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How to Grow Magnolia grandiflora Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Southern magnolia

The Magnolia grandiflora plant is a fast growing native tree (or rounded shrub) of southeastern USA.

It is loved for its large showy flowers. These are heavily fragrant and may appear before the formation of leaves. Their leaves are also very attractive as they have a glossy appearance and are green above and rusty brown underneath.

Southern magnolia

Magnolia leaves photograph by Wendy Cutler.

Close up of Magnolia flower

photograph by Alan Schmierer.

Plants tend to have a deciduous nature in colder areas where the winters are harsh.

Plants can reach great heights in the right conditions, and as a hard wood their timber is often used to make furniture.

Quick Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Magnolia grandiflora
  • Common Name (s): Bull bay, Large tree magnolia, Southern magnolia, Bullbay
  • Cultivars: Around 50 including Angustifolia (France); Bracken's Brown Beauty (USA); Edith Bogue (USA); Exmouth (UK); Goliath (UK); Little Gem (USA / Dwarf reaching about 14 feet (4 m) in height.
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): 7 to 9 (winter cultivars such as Bracken’s Brown Beauty can be grown to USDA zone 5B) / H5

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Deciduous tree, evergreen tree, or shrub
  • Plant Height: 60 to 90 feet (18 to 27 m)
  • Plant Spread: 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 m)
  • Blooms: Late spring to early summer.
  • Flower Details: Cup-shaped. White. Heavily scented. Large (6 to 12 inches diameter / 15 to 30 cm).
  • Leaf Foliages: Large: length - 8 inches / 20 cm; width 5 inches (12 cm). Broadleaf. Dark green top, sometimes rusty brown beneath. Glossy. leathery. Alternative, pinnate. Oblong-elliptic.
  • Fruit: Showy. Ovoid. Rose coloured. Cone-like.

Growing Conditions

  • Best Conditions: Partial shade (for best results) to full sun. Protected area.
  • Suitable Soil Types: Well drained. Rich, Porous. Loam, sandy, clay.
  • Suitable Soil pH: Acidic or neutral
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Moist (good drainage essential)
  • Sowing, planting, and Propagation: Sow seeds in the autumn. Take semi-ripe cuttings towards the end of summer or in early autumn. Layer shoots in early spring.
  • Care: Medium maintenance plant. Light pruning in the spring. Also Prune if training against a wall in the summer.

Further Information

  • Best used for: Ornamental tree, parks, lawns. Winter interest.
  • Family:
  • Closely Related Species:
  • Miscellaneous: Good timber. Produces seeds from about ten years of age. Naturally found in swamps and at the edges of water, or as a shrub in dunes. Can tolerate air pollution. Takes at least 20 years to reach full height.
  • Family: Magnoliaceae
  • Further Reading and References used for this Magnolia grandiflora growing guide: NC Extension; Wikipedia