Common Name: star magnolia
Botanical Name: Magnolia stellata
Form: small tree with a broad, rounded canopy
Plant Type: deciduous tree
Mature Size: 15 to 20 feet x 10 to 15 feet
Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9
Foliage: soft and pale green elliptical, ovate and simple with good yellow fall colour
Flowers: fragrant, showy star-shaped with many floppy, broadly linear white petals in March. Appears before foliage on leafless stems. Attracts birds and butterflies.
Exposure: sun to part shade, but flowers best in full sun
Soil: soil tolerant but prefers moist, humus rich, well-drained loam, intolerant of arid and wet soils, therefore water during drought. Benefits from being mulched to retain soil moisture.
Uses: specimen, accent, borders, foundations, multi-story plantings, courtyards and small gardens
Propagation: layering, softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer
Pruning: immediately after flowering, if needed
Problems: frost damage to flower buds in spring
The star magnolia blossoms in March, before most flowering trees, on bare leafless stems. It is a magnificent sight with bright white star-shaped fragrant flowers bursting from its pale brown branches that darken with age. It's not just the masses of ribbon petaled flowers that are making of this broad topped tree, star magnolia also have great bones. Even in the middle of winter this tree stands out with its spreading branches and pussy willow flower buds. Due to it's many lateral branches it is also a convenient perch for birds throughout the year.
Although this little tree is hardy, the flower buds and blossoms can be damaged by frosts, especially when they are located in a southern facing location. Unopened flower buds resemble pussy willows and become a prominent feature of the plant during the winter.
Since the star magnolia likes moist rich soil, apply 3 inches of mulch on top of the soil, but keep it a few inches away from the trunk. Avoid rock mulches, dry and sandy soils that lack organic matter.
There are numerous cultivars available such as ‘Gold Star’ with pale yellow flowers. ‘Jane Platt’ is an award-winner due to its pink flowers that are doubly packed with petals.