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Sweetbay MagnoliaMagnolia virginiana

  • Sweetbay Magnolia shrub - Magnolia virginiana
  • Sweetbay Magnolia - Magnolia virginiana
  • Sweetbay Magnolia - Magnolia virginiana
While it may not produce as many blooms as other magnolias, the sweetbay magnolia should not be counted out of your landscape plans. This tree flowers late in the spring, avoiding much of the frost that can spoil a blooming tree’s beauty. It also attracts a wide variety of songbirds with its fall fruit.

  • Produces creamy white flowers with light lemon scent
  • Yields scarlet-red seeds, attracting many birds
  • Will be delivered at a height of 6"–10"

Hardiness Zones

The sweetbay magnolia can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–9. View Map

Tree Type

Mature Size

The sweetbay magnolia grows to a height of 10–20' and a spread of 10–20' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium to Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium to fast rate, with height increases of anywhere from 13" to more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The sweetbay magnolia grows in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and wet soils. It will tolerate periodic flooding.


This tree:
  • Produces creamy white flowers 2–3" in diameter that carry a light lemon scent.
  • Blooms May through June, avoiding damaging spring frost.
  • Flowers best in full sun.
  • Typically grows as a multi-stemmed specimen but can be found with a single trunk.
  • Features simple leaves 3–5" in length that are dark green and often lustrous on top with a silvery, frosted-looking underside.
  • Grows in a columnar or vase shape.
  • Yields clusters of red fruit that attracts wildlife.
  • Works well as a specimen or patio tree.

Wildlife Value

The fruit is eaten by gray squirrels, white-footed mice, turkey and quail as well as a variety of songbirds including vireos, towhees, Northern flicker and blue jays.