Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Magnolia Denudata

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch


Magnolia denudata flower (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

Magnolia denudata flower (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Flowering period: Mid spring

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 10m

Eventual Spread: 10m

Hardiness: 6a – 9a

Family: Magnoliaceae


Magnolia denudata (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

Magnolia denudata (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

Magnolia denudata is a deciduous large shrub or small tree. Its mid green, leathery leaves are simple, oppositely arranged with obovate an entire margins and are up to 15cm long and 8cm wide. The dark gray bark has a smooth texture and assumes a twisted gnarly appearance. The fragrant creamy white flowers are held upright on the stems and appear before the leaves. Each flower is up to 15cm accross and composed of 9 petals arranged around a pinkish center. The fruit is a large brown ‘cone’ which is up to 12 cm long

Magnolia denudata, commonly known as the Yulan Magnolia or Lilly Tree, is native to central and eastern China. It has been cultivated in Chinese Buddhist gardens since 600 AD.  Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) introduced Magnolia denudata into England in 1789. Magnolia denudata is synonymous with and Magnolia heptapeta.


Magnolia denudata flower bud (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

Magnolia denudata flower bud (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

The etymological root of the binomial name Magnolia was named after Pierre Magnol, a 17th century French botanist. Denudata is derived from the Latin denudo ‘to uncover’, in reference to the flowers emerging from the flower buds.

The landscape architect may find Magnolia denudata useful as a spring flowering specimen tree or large shrub. It should be sheltered from strong winds and late frosts, where possible.

Ecologically,  M. denudata is attractive to bees and pollinating insects.

M. denudata prefers moist, humus rich, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil, although it prefers neutral to acidic soils. It will not tolerate dry conditions.


Magnolia denudata Bark (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

Magnolia denudata Bark (11/03/22012, Kew, London)

M. denudata requires little maintenance.

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