Magnolia macrophylla

bigleaf magnolia

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Bigleaf magnolia is in a class of its own. Its leaves demand such adjectives as enormous, luxuriant and opulent - evoking a subtropical feel in the garden. While they can reach almost 3 feet in length, its leaves are more commonly about 2 feet long. They are bright green with silver-gray undersides that shimmer in a light breeze. Needless to say, these huge leaves are easily damaged by wind, so use it in a protected woodland setting. There it provides delightful contrast with the fine textures of our native evergreens and other woodland plants. Bigleaf magnolia may take 12 to 15 years to start producing its 12- to 14-inch wide, fragrant, bowl-shaped, white flowers. Although you are unlikely to see into the flowers, as they are held so high overhead, each of the nine tepals usually has a deep purple stain at its base. Once it has begun to flower, it will produce its red fruits in late summer.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: tree

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 12 ft. 0 in. (3.66 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 50 ft. 0 in. (15.24 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 35 ft. 0 in. (10.67 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 8

Flower Color: white

Sun/Light Exposure: light or dappled shade

Water Requirements: occasional to regular watering during dry wetaher

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: gold, silver, white, variegated

Great Color Partners: dark green, chartreuse, blue

Culture Notes
This magnolia is easy to grow. It performs best in light or dappled shade. It will thrive in a rich moist to well-drained soil, but will tolerate sand and clay if the drainage is adequate. Plant it in an area that is protected from strong winds to keep the large leaves from being damaged. Regular summer water will allow the best growth and largest foliage, but well established plants can tolerate occasional watering during dry weather. Magnolias have fleshy roots that can easily be damaged so limit extensive gardening under established trees. Little pruning is required other than removing dead and broken limbs or poorly formed limbs.