Magnolia virginiana - Sweetbay Magnolia
Family: Magnoliaceae

Hear the scientific name

Magnolia virginiana is an upright large shrub or small multi-trunked tree that has excellent semi-evergreen foliage, fragrant creamy late spring to early summer flowers, good brown-red autumn fruits, and layered graceful branching. Sweetbay Magnolia has four-season ornamental appeal, with no danger of freezing damage to flowers.

Alternate common name: Swamp Magnolia

F   E   A   T   U   R   E   S
  form Form

-large shrub or small tree

-to 20' tall x 15' wide

-upright oval, becoming rounded with old age

-multi-trunked with layered sympodial branching

-abundantly available in B&B form

-slow to medium rate

foliage2 foliage Foliage

-dark green above and glaucous silvery-green beneath (contrasting ornamental bicolor effect when the breeze blows)

-semi-evergreen to deciduous


-elliptical to 6" long

-lustrous and waxy above

-green, slowly abscising in winter



-May-June and sporadically later

-sparse but noticeable and showy against a solid green background

-extremely fragrant when sniffed close-up


-green solid aggregate fruit turning into a splitting fruit in Sept., exposing many bright red seeds


-green, turning to gray in second year

-raised leaf scars

-terminal buds much larger than laterals, both of which are lightly pubescent

trunk Trunk

-light gray and smooth

C   U   L   T   U   R   E


-full sun to full shade

-needs acid soil for best performance

-tolerant of wet sites

distribution map


-zone 5 to 9


-native to eastern and gulf coasts of U.S.

U   S   A   G   E


-good four-season tree (outstanding summer and autumn foliage, spring and summer flowers, autumn fruits, and winter sympodial branching)

-wet site and shade tolerant

-no disappointment in flowers due to chilling damage like other Magnolias

-bicolor foliage in the breeze


-abscised leaves when wet can be slippery when walked upon

-slow growth


-foundation or specimen shrub or tree


-medium in foliage and bold when bare

-open density in foliage and when bare

S   E   L   E   C   T   I   0   N   S

Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species


-small trees or large shrubs for multi-season interest (Acer ginnala, Amelanchier species, Cornus kousa, Parrotia persica, Viburnum cassinoides, etc.)

-trees that flower in late spring or early summer (Liriodendron tulipifera, Koelreuteria paniculata, Magnolia grandiflora, Stewartia species, etc.)


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