TREES & plants

Japanese magnolia

Spring flowers of Japanese magnolia.

Japanese magnolia or Kobus magnolia is a medium-sized tree native to the forests of Japan. The early spring, goblet-shaped, slightly fragrant, white flowers are tinged with pink. In late fall clustered seed pods split open to reveal red seeds. Seeds are attractive to birds.

Botanical name: 
Magnolia kobus
All Common Names: 
Japanese magnolia, kobus magnolia, kobushi magnolia
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
Mature Height: 
30-40 feet
Mature Width: 
30-40 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily), 
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries, 
  • Weak wood and branch structure
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Fragrant flowers, 
  • Showy fruit, 
  • Showy flowers, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early spring, 
  • Mid spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant, 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Insect pollinators
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Spring plant only.  Pick a sheltered location to avoid damage from strong winds, full sun for best flowering potential.
Magnolias are shallow-rooted and benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature fluctuation and conserve moisture.
Prune after flowering.

Disease, pests, and problems

Potential problems include magnolia scale, Verticillium wilt, chlorosis in high pH soils.  Flowers are susceptible to frost damage.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan and Korea.

Bark color and texture 

Young bark is smooth and silvery gray, becoming slightly roughened with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple leaves arranged alternately on the stem; 3 to 6 inches long with an entire margin.  Little to no fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers are solitary with 6 to 9 white petals.  They are mildly fragrant.

Magnolias flowers do not produce nectar. They are typically pollinated by beetles that eat pollen instead of nectar.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

The fruit is a pickle-shaped structure (aggregate) that matures from green to pink, then red.  When mature the structure splits open to reveal seeds.

Magnolia kobus or Japanese magnolia