Discovered in 1765 by John and William Bartram growing near the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia, this understory tree was named for John’s good friend Benjamin Franklin. The Bartram’s saved it from total extinction. It is extinct in the wild. Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia has several specimens (pictured here) of this rare tree.
Grown for its late summer, fragrant camellia-like flowers and brilliant red-orange fall color, Franklinia requires even moisture, slightly acid, well-drained soil rich in organic matter, and full sun to part shade.
I have heard from other gardeners that Franklinia is difficult to get started. The Franklin tree has a reputation as a fussy tree. Some say the northern winter’s freeze/thaw cycle adds to the difficulty.
Here, in its third year, a Franklin tree is planted in the Miller’s House Garden by the Bethlehem Garden Club in Historic Bethlehem’s Industrial Quarter.
It grew to about 4’ last year but died back for the second time. This year it is starting out again. All 6” of it is nestled in its wire cage under a blanket of pine needles. It would be wonderful to have this specimen tree in a public garden for all to enjoy. Time will tell.
More information from Virginia Cooperative Extension .