Content Detail

Star magnolia is a small, compact ornamental tree grown for its early spring flowers. Opening before the leaves unfurl, the flowers are clusters of white petals sometimes touched with pink. Because they bloom so early, they are vulnerable to damage by late spring frosts in the Midwest. Star magnolia is best planted in a sheltered location such as near a patio, an entryway, or in a shrub border.

  • Family (English) Magnolia
  • Family (botanic) Magnoliaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks, Under utility lines
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Mature height 15-20 feet
  • Mature width 10-15 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Pink, White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Round
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Weak wood and branch structure
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Star magnolia typically grows 15 to 20 feet in height and 10 to 15 feet in width.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Japan.

Attracts birds and pollinators:

Flowers attract insect pollinators.

Bark color and texture:

Young trees have a smooth, shiny chestnut brown bark that turns a silvery-gray with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

The alternate, elliptic leaves are 2 to 4 inches long. New leaves emerge with a bronze cast, turning to a medium green in summer, and yellow-brown in fall. Star magnolia leaves are dense and smaller than other magnolias.

Flower description:

The very showy, fragrant, solitary white flowers have a pink tinge. Each flower has 12 to 18 petals (tepals) and is 3 to 4 inches across. It flowers before leaves emerge.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Mature 2 inch fruit is a knobby cluster (aggregate) that opens to reveal reddish-orange seeds.

Plant care:

Star magnolia grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained, organic-rich soil. Shallow roots benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture. This tree needs wind protection. It needs minimal pruning.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

It is prone to chlorosis in high pH soils, magnolia scale, early frost damage, and powdery mildew.

Centennial star magnolia  (Magnolia stellata ‘Centennial’):

It is a small, upright, pyramidal tree that produces numerous, large white blooms with a pink tinge.

Rosea star magnolia (Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’):

This cultivar has an oval to round shape with a dense, bushy habit. Pink buds open to fragrant, light pink, star-like flowers. This plant flowers in late April, a little later than the species, making it less susceptible to frost damage.

Royal Star star magnolia (Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’):

Oval to round shape, this cultivar has star-shaped, fragrant, white flowers. It is less susceptible to frost damage as it flowers later than the species.


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