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

Scarifying seeds of evergreen sumacs from Lockhart TX
May 19, 2013 - Dear Smarty Plants, We would like to grow our own evergreen sumacs. Consulting Nokes book, How to Grow Native Plants on page 310, it says to scarify fresh uncleaned seeds for 30-45 minutes. On page...
view the full question and answer

Male and female Maclura pomifera trees in Boaz AL
September 06, 2010 - To grow a Maclura pomifera female tree, do I have to have a male tree for the female to produce fruit?
view the full question and answer

Pollinator to Arkansas yucca from Arlington TX
May 15, 2012 - Thank you Barbara for your answer. However, my Arkansas yuccas bloom every year, but do not set seed. I am asking for the name of the moth that pollinates them, or other native plants that serve as ...
view the full question and answer

Mistake in propagation of Mustang grapes from Victoria TX
July 27, 2013 - I didn't read first! I planted dried mustang grape seeds in good potting soil, watered and put on tall clear plastic bags to retain moisture, will they ever come up? Should I get the seed out and r...
view the full question and answer

Mexican Sycamore trees grown from seed
November 15, 2011 - If someone is selling an alleged Mexican Sycamore grown from a seed harvested from a mature tree growing in Austin, is it likely to be a TRUE Mexican Sycamore -- or has it most likely been pollinated ...
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