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Just because it can live here, doesn't mean you should plant them.

Can Galaxy Magnolia Grow Here?

By Chris Leinster - April 16, 2020

Galaxy Magnolia are among the most stunning and graceful trees to be found anywhere on the planet. They have massive rosy lavender flowers that smell like candy! The smooth grey bark supports an elegantly branched tree. The large, glossy-green leaves have a tropical appearance. They are rated to zone 5 which means that technically, they can grow here. So, should you plant one?

Probably not. Even though Galaxy Magnolia flower weeks later than most of the varieties in its species, it still flowers very early in the season. The flowers are very sensitive to frost and turn to mush when exposed to cold. The photo accompanying this blog was taken in late March. As I write this on April 16th, there’s six inches of snow outside my window! Because our night time temperatures consistently dip below freezing well into May, it is unlikely you will ever experience a prolific bloom for more than a couple of days.

Maybe if you live in downtown Denver, protected from winter winds by tall buildings and mature trees, nestled in the “heat island” effect provided by asphalt streets and tar rooftops, maybe you might get one of these magnificent trees to live past the first couple of seasons. But even if you do, the blossoms will likely be obliterated the day they open, and a year’s worth of anticipation will evaporate just like the frost on your windshield on a chilly morning.

Just because a tree can grow here, doesn’t mean it should. The opening statement on my Tree Care Guide states “If you look around the next time you drive out to the airport you’ll get a good understanding of what kinds of trees like to grow along Colorado’s Front Range. That is to say, virtually none”.

Colorado is brutal on trees and shrubs. Our high altitude and dry air is tough on people and plants. Dramatic temperature swings are problematic also, and we’ve just experienced record highs followed by record lows. If trees are lucky enough to survive through establishment, they get pummeled by high winds and hammering hail. With all these extremes going against them, it’s a wonder any trees can survive here at all!

Redbud trees face a similar dilemma. In my native Virginia they proliferate under the forest canopy and decorate the lowlands with delightful lavender flowers each spring. They can live here, but they have a high failure rate. Arborvitae struggle here also. The soft cypress-like needles are sensitive and we lose more than we get to see survive. You should probably steer clear of all broad-leafed evergreens, with the exception of plants in the Euonymus family. I just shake my head in dismay when I walk the nursery isles at the big box stores where national buyers order Pieris and Leucothoe that don’t have a prayer of surviving in our climate.

My mission at Happy Trees is to help you select the perfect tree for your needs, whether you want shade, privacy, or just something beautiful to ornament your yard. Most nurseries have knowledgeable staff who can help with your tree selections, but there are very few nurseries left in the greater Denver area, and fewer still that offer planting services. Most landscape contractors aren’t interested in planting just one or a few trees, and those that do may not have a background in horticulture or be qualified to recommend the right tree for your situation. Happy Trees has the education and experience to make sure you purchase the perfect tree with confidence!

Most Crabapple varieties are rugged and hardy, and their prolific blooms can withstand cold snaps. Many varieties have insignificant fruits, and they come in a variety of shapes, such as globular, upright, and even weeping!

For bomb-proof vitality, Hawthorn trees are hard to beat! They are covered with white flowers in spring, followed by brightly colored berries and traffic-stopping red-orange-yellow fall color. There are many thorn-less varieties but the thorn covered shouldn’t be overlooked, as the attributes outweigh the stickers in my opinion. In my 20+ year career I can’t recall ever having to warranty a Hawthorn tree.

Maple, Oak, Linden, and Honeylocust all have a place in our gardens along the Front Range, as well as evergreens such as Pine, Spruce, Fir, and Juniper. Flowering Trees like Japanese Lilac, Golden Raintree, Pear, and Plum can all thrive in our gardens, as can Serviceberry, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Catalpa. With the careful selection and a little tender loving care, many of your favorite trees from around the world can thrive here for many generations to come!