Name: Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Type of Plant:  Small tree (10 to 20 feet tall, usually shorter in sandy or poor soil, taller in rich loam) for full sun or part shade. Hardy in zones 5 through 9 and native to Eastern North America.

Why I love this: I love the sweetbay magnolia first because of its handsome foliage. The top of the leaf is dark green while the underside is silver. This flashes so beautifully in a slight breeze. I have mine planted where the cardinals land there on their way to the bird feeder, and the bright red bird against the silver-green of the leaf undersides is always so lovely. Secondly, the white flowers that appear in early summer are crisp looking and fragrant. Red fruits attract birds and other wildlife.

A Word to the Wise: Grow sweetbay magnolia in slightly acid soil…this isn’t a tree to place in the middle of a lawn you lime regularly, for example. This plant grows fairly quickly so don’t be afraid to start small. I have a variety called ‘Moonglow’ that I bought as a two-foot tall stick. Six years later it’s eight feet tall and about five feet wide, with a multi-trunk habit and upright form. Magnolia virginiana supports a wide range of wildlife. It’s also a tree that tolerates damp soils.


The flowers aren’t showy on this tree because they are tucked into the handsome leaves. But they are elegant and sweetly fragrant, so it would be a great tree to plant near a deck where you can both see and smell the flowers. See the slight sliver backsides that show on some of these leaves? This is especially noticeable on breezy days.

The flowers aren't totally showy on the sweetbay magnolia, but are tucked sweetly among the handsome foliage.

Here’s another reason to love this plant: it is semi-evergreen. This photo was taken in mid-November and you can see how green the leaves still are. In a mild winter the leaves stay on the tree well into January.

Don`t copy text!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This