Port Wine Magnolia or Michelia figo is an attractive little shrub with mass of small flowers. The flowers themselves are insignificant compared to their unusual fruity scent. Some people compare the sweet scent to very ripe banana or  port wine, but to me, it is more like a cocktail of many fruits mixed together. I imagine the smell is like the mixture of banana, apple, pear, pineapple, passionfruit, mango, kiwi fruit and water melon :o)

When the sun is shining bright and the weather is warm, the fruity fragrance lingers and it gets really strong if you have a sniff at the shy little flowers. I say shy because many of them are hidden behind the green glossy leaves:o) and once open they are very fragile. They fall apart at the slightest touch.

About the plant:

  • Port Wine Magnolia – Michelia figo – Banana Shrub
  • Evergreen native to China
  • Slow growing up to 4 m high
  • Thick glossy leaves
  • Small  beige-pink flowers with purple tinge around the edges
  • Fruity fragrance
  • Neutral to Acidic soil
  • Full sun or Semi shade
  • Temperate to Cool climate – avoid heavy frost
  • Respond well to trimming
  • Suitable for hedges

We planted our port-wine magnolia long time ago (don’t remember when) and it seems that it has no problems and it survives the extreme heat of Melbourne summer. We have shaped ours into an informal 2 tiered topiary and regular trimmings make the plant grow compact and neat. Once established, it will be happy to be left alone. I hardly water it (only when the summer is very dry) but I apply slow released fertiliser once a year.  I also use some mulch to keep the soil cool and moist.

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