En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants that will grow under a magnolia tree.

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Wednesday - April 14, 2010

From: Valley Center, CA
Region: California
Topic: Propagation
Title: Plants that will grow under a magnolia tree.
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We live in California near San Diego and have a Magnolia Tree. We have tried to plant many types of flowers around the tree only to have them die. Is there a particular type of plant that we should be planting?

ANSWER:

You have discovered for yourself that magnolias are allelopathic to other plants.  This means that the magnolia produces chemicals that inhibit the germination of seeds and growth of plants that are potential competitors for its resources.  The roots and fallen debris (leaves, flowers, etc.) from the magnolia tree contain substances that limit the growth of other competing species that grow underneath it. In the case of magnolias, the substances are sesquiterpene lactones—costunolide and parthenolide—(see Abdelgalel, A. M. and F. Hasinaga.  2007. "Allelopathic potential of two sesquiterpene lactones from Magnolia grandiflora L." Biochemical Systematics and Ecology Vol. 35, no. 11, pp. 737-742.)  A complicating factor is that many plants won't grow in the dense shade created by the magnolia tree—or any other tree, for that matter.

Walnuts trees (Juglans sp.) also have allelopathic effects on plants growing beneath them.  The substance produced by walnuts is called juglone.  Virginia Cooperative Extension has an article "Trees for Problem Landscape Sites -- The Walnut Tree: Allelopathic Effects and Tolerant Plants" that offers some tips on reducing the effects of juglone on plants growing near walnut trees that could apply to your magnolia.  One important tip is to "Regularly clean up all fallen leaves and fruit..., keeping debris away from desired landscape plants."  They also list plants that are tolerant to juglone.  These, of course, are NOT guaranteed to be tolerant to the sesquiterpene lactones in magnolias, nor are they necessarily native to Southern California (nor, for that matter, are any of the Magnolia species). 

I could find no list of plants that are resistant to the allelopathic effects of magnolias.  So, my recommendations to you are:  1) keep the debris from the magnolia cleaned up from the area where you want the flowers/plants to grow, and 2) choose native plants that are shade-tolerant.   Here are a few recommended shade-tolerant herbaceous plants that are native to San Diego County or an adjacent California county:

Apocynum androsaemifolium (spreading dogbane)

Argentina anserina (silverweed cinquefoil)

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern)

Claytonia perfoliata (miner's lettuce)

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

Maianthemum stellatum (starry false lily of the valley)

Polystichum munitum (western swordfern)

Pteridium aquilinum (western brackenfern)

Viola adunca (hookedspur violet)


Apocynum androsaemifolium

Argentina anserina

Athyrium filix-femina

Claytonia perfoliata

Fragaria vesca

Lobelia cardinalis

Maianthemum stellatum

Polystichum munitum

Pteridium aquilinum

Viola adunca

 

 

 

 

 

More Propagation Questions

Trillium seed collection
August 08, 2008 - I am interested in propagating trillium from seeds. When are the seeds ready to be harvested? I removed day lily pods prom the plants and then found out I had picked them too early
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Ashe junipers
June 04, 2008 - I am trying to re-build what man has destroyed in the Kingsland/Marble Falls area on a property we own out there. I would LOVE to plant a couple ashe junipers for several reasons, a couple being: 1. ...
view the full question and answer

Do Fleming yaupons make pollen
November 09, 2010 - I have been told that all Will Fleming yaupons are male and can serve as effective pollinators for female yaupons (the females I have are Pride of Houston variety). Is this true? Also, can dwarf yau...
view the full question and answer

Will my Lisianthus survive the winter in Minnesota for another growing season?
March 09, 2009 - Do you know if Lisianthus plants planted one year, will come back the next year? We bought 6 gorgeous healthy plants last summer from a MN grower. We enjoyed them all last Summer and are wondering if ...
view the full question and answer

Stump sprouting of Oak trees in the wildfire area in Bastrop, TX.
May 13, 2012 - We live in Bastrop, Texas, in the wildfire area. We lost all of our trees. The oak trees have "suckers" growing from the base of the burned tree that has been cut down. They look like little bushe...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center