Magnolia characteristics and culture

Family Magnoliaceae

Eighty five species of both deciduous & evergreen large trees, many small trees & shrubs.

Leaves are entire & alternate. Flowers are generally large with 3 petal like sepals, and showy.

They mostly prefer deep, moist and fertile soils with lots of organic matter and good aeration.
Ideally grown in areas with a cool, moist summer, though some species do tolerate heat provided roots are kept cool.

Protect from strong winds and salt (avoid coastal areas). Most will tolerate temperatures to minus 5 degrees C, some even cooler.

Prune young plants to shape. Water during dry periods. Mulch in any areas with a hot summer. Fertilise annually at the beginning of spring.

Most can be propagated by semi-hardwood cuttings, or by layering. Seed raised plants may take many years to flower.

Pest and disease problems are rarely serious but can occur at times. Pests include mildews, blight, leaf spots, canker, scab, die back and wood rots. Scale insects are the most likely pest, though other pests do very occasionally infect Magnolias.



M. kobus – Very hardy, reliable small tree, likes alkaline soils but can take 10 years to flower, flowers are worth it though…pure white 10cm across and mildly scented.


M. grandiflora (Bull Bay) – generally a very large slow growing tree. New breeding has developed a dwarf variety called ‘Little Gem’ that only grows up to 3-5m.


M. quinquepeta (syn M. liliflora) – to 4m tall, with tulip-like flowers to 10cm which are often closed and pointed at the top. Colours vary according tom variety, but are usually shades of purple outside with mainly white inside. One of the most commonly grown Magnolias in Australia.


M. salicifolia – To 5m tall, narrow leaves, white flowers.


M. x soulangeana – To 5m tall, various forms available, growth habit is naturally shrubby, but it can be trained to be tree like, magnificent display of flowers in spring.


M. wilsonii – To 5m, white flowers with crimson centre in summer.




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