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Magnolia liliiflora

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Magnolia quinquepeta
  • Yulania liliiflora
Phonetic Spelling
mag-NO-li-a lil-le-i-FLO-ra
Description

The lily magnolia is a slow-growing, ornamental, deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows 8 to 12 feet tall and equally as wide. It is multi-stemmed, spreading, and rounded. This plant is one of the smaller species found in the Magnolia genus. In the spring, goblet or lily-shaped flowers appear and have 6 to 7 tepals that are purplish-red on the outer surface and white on the inside. They typically bloom shortly before the foliage appears, and sporadically may repeat bloom in the mid-summer. The leaves are dark green on the upper surface,  ovate to obovate, and pubescent beneath.

It is native to South-Central and Southeastern China and grows on slopes and forest edges in the wild. It has also been cultivated in Japan. It is planted as an ornamental in North America and Europe, but it is uncommon in our landscapes. The hybrids or cultivars are a better selection than the species. 

The genus name, Magnolia, is in honor of Pierre Magnol, a French botanist from the 17th century. The specific epithet, liliifora, means flower like a lily

The lily magnolia is best grown in full sun to partial shade, and in organically rich, neutral to slightly acidic, medium moisture, and well-drained soils, It appreciates a root-zone mulch to help retain soil moisture. It also appreciates a location protected from strong winds. It is also best to avoid warm southern exposures which may promote premature bud opening in spring. The fleshy root system is easily damaged during transplanting, so it is best to select a landscape location carefully and leave this magnolia undisturbed once planted. Prune as needed immediately after flowering. It usually requires little pruning other than the removal of dead or damaged branches.

The lily magnolia has been commonly crossed with the Yulan magnolia, and the result is the saucer magnolia. ‘Susan’ is a cross between M. liliiflora ‘Nigra’ and M. stellata ‘Rosea’. It is part of the Little Girl series (‘Ann’, ‘Betty’, ‘Jane’, ‘Judy’, ‘Pinkie’, ‘Randy’, ‘Ricki’ and ‘Susan’) of hybrid magnolias that were developed at the National Arboretum in the mid-1950s by Francis DeVos and William Kosar. Plants in this series flower about 2 to 4 weeks later than M. stellata and M. x soulangeana, thus reducing the risk of damage to flowers from late spring frosts. ‘Susan’ is primarily noted for its compact shrubby habit, fragrant fuchsia flowers, and late bloom (mid-April to early May).

The lily magnolia is a nice compact shrub or small tree for a sunny area of the landscape. Consider planting a cultivar or hybrid as an accent, specimen, screen, or informal hedge.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Spring     Foliage:  Spring and Summer

Quick ID Hints:

  • large shrub or small tree, deciduous, 8 to 12 feet tall and wide, multi-stemmed, rounded, and spreading
  • goblet or lily-shaped flowers, 6-7 tepals, purplish-red on the outer surface and white on the interior
  • floral buds are pubescent, smooth, and point toward the apex 
  • dark green, ovate to obovate leaves, 4 to 8 inches long and 2 to 5 inches wide, simple, alternate, pubescent undersides

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The Lily Magnolia has no serious insect or disease problems.  Potential insect pests include horse chestnut scales, snails, and capsid bugs. It is susceptible to powdery mildew, coral spot, gray mold, honey fungus, leaf spots, and lime-induced chlorosis. The flowers of this plant may be damaged by late frosts.

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:
  • 'Minnie Mouse'
  • Nigra
    compact, upright habit, narrow tulip-like upright blooms, purple-red on the exterior, pale purple inside the flower
  • O'Neill
'Minnie Mouse', Nigra, O'Neill
Tags:
#cultivars#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#specimen#purple flowers#slow growing#spring flowers#cottage garden#accent plant#multistemmed#large shrub#screening#green leaves#patio planting#container#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Minnie Mouse'
  • Nigra
    compact, upright habit, narrow tulip-like upright blooms, purple-red on the exterior, pale purple inside the flower
  • O'Neill
'Minnie Mouse', Nigra, O'Neill
Tags:
#cultivars#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#specimen#purple flowers#slow growing#spring flowers#cottage garden#accent plant#multistemmed#large shrub#screening#green leaves#patio planting#container#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Magnolia
    Species:
    liliiflora
    Family:
    Magnoliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The flowers and buds have been used medicinally for the treatment of sinusitis, colds, and rhinitis.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern China
    Distribution:
    Native: China South-Central and China Southeast
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Colorful
    Fragrance
    Screening
    Dimensions:
    Height: 8 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Multi-stemmed
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • 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
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Description:
    Cone-like fruits sometimes appear after flowering.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers have 6 to 7 tepals, are goblet-like or lily-shaped, purple-red on the outer surface, white on the inside, and have a citrus fragrance. The petals are 3 to 4-inches long. The floral buds are pubescent, smooth, and point toward the apex. The color may be from pink to purple, depending on the cultivar. Blooms from April to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Rough
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are simple, alternate, elliptical, ovate, to obovate, and they measure 4 to 8 inches long, and 2 to 5 inches wide. In the summer, the upper surface is dark green, and the undersides are fuzzy. The leaves appear unkempt in late summer. This is often caused by powdery mildew.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Bark Description:
    Its bark is light gray to brown.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Flowering Tree
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought