Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 207 Magnolia stellata

Common Names: star magnolia Family: Magnoliaceae (magnolia Family)
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star magnolia blossom
It's late February and this star magnolia is in bloom scenting Floridune with a delicate perfume.


With a spreading, somewhat oval crown, Magnolia stellata is a large shrub or small tree that will gradually reach 15-20 ft (4.6-6 m) in height with a spread of 10-15 ft (3-4.6 m) when mature. Very slow growing, star magnolia is usually seen in home landscapes as a medium sized shrub. Like saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) it is deciduous, revealing a twiggy, naked frame in winter. Star magnolia is, however, a good deal denser and more compact. The leaves are oblong and about 4 in (10 cm) long by about an 1.5 in (4 cm) wide. In autumn the leaves turn yellow to bronze before falling. It is striking in late winter or early spring when it appears smothered in brilliant white flowers as it blooms before the leaves appear. This magnolia puts on a show at a very early age - even a 1 ft (0.3 m) high specimen is likely to bloom. The flowers themselves are star shaped with at least 12 thin, delicate petals with some cultivars having more than 30. The star magnolia usually blooms just after the saucer magnolia.


Star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, a native of Japan and was introduced to the United States in the 1860s and it remains a popular landscape item from coast to coast.

star magnolia flowers
Star magnolias are typically seen as large shrubs, like this one in San Franscisco's fabulous Strybing Arboretum.


Star magnolia likes deep, organic, acid soil. Provide plenty of leaf mold and a good layer of mulch around the roots. Usually needs little if any pruning. If you do prune, however, do it soon after flowering to avoid cutting off buds set for the next season. A problem with this plant is that the flowers are subject to damage by freezing weather, so plant in a protected area. The more wide open and warm the spot, the earlier the flowers are likely to open and the more likely to get zapped by late frosts. Light: Ideally, morning sun with filtered shade in the heat of day. Moisture: Evenly moist. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. Propagation: It is fairly easy to root cuttings taken after the flower buds have formed in early to mid summer. Treat with rooting hormone to insure success. Seeds may be used, but they need special handling and are slow to germinate.


The star magnolia is spectacular when in full bloom against a dark background like a red brick wall or a stand of juniper. Planted next to a pond, this tree is breathtaking when its lovely pure white blossoms are reflected in still water. The graceful shape is very sculptural making it a gorgeous specimen plant that hints of exotic Asian gardens. Also makes an excellent addition to woodland gardens and to other shady areas.

Star magnolia seeds.
The star magnolia's seeds are brilliant orange and grow within a capsule or "burr".


This is a perfect flowering tree for small properties as it remains compact in stature for many years. Star magnolia is a very early bloomer and boasts large star shaped flowers that are held on low branches for easy viewing. Encountering its fine light fragrance wafting on a cool early spring breeze is a delightful treat.

Jack Scheper 08/16/97 updated; 03/27/99, 02/16/01, 8/30/01, 3/13/02, 2/27/03, 10/24/03

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Magnolia species profiled on Floridata:

Magnolia grandiflora

( southern magnolia, bull bay )

Magnolia heptapeta

( Yulan magnolia )

Magnolia liliiflora

( lily magnolia, woody orchid, mu-lan, lily-flowered magnolia )

Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei

( Ashe magnolia, Ashe's magnolia, big leaf magnolia )

Magnolia stellata

( star magnolia )

Magnolia tripetala

( umbrella magnolia )

Magnolia virginiana

( sweetbay, sweetbay magnolia, swamp magnolia, swampbay, white bay )

Magnolia x soulangeana

( saucer magnolia, tulip tree, Japanese magnolia )

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