This attractive, native ornamental is popular for its fragrant flowers borne over a long period, showy cone-like fruit, handsome foliage of contrasting colors, and smooth bark.
Magnolia virginiana can be grown as a tree with a spreading, rounded crown or as a shorter, suckering, open, multi-stemmed shrub. Pale grey bark. Aromatic, spicy foliage and twigs deter deer. Green leaves with silvery undersides turn bronze-purple in the fall. Lemon-scented flowers are cup shaped, have 9-12 velvety-white petals and offer protein-rich pollen. Flowers are followed by dark red aggregate fruits with bright red seeds.
Attracts birds. Supports more than 15 species of moths and butterflies.
Fun fact: This magnolia was also called “beaver tree” by colonists who caught beavers in traps baited with the fleshy roots.
Prefers moist, rich, organic soils. Unlike most other magnolias, tolerates wet, boggy soils. Also does quite well in heavy clay soils. Preferred pH is 5.5-6.5. Generally soft-wooded and may be prone to breakage in ice storms. As pruning wounds may not heal well, shaping should be done early in the life of the tree to avoid big cuts. Prune after flowering.
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, this tree grows at a moderate rate (1 to 1½ feet per year).
Height: 10-35 ft.
Spread: 10-35 ft.
Bloom time: May to June
Sun: full sun to part shade
Water: medium to wet
photo credit: Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database