dark-green, shiny leaves are covered on the undersides with brown, velvety hairs (indumentum) which are softly illuminated by the filtered light of the forest.
From late winter to early spring fuzzy, brown buds begin to form in the leaf axils. They open to a display of creamy-white flowers that lie across the branches evoking a sweet, alluring fragrance. The perfect size for smaller landscapes, these lovely evergreens have proven to be quite undemanding when planted in sun to partial shade as long as they have moisture retentive soils. They can be used as flowering hedges or as stand-alone specimens in place of Camellias or Ligustrum. A pH range of 5.5-7.5 is ideal and mulching is desirable.
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