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Magnolia denudata is often confused with:
Magnolia x soulangeana Magnolia x soulangiana
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Ulmus alata Ulmus alata
Acer saccharinum From
Ulmus rubra Tree form (Guilford County, NC)-Mid Summer

Yulan Magnolia Magnolia denudata

Previously known as:

  • Magnolia heptapeta
Phonetic Spelling
mag-NO-li-a day-nu-DAH-ta
Description

Yulan magnolia is beloved in China and is regarded as one of the most beautiful of all the magnolias. In China, it is known as 'Yulan" or 'Jade Lily." It is a large, attractive deciduous, early-flowering shrub or tree that has large, showy, upright, fragrant, creamy-white blooms in late winter or early spring. The blooms will appear before the leaves emerge. The leaves are dark green and obovate to oblong. The flowers are followed by brownish cone-like fruits that produce bright red-coated seeds by late summer to early fall. The tree grows 30 to 40 feet tall and equally as wide and is multi-stemmed with a rounded spreading crown. 

The Yulan magnolia is native to eastern and southern China and has been in cultivation since 618 AD. This was the first magnolia to be introduced from Asia to the western world. It was first brought to England in 1780. This species is one of the parents to many cultivars such as Magnolia x soulangeana and Magnolia x vetchii.

The genus name, Magnolia, honors a French botanist from the 17th century, Pierre Magnol. The specific epithet, denudata, means naked and references the fact that the tree flowers before the leaves emerge. 

This shrub or tree prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained, slightly acidic, organically rich loam soil. It is intolerant to extremes of soil dryness or wetness as well as urban pollution. It may be injured by late spring frost, and it is best planted in a sheltered location to protect it from winter winds. If pruning is required, it is best done immediately after flowering has been completed. Propagation may be by seeds or stem cuttings.

The Yulan magnolia makes a wonderful specimen in the landscape. Its exquisite flowers with their lemony scent in late winter or early spring would be lovely near a patio or walkway. 

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Late Winter and Early Spring        Foliage:  Late Spring and Summer     Fruits:  Late Summer and Early Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • deciduous large multi-stemmed shrub or tree ranging from 30 to 40 feet tall and as wide
  • large, showy, upright, fragrant, creamy-white flowers with 9 to 12 tepals and tinged with pink at the base
  • distinguishing feature--has fewer tepals than other magnolias
  • dark green, obovate to oblong leaves, slightly pubescent, lighter green beneath
  • brownish cone-like fruits with bright red coated seeds

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The Yulan magnolia has no serious insect or disease problems, but it may be susceptible to insects such as capsid bugs, snails, and horse chestnut scales. Potential diseases include coral spots, gray mold, and honey fungus

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Forrest's Pink
    Pink flowers, large tree
  • 'Japanese Clone'
    larger flowers
  • 'Lacey'
    flower up to 8 inches in diameter
Forrest's Pink, 'Japanese Clone', 'Lacey'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#fragrant flowers#white flowers#slow growing#deciduous shrub#winter interest#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#cream flowers#flowers early spring#deciduous tree#walkway planting#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#winter flowers#flowers late winter#dense growth#patio#accent#borders#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Forrest's Pink
    Pink flowers, large tree
  • 'Japanese Clone'
    larger flowers
  • 'Lacey'
    flower up to 8 inches in diameter
Forrest's Pink, 'Japanese Clone', 'Lacey'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#fragrant flowers#white flowers#slow growing#deciduous shrub#winter interest#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#cream flowers#flowers early spring#deciduous tree#walkway planting#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#winter flowers#flowers late winter#dense growth#patio#accent#borders#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Magnolia
    Species:
    denudata
    Family:
    Magnoliaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern & Southern China
    Distribution:
    Introduced to the western world in 1780
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds are attracted to the seeds, and butterflies are attracted to the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The flowers are followed by cylinder-like, brownish, cone-like fruits that measure 4 to 6 inches long. When they mature in late summer, they release red-coated seeds that appear to be suspended by slender threads.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    6 petals/rays
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are solitary, fragrant, upright, cup-shaped or tulip-shaped, and creamy white to ivory blooms. The blooms measure They appear in late winter to early spring. The flowers are 5 to 6 inches in diameter and have 9 to 12 tepals (fewer tepals than other magnolias.) When mature they resemble lilies. The tepals sometimes have a tinge of pink at the base of the flower. The flowers bloom before the leaves emerge and have a lemon scent.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Insignificant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are simple, alternate, obovate to oblong, 4 to 6 inches long, and 2 to 3.5 inches wide. They are dark green on the upper surface, and lighter green beneath. The tip is short acuminate, and the base is tapering. They are slightly pubescent.
  • Bark:
    Bark Description:
    The bark is thin and easily damaged.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The stems are brown or green.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Pollution