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.
- 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
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- Zone 8
- Zone 9
- Acid soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Weak wood and branch structure
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Attractive bark
- Showy flowers
- Fragrant flowers
- Spring blossoms
- Showy fruit
- Early spring
- Insect pollinators
Size & form
A small tree or large shrub which grows 15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide.
Shape is rounded to oval, densely compact, with a twiggy branching habit.
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 turing a silvery gray bark with age.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, 2 to 4 inch long elliptic leaves.
Saucer 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 (aggragate) that opens to reveal reddish-orange seeds.
Cultivars and their differences
‘Centennial’ (Magnolia stellata 'Centennial'): Small-size, upright, pyramidal tree; has numerous, large white flowers with pink tinge
‘Rosea’ (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 which is later than the species.
‘Royal Star’ (Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star'): oval to round shape; flowers later than species; star-shaped fragrant, white flowers