Plant of the Month: Magnolis Stellata


Everyone loves a magnolia in full flower, so much so that many of us are tempted to plant one only to find out we don’t have the room to let them grow to their mature size. It is of course when they reach maturity that their displays are at their best.  A harshly pruned magnolia which is kept trimmed to stop it taking over the garden, can often look very sorry for themselves.


There are varieties that are better suited to the smaller garden, Magnolia Stellata being one of them. This small tree / large shrub creates a wonderous spring display of beautiful white, starry shaped flowers.  Here in the cool climate of the UK it can reach about 3 metres, making it an ideal addition to any planting scheme.


Magnolia Stellate originates from Japan, where it grows around the Ise Bay especially in the Kaisho Forest near Nagoya.  Many Magnolia varieties have been introduced into our gardens and the cultivation of magnolias in gardens dates back to at least 600 AD, with records showing that they were popular in large Chinese gardens. They are one of the oldest plant groups still in existence today and date back at least 20 million years, evolving before bees did and evolution has formed them so that they encourage pollination by beetles and not bees or moths.


Magnolias prefer full sun throughout the year but will also grow well in light shade for part of the day.  Some varieties are well suited to growing in containers however they grow best in soil which is slightly acidic or neutral, they do not do well in alkaline, chalky soils. They are shallow rooting plants, so it’s best not to disturb them once they are established.   They will also tolerate neglect well, as they grow well with minimal pruning and not a lot of fuss.  If you do need to prune them, it should be done immediately after flowering to ensure that you don’t lose the flowers the following year.