The magnolia plant is commonly found in private gardens, botanical gardens and public parks in areas of the world where it can thrive. Magnolia plants are both deciduous and evergreen and are sought after for their huge, showy, aromatic flowers and deliciously fragrant bark.

Magnolias are native to Asia, including Japan, China and the Himalayas; North America; Central America; the Caribbean and South America. This article will describe the plant, its varieties and how best to grow it.

magnolia plant tulip variety

General Info about the Magnolia Plant

A magnolia plant is a shrub or a tree named in honor of Pierre Magnol, a 17th century French botanist. There are over 200 species of magnolia, and the genus is believed to be at least 20 million years old. The plant is related to the bay laurel, the avocado tree, the black tulip tree and the nutmeg tree.

Magnolias are mostly planted for their beauty and fragrance, though the flowers and leaves are edible in many species. The flower petals are pickled, while leaves that are still young and tender can be broiled and eaten. Older, tougher leaves are powdered and used as a spice or used to wrap food, much like banana leaves. Flower buds and bark are used in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine. The wood of the cucumber tree is used for lumber. The magnolia plant is also a host plant for caterpillars.

Main Varieties of Magnolia Plant

Varieties of magnolia plant include:

1. Cucumber Tree

This tree, which can grow to 90 feet tall, is native to eastern North America and is grown in the eastern United States and Europe as an ornamental. The flowers open in mid-spring, and the fruits are about three inches long. They look like cucumbers at first, which gives the tree its name.

2. Yulan

This magnolia plant grows to about 45 feet high. It’s native to China and is planted near temples. The flowers are pure white with nine petals.

3. Southern Magnolia

This big tree, which can grow to 100 feet tall, is a favorite in the southern United States. It has fragrant, cup-shaped flowers that appear in the summer. The flowers are big and can be 10 inches across when they’re fully opened.

4. Magnolia x soulangiana

This tree is a hybrid between the Yulan and a shrub magnolia called M. liliflora. It is a very popular, small tree that’s grown in Europe and the eastern United States. The flowers open in April before the leaves and are about 3 to 4 inches long. This magnolia plant has been used to produce many cultivars. All of them have white petals with a splash of purple-pink.

5. Sweet Bay

This magnolia is an evergreen in the southern part of its range and deciduous in the northern part. It grows to around 30 feet high and produces fragrant flowers from June to September. In the fall it produces red fruits with red seeds. The leaves are smaller than those found on most other magnolia trees.

6. Campbell’s Magnolia

This magnolia plant is native to the Himalayas. Its pale pink, deep pink or white flowers blossom early, often in February or March. They can be 10 inches across. The tree grows to around 60 feet in the garden but can be much taller in the wild. Campbell’s magnolia often has multiple trunks.

How to Grow the Magnolia Plant in Your Garden

Magnolias are easy to grow, but the site for the plant needs to be carefully chosen. Some of the trees grow quite large and even smaller trees don’t like to be transplanted. The tree likes well-drained, rich loam that’s just slightly acid or neutral, though M. grandiflora can tolerate being planted by the sea, and the sweet bay can grow in soil that’s a bit wet. Compost and rotted manure should be added to the soil when the tree is planted. Magnolias do best if they’re planted singly as opposed to being grouped together.

After the hole is dug, the burlap should be cut from around the root ball, and the root ball should be judiciously pruned to prevent girdling. Then, the plant should be placed a little higher than the hole and staked to support it. Place the stake in the hole first to avoid hurting the roots. Add mulch, and water at least once a day until the plant is established.


The magnolia has been grown for millennia for its beauty and culinary and medicinal usefulness. Once established, the magnolia plant is easy to care for and is both pest and disease resistant.

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