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MAGNOLIA virginiana

Image of Magnolia virginiana

Mark A. Miller

Family

Magnoliaceae

Botanical Name

MAGNOLIA virginiana

Plant Common Name

Sweetbay

General Description

The palest butter yellow blooms of sweet bay magnolia offer a delicious lemony fragrance when they bloom in late spring or early summer. Sweetbay may be single or multi-trunked and develops an oval or pyramidal crown when mature. It is native to the eastern and southeastern United States from Massachusetts to Texas and favors open, moist wooded areas and swamplands.

The handsome elliptical green leaves are silvery underneath. Although mainly a deciduous tree, it may remain semi-evergreen in warm, mild winter landscapes. Creamy white, chalice-shaped flowers with a sweet, lemony smell bloom from late spring into summer. Each blossom lasts for two to three days and stays open just during the day. The petals fade to yellow as they age. The small aggregate fruits are conical and lined with follicles that split open to show orange-red seeds that are eaten by birds.

Grow sweetbay in moist, acidic soils. Full sun exposure will encourage fuller, denser growth and an even habit, but this magnolia also withstands partial shade. It is a resilient tree ideal for home landscapes as well as moist, lowland sites. Southern forms that used to be identified by the now defunct variety name, australis, are less tolerant of cold and remain fully evergreen in winter.

This tree is the larval host plant of the sweetbay silkmoth (Callosamia securifera).

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 6

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    15'-60' / 4.6m - 18.3m

  • Width

    10'-25' / 3.0m - 7.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, South-Central United States

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Orange Red

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green, Blue Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green, Blue Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Yellow Green, Tan, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Fall) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Yellow Green, Tan

  • Bark Color

    Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Foundation, Shade Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    No