Magnolia virginiana 'Jim Wilson' MOONGLOW
Common Name: sweet bay magnolia 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Magnoliaceae
Zone: 5 to 10
Height: 15.00 to 35.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Creamy white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Clay Soil, Wet Soil, Air Pollution


Easily grown in acidic, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, rich, organic soils, but, unlike most other magnolias, tolerates wet, boggy soils. Also does quite well in the heavy clay soils of Missouri. Appreciates a protected location in USDA Zone 5 where it is not reliably winter hardy throughout.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Magnolia virginiana, commonly called sweet bay magnolia, is native to the southeastern United States north along the Atlantic coast to New York. In the northern part of its cultivated growing range, it typically grows as either a 15-20' tall tree with a spreading, rounded crown or as a shorter, suckering, open, multi-stemmed shrub. In the deep South, it is apt to be more tree-like, sometimes growing to 60' tall. Features cup-shaped, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white, waxy flowers (2-3" diameter) which appear in mid-spring and sometimes continue sporadically throughout the summer. Oblong-lanceolate shiny green foliage is silvery beneath. Foliage is evergreen to semi-evergreen in the South, but generally deciduous in the St. Louis area. Cone-like fruits with bright red seeds mature in fall and can be showy. See also Magnolia virginiana var. australis which primarily differs from the species by being somewhat taller, having more fragrant flowers and being more likely to be evergreen.

Genus name honors Pierre Magnol, French botanist (1638-1715).

Specific epithet means of Virginia.

‘Jim Wilson’, commonly sold as MOONGLOW, is a patented cultivar that is distinguished from the species by (1) more vigorous upright growth, (2) better cold hardiness with semi-evergreen foliage in the northern part of its range, and (3) slightly larger flowers. This is a medium-sized tree with an oval to vase-shaped form. It typically grows over time to 35’ tall with a spread of 18’. Cup-shaped, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white, waxy flowers (2-3” diameter) appear in mid-spring (May-June) for about one month and sometimes continue sporadically in the summer. Semi-evergreen elliptic to lanceolate leaves are glossy dark green above and silvery-green below. Cone-like fruits with bright red seeds mature in fall and can be showy. U.S. Plant Patent PP12,065 was issued on August 28, 2001.


No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to chlorosis in alkaline soils. Not reliably winter hardy in the St. Louis area.

Garden Uses

Excellent specimen tree for lawns or tall multi-stemmed shrub for shrub borders. Use in foundation plantings, near patios or on the periphery of woodland areas. Often planted in parks. Will grow in wet soils such as those found in low spots or near ponds/streams.