Magnolia virginiana, Sweetbay or Swamp Magnolia

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Lovely, lemon-scented, cup-shaped flowers appear mid-spring and bloom intermittently throughout the summer, followed in the fall by showy conelike fruit. This elegant, semi-evergreen tree is native to the lowlands and freshwater swamps primarily along the Mid-Atlantic* and Gulf coasts.

Print Version: Magnolia virginiana, Sweetbay or Swamp Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana Sweetbay or Swamp Magnolia  Height: 12–30 feet Flower, Fruit , Bark, Early Fall Tree Spread: 12–30 feet  Bloom Color: White to cream  Characteristics  Semi-evergreen tree with spreading, rounded crown  Evergreen to semi-evergreen, lanceolate foliage is shiny green above and silvery below   Very fragrant 2- to 3-inch creamy white flowers with 9 to 12 petals from May to June  Green to pink cone-like fruits mature late summer & split open to reveal bright red arils (seed coverings)  Bark smooth, gray, and lightly scented  Attributes  Tolerates clay soils, boggy soils, shade, occasional flooding, air pollution, and some salt  No serious pests or diseases  Deer severely damage seldom in northern part of range, more frequently in south and west  Attracts birds and other wildlife species; larval host for the Eastern Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies and for the Promethea and Sweetbay silkmoths Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Rich, acidic Light Requirements: Sun, Partial Shade Water Requirements: Moist, Wet Use as specimen, patio plant or in shrub borders, rain gardens (larger than 150 sq ft), or wet areas Excellent Replacement for Acer palmatum - Japanese Maple Magnolia grandiflora - Southern Magnolia Paulownia tomentosa - Princess Tree Pyrus calleryana - Bradford Pear  *It is native to DC. It is common in the Coastal Plains of DE and VA. It is infrequent to rare in the VA Piedmont but is native to NoVA except to Fairfax County. It is rare in PA.  Hardiness: USDA Zones 5–10

Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets