What is a Star Magnolia Tree?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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A star magnolia tree is an ornamental tree native to Japan and grown worldwide for its showy white to pink flowers. Known to botanists as Magnolia stellata, this tree can also grow in the form of a large bush. It has a notably compact growth habit and tolerates a wide variety of soil and weather conditions, making it popular among gardeners and landscapers looking for early-flowering ornamentals for inhospitable climates.

Native to Japan, the star magnolia tree produces large, white flowers in early spring, before the leaves develop. The flowers are highly aromatic and contain a number of long petals arranged like a many-pointed star. The leaves come in bronzed initially and mellow to green, while the flowers develop into compact seedpods. It is possible to grow a star magnolia tree from seed, or to cultivate from cuttings.

This plant grows well in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones four through nine. It tends to favor acidic, moist soil reminiscent of the boggy climate where it evolved. It can tolerate other kinds of soils, including wet to medium-dry soils and does not have intensive fertilizer needs. Harsh frosts can hurt the star magnolia tree, and young plants should be protected during cold weather to limit frost damage.


Aggressive pruning and training can encourage this plant to grow in the form of a compact shrub used as a specimen planting or part of a massed planting or hedge. Allowing the plant to grow with less direction will result in a graceful tree. The plant loses its leaves in the winter, leaving bare branches until the flower buds start developing in spring.

In landscaping, the star magnolia tree pairs very well with evergreen shrubs, trees, and plants. The greenery will distract from the stark branches during the winter months while offsetting the flowers in the spring. Some people also plant bulbs around their star magnolias to add color and aroma when the trees burst into bloom. It is advisable to give the plant some room to spread, rather than planting it in tight quarters.

Many nurseries and garden supply stores carry star magnolia tree seedlings or can order them if customers are interested. Collections of seeds and cuttings can also be taken for propagation if a gardener in the community is willing, and people can also look into garden exchanges to see if someone has a seedling, cuttings, or seeds available for sale or trade.


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Post 3

I don't know whether this is true with all types of magnolia trees or not, but some of them spread so quickly and easy that one tree can quickly turn into a grove of them. You have to keep an eye out or you will have a yard full of them in a short time, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you feel about magnolia trees.

Post 2

I would much rather have a dogwood tree than a magnolia tree any day of the week. I think the flowers of the dogwood tree are prettier than the flowers on the magnolia tree. As flowering trees go I think the dogwood is as good as it gets. The magnolia flowers are larger, but they don't look as lively to me. On top of this, the dogwood tree takes less work than the magnolia tree.

And as good as the dogwoods look when they have the flowers, they are even more striking in the fall when all of the leaves change to a bright red color.

Post 1

Magnolia trees look good when they have the flowers as mentioned in this article, but they make a large amount of work for the person taking care of the yard. We have several large magnolia trees in our yard. They were planted long before we bought the house. I wish someone had kept them pruned so they would have grown as bushes and they wouldn't be so labor intensive.

For starters, the branches are growing all over the place and some of them are now hanging over the house. The branches aren't as sturdy as the branches of some other trees, so they are vulnerable during storms and I am constantly picking up sticks and small branches.

Then there are the seed pods that seem to be constantly on the ground and waiting to be picked up. Keeping the leaves raked is also a challenge. Seems like there is something to do with the trees year 'round.

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