Magnolia virginiana

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 5 Professionals
Common Name: sweet bay magnolia
Type: Tree
Family: Magnoliaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 5 to 10
Height: 10.00 to 35.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 35.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: 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

Culture

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).

Problems

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.