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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):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline 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

Seasons 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.

Location of Magnolia kobus (Japanese magnolia) at the Arboretum