× Gordlinia grandiflora SWEET TEA
Common Name: gordlinia 
Type: Tree
Family: Theaceae
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies


Best grown in acidic, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Must have good soil drainage, but do not allow soils to dry out. Consider raised plantings in poorly-drained heavy clay soils. Winter hardy to USDA Zone 7. Perhaps best planted in full sun in northern parts of its growing range, but appreciates some afternoon shade in hot summer climates.

Noteworthy Characteristics

× Gordlinia grandiflora, commonly known as mountain gordlinia, is an intergeneric hybrid resulting from a controlled cross made in August of 2002 by Ranney and Fantz of the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University between Franklinia alatamaha (deciduous female parent commonly called Franklin tree) and Gordonia lasianthus (evergreen male parent commonly called loblolly bay). Nine hybrids were propagated in December of 2003 from seeds produced by this intergeneric cross.

This fast-growing hybrid typically grows as a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree to 20’ (occasionally to as much as 30’) tall and to 15’ wide. Large, partially cupped to flattened, camellia-like flowers (to 5” diameter), each sporting 5 white petals surrounding a showy boss of egg-yolk yellow center stamens, bloom from July to September. Narrow, lanceolate-elliptic leaves (to 4-8” long) with serrulate margins are dark green above and pale green beneath. Leaves are semi-evergreen, but usually acquire some shades of red and orange in fall.

Specific epithet from Latin means with large flowers.

SWEET TEA is in reference to this hybrid being a member of the tea family with flowers having a mild sweet fragrance.


Wilt and root rot can be serious problems. In general, this tree has a reputation for being difficult to grow.


Specimen tree or large shrub valued for its late summer flowers, good fall color and interesting history. Deserves a prominent location in the landscape.