Magnolia virginiana (Sweet Bay Magnolia)

Scientific Name

Magnolia virginiana L.

Common Names

Sweet Bay Magnolia, Sweet Bay, Swamp Bay, Swamp Laurel, Sweet Magnolia, White Bay


Magnolia virginiana subsp. virginiana, Magnolia virginiana var. virginiana, Magnolia australis var. parva, Magnolia burchelliana, Magnolia fragrans, Magnolia fragrans, Magnolia glauca, Magnolia gordoniana

Scientific Classification

Family: Magnoliaceae
Subfamily: Magnolioideae
Genus: Magnolia


Color: Creamy white
Bloom Time: Mid-spring and sporadically throughout summer


Magnolia virginiana is an evergreen or deciduous tree to 100 feet (30 m) tall, semi-deciduous in a cold climate, and evergreen in areas with warmer winters. The leaves are alternate, simple, with entire margins, up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) long, and up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide. The bark is smooth and gray, with the inner bark mildly scented. The flowers are creamy-white, up to 5.6 inches (14 cm) in diameter, with 6 to 15 petal-like tepals. The fruit is a fused aggregate of follicles, up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and pinkish-red when mature.

Magnolia virginiana - Sweet Bay Magnolia
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USDA hardiness zone 4a to 8b: from −30 °F (−34.4 °C) to 20 °F (−6.7 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Although different species of Magnolia can tolerate slightly different conditions. In general, they will do best with slightly acidic, moist, loose, well-draining soil. To mimic Magnolia's natural conditions, amend heavy soil with peat moss and compost. Grow best in Zones 7-10, depending on variety, with a few cultivars hardy to zone 5. Full sun to partial shade. Moist, peaty soil can help Magnolias tolerate the full sun. If you're pushing the limits of cold tolerance, avoid planting Magnolias in southern exposure since the leaves can be damaged by winter sun and flowers may open prematurely. Magnolias benefit from irrigation in the first few years, and then they are tolerant of moderate drought.

They need room to grow to their full mature size and width. While looking small when first planted, over time, they'll grow to fill up space.

Some Magnolia varieties don't bloom until 15 years old, so be sure to choose one that fits your needs and expectations. Grafted plants (rather than seed-grown) bloom sooner. See more at: How to Grow and Care for Magnolias.


Native to the lowlands and swamps of the Atlantic coastal plain of the eastern United States, from Florida to Long Island, New York.


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