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Magnolia stellata is often confused with:
Magnolia grandiflora Magnolia grandiflora
Magnolia 'Jane' Flowers
Magnolia kobus Flower Form
Magnolia virginiana Magnolia virginiana
Magnolia x loebneri Magnolia x loebneri
Magnolia x soulangeana Magnolia x soulangiana
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Acer rubrum Acer rubrum
Crataegus phaenopyrum Crataegus phaenopyrum
Lagerstroemia indica Full shrub in bloom
Magnolia stellata has some common insect problems:
Magnolia Scale
Yellow Poplar Weevil
Magnolia stellata has some common disease problems:
Sooty Molds

Magnolia Bush Magnolia stellata

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Magnolia halleana
  • Magnolia kobus var. stellata
Phonetic Spelling
mag-NO-li-a ste LAH-ta
Description

The star magnolia is a slow-growing, medium-sized, flowering deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows with a rounded crown and is often grown as a large pyramidal multi-stemmed shrub. It grows from 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. It is noted for its compact size and late winter to early spring bloom of star-shaped white flowers. Since blooms open early, they are subject to frost damage. It is the earliest of the deciduous magnolias to flower. In the winter, pubescent floral buds appear and will produce clusters of fragrant, 3 to 4-inch white flowers with 12 to 18 tepals. After flowering, it will produce a cone-like fruit that contains large seeds. As the cone-like fruits mature in late summer, they will burst open and reveal bright orange seeds. The leaves emerge oblong with a bronze color, turn medium to dark green during the summer months, and yellow in the fall.

The star magnolia is native to Japan. It originated in the highlands of the Japanese island of Honshu. It is considered to be a variety of Magnolia kobus. The star magnolia was introduced to the United States in the 1860s.

The genus name, Magnolia, is in honor of Pierre Magnol, a French botanist from the 17th century. The specific epithet, stellata, refers to its star-shaped flowers.

The star magnolia is best grown in full sun and moist, organically rich, acidic to neutral, well-drained loams. It will tolerate clay soil and partial shade, but it flowers best in full sun. It appreciates consistent and even moisture in summer, and is intolerant of soil extremes of dryness, or wetness. It is also intolerant to most urban pollutants and high winds. Plant the star magnolia in a protected site to prevent severe damage from frost, and avoid southern exposures where the buds may be induced to open too early and subsequently damaged. This plant is heat tolerant, but mulch helps retain soil moisture. Prune only if needed immediately after flowering.  If the plant needs rejuvenation, prune out 1-2 older stems per year. It may be propagated by stem cuttings or seeds, but seed propagation may be challenging.

The star magnolia will begin to flower when it is only 2 to 3 years old. For late winter or early spring flowering, consider the stunning star magnolia as an accent, specimen, border, or foundation planting in your home landscape.

Seasons of Interest:

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

Quick ID Hints:

  • deciduous shrub or small tree, measuring 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide
  • gigantic white blooms with 12-18 strap-like tepals 
  • star-shaped flowers appear before the leaves in late winter or early spring
  • cone-like fruits with aggregate follicles containing oranges seeds
  • pubescent winter floral buds  

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The star magnolia has no serious insect or disease problems; however, be sure to monitor the plant for scale. It will become chlorotic in alkaline soils. Since it blooms in late winter or early spring, the flowers may be prone to frost damage.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Mountain Ridge Top Garden - South Lawn and Border
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Centennial'
    large, white, pink-tinged flower, grows to 25 feet all
  • 'Goldstar'
    scented, creamy-yellow flowers
  • 'Jane Platt'
    double, pale, pink, scented flowers
  • 'Pink Stardust'
    large, fragrant flowers, pyramidal habit, up to 12 feet tall
  • 'Rosea'
    light pink flowers that fade to white, no fragrance
  • 'Royal Star'
    most common, double, white flowers with pink buds
  • 'Rubra'
    purplish rose blooms that fade to pink, yellow green leaves, compact shrub
  • 'Waterlily'
    flowers later, bushy, upright, large narrow petals, pink buds, highly scented
'Centennial', 'Goldstar', 'Jane Platt', 'Pink Stardust', 'Rosea', 'Royal Star', 'Rubra', 'Waterlily'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#specimen#white flowers#deciduous shrub#flowering tree#fast growing#children's garden#foundation planting#playground plant#star shaped flowers#edible seeds#pollinator plant#fantz#leathery leaves#deciduous tree#small group plantings#wet soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#flowers late winter#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#woodland garden#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Centennial'
    large, white, pink-tinged flower, grows to 25 feet all
  • 'Goldstar'
    scented, creamy-yellow flowers
  • 'Jane Platt'
    double, pale, pink, scented flowers
  • 'Pink Stardust'
    large, fragrant flowers, pyramidal habit, up to 12 feet tall
  • 'Rosea'
    light pink flowers that fade to white, no fragrance
  • 'Royal Star'
    most common, double, white flowers with pink buds
  • 'Rubra'
    purplish rose blooms that fade to pink, yellow green leaves, compact shrub
  • 'Waterlily'
    flowers later, bushy, upright, large narrow petals, pink buds, highly scented
'Centennial', 'Goldstar', 'Jane Platt', 'Pink Stardust', 'Rosea', 'Royal Star', 'Rubra', 'Waterlily'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#specimen#white flowers#deciduous shrub#flowering tree#fast growing#children's garden#foundation planting#playground plant#star shaped flowers#edible seeds#pollinator plant#fantz#leathery leaves#deciduous tree#small group plantings#wet soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#flowers late winter#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#woodland garden#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Magnolia
    Species:
    stellata
    Family:
    Magnoliaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South Central Honshu, Japan
    Distribution:
    Native: Japan Introduced: United States in the 1860s
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds and small mammals are attracted to seeds. Butterflies pollinate the flowers
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Multi-stemmed
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    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:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Orange
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Aggregate
    Follicle
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is cone-like and has an aggregate of follicles. It measures 2 to 2.5 inches long. It will mature in late summer, and the cone-like fruit will burst open and reveal the orange seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The terminal flower buds are tan, fuzzy, and about 1/2-inch long. The flowers are 3 to 4 inches wide. There are 12 to 18 petals (tepals) that are strap-shaped. The flowers are showy, fragrant, star-shaped, usually white, and bloom in the late winter to early spring before the leave emerge.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, simple, narrow-oblong to obovate, 2.5 to 4-inches long with an acute base, obtuse apex, and entire margins. During the summer, they are dark green and glabrous above, and the underside of the leaf is a lighter green, hairy, and reticulate. When the leaves initially emerge in the spring, they are bronze colored, and their fall color is yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    The bark is mottled gray and smooth.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stem is grayish-brown and smooth. The stipule scar encircles the stem.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Patio
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heat