The star magnolia is a small, compact ornamental tree grown for its early spring flowers. Opening in early spring 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.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Residential and parks,
- Under utility lines
- Mixed border,
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Compact tree (10-15 feet),
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Weak wood and branch structure
- Spring blossoms,
- Fragrant flowers,
- Showy fruit,
- Showy flowers,
- Attractive bark
Season of Interest:
- Early spring
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Insect pollinators
Tree & Plant Care
Grows best in full sun, well-drained, organic rich moist soil.
Shallow roots benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture.
Avoid extremely windy sites.
Minimal pruning required.
Disease, pests, and problems
Chlorosis in high pH soils, magnolia scale, early frost damage, powdery mildew.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to Japan.
Bark color and texture
Young plants have a smooth, shiny chestnut brown bark turning a silvery gray with age.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, 2 to 4 inch long, elliptic leaves.
Star magnolias leaves are dense and smaller than other magnolias.
New leaves emerge with a bronze cast turning to a medium green and yellow-brown fall color.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Very showy, fragrant white flower with a pink tinge.
Solitary, each flower has 12 to 18 petals (tepals) and is 3 to 4 inches across.
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.
Cultivars and their differences
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.
Royal Star star magnolia (Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star'): oval to round shape; flowers later than species; star-shaped fragrant, white flowers.