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Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

Posted by thapranksta Mid TN 6B (My Page) on
Wed, Oct 9, 13 at 10:58

I've got a few questions concerning the Sweetbay Magnolia (m. virginiana). I know that it is a semi-evergreen but I've never really read anything zone specific as far as how leaf loss goes. Most discussions about it seem to concern the fragrance and what zones it grows in.

In my zone would the Sweetbay normally lose its leaves as soon as fall hits, late in the fall, early winter, deep into winter, or is it only partial leaf loss throughout the colder months?

I've read that this tree loves water. My second question is - does this mean it will grow best with plenty of water or will it need plenty of extra attention during a drought to keep from dying?

And my last question is - could I garden at all under the Sweetbay or nothing will grow underneath it?


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

We planted one of these early summer last year and have had nice success with it so far. I planted it because of its shade tolerance. In zone 6 you will lose all of your leaves with the rest of the trees in your area. I believe it is semi evergreen in zone 7-8 and evergreen after that. The leaves turn yellow but are otherwise nondescript in their fall foliage.

We planted it in a shady spot that is generally moist and I have not had to give it any extra attention but occasionally when I have to water the bed that its in, it gets watered. I think that if you plant it in a sunnier spot, you will need to make sure it stays happy with water.

As far as gardening under the Sweetbay, we have Galium Odoratum planted under it and it does fine but ours is not mature so I'm not 100% positive on that answer.

The flower scent is surely intoxicating and it is probably the best smelling flower in our yard. Good luck!

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

You should check out M. virginiana 'Henry Hicks', or 'australis'. They are supposedly mostly evergreen in zone 6. Perhaps if temps dip down to below 0 for more than a few days, they will begin to lose leaves.

I have M. virg 'Mattie Mae Smith' a variegated version of australis and it has never lost more than 1/4 of its leaves -- even at around 0 degrees F.

The more northern Sweetbays are more deciduous.

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

As stated above, cultivars of M. Virginiana vary in degree of deciduousness.
Some are more evergreen than others regardless of hardiness zone. Mine is much more deciduous but I don't mind because I gave lots of evergreen M. Grandifloras. All have flowers that are extremely aromatic--even more so than grandifloras in my opinion. I don't attempt to garden under any Magnolia--shade too dense, roots too shallow.

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

I have a Magnolia grandifolia and a Magnolia B racken's brown Beauty both are evergreen.

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

Thanks all. I will take a look at the Sweetbay cultivars. Does anyone know offhand if the cultivars grow faster than the species?


If I'm not mistaken, Bracken's Brown Beauty is a M. grandiflora cultivar. I actually have some backyard plans for M. grandiflora as well but my questions were specifically aimed at M. virginiana.

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

'Jim Wilson' aka Moonglow is supposed to be a very good performer and easy to grow

Here is a link that might be useful: MOBOT

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

We had a sweet bay that volunteered in our yard in Wilmington NC. Within a a couple of years it was about 5 feet and producing flowers, When we left after 8 years it was 8 to 9 feet tall. As I said this was a volunteer so the cultivar was what ever naturally occur on that part of the Carolina coast.

We loved the fragrance. Wished it produce a heavier canopy of leaves. It is not a big tree and will always be an understory tree.

We had one that was on the lot when the house was built and was about 20 feet tall. One of the puzzles was its lack of leaves. One year we learned why. There was one old female squirrel who apparently like the smell of sweet bay leaves in her nest. Each time she had a litter, she would take as many leaves as she thought necessary to make her nest. This left the sweet bay nearly stripped of leaves near the end of the summer. This happened each year for the 8 years we lived in the house.

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

  • Posted by jcalhoun 8b Mobile County AL (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 21, 13 at 7:38

On the Gulf Coast these are evergreen most years. They don't put on a very dense canopy though so I think a plant that likes a little bit of indirect light during hot afternoons would work well.

RE: Sweetbay Magnolia Questions

I planted 'Jim Wilson' aka Moonglow here in WNY ~5-6 years ago. In a mild winter (for my area!) where the temperatures do not go below 0F, the tree keeps nearly all its leaves with a little tip burn. Temps go below 0F and defoliation starts. I love the fragrance!

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