Give Now

My Dear Magnolia Virginiana

Sweetbay Magnolia flowers have a citrusy fragrance that makes me want to sniff them whenever I am nearby.

Flowers on a Sweetbay Magnolia tree. (Magnolia virginiana)

I am fortunate to have inherited one of our most attractive North American native trees, Magnolia virginiana.

It has been in my garden for many years and was a well-established resident long before I began gardening there almost 30 years ago. So it is certainly long-lived, as well as handsome.

Its common names are Sweet Bay Magnolia and Laurel Magnolia, and it is hardy in zones 5 through 9. It is a slow to medium grower and tops out at 10 to 20 feet tall and five feet wide. It has an upright oval habit, light grey smooth bark and dark green leaves that are silvery underneath.

In summer it produces small creamy-white blooms like magnolias in shape, as you might guess given the name. The flowers have a citrusy fragrance that makes me want to sniff them whenever I am nearby.

I also love the glossy red seeds that follow the blooms and ripen in September. They are 2 to 3 inches long and quite showy.

This tree will grow both in sun and in shade and is reputed to prefer acidic soils and be tolerant of wet soils. Mine grows happily in my clay soil on a slope, however, and is often dry so I must assume it is not fussy.

A cultivar ‘Green Shadow’ is a cold-hardy evergreen. I actually know nothing of the pedigree of my tree, but I just love it!

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Focus on Flowers:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Focus on Flowers

About The Host

Search Focus on Flowers

Focus on Flowers on Flickr