Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora)

Lily Magnolia

Magnolia liliiflora is a smaller variety of the Magnolia genus. This tree is known for its beautiful flowers. The plant is actually a native of China but was also popularly cultivated in Japan. From Japan, it spread to other countries, and for this reason, many people call it the Japanese magnolia. Magnolia liliiflora plant is also commonly known as Mulan magnolia, purple magnolia, red magnolia, lily magnolia, tulip magnolia and woody-orchid. 

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Magnolia liliiflora is a small tree native to southwest China (in Sichuan and Yunnan), but cultivated for centuries elsewhere in China and also Japan. Variously known by many names, including Mulan magnolia, purple magnolia, red magnolia, lily magnolia, tulip magnolia and woody-orchid, it was first introduced to English-speaking countries from cultivated Japanese origins, and is thus also sometimes called Japanese magnolia, though it is not native to Japan. It is now also planted as an ornamental in North America and Europe, though rather less often than its popular hybrid (see below).

It is a deciduous shrub, exceptionally a small tree, to 4m tall (smaller than most other magnolias), and blooms profusely in early spring with large pink to purple showy flowers, before the leaf buds open. It is one of the slowest-growing trees, with a growth rate of 15 – 30 centimeters (6–12 in) when young.

The cultivar ‘Nigra’, with flowers much deeper in colour than the species, has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It prefers an acid or neutral soil, in full sun or light shade.

This species is one of the parents of the popular hybrid saucer magnolia, M. × soulangeana, the other parent being the Yulan magnolia, M. denudata.

II. How to Grow and Care

Plant lily magnolia shrubs in a sunny location with rich soil—this is not a plant that tolerates poor soil conditions, especially mixtures that lack nutritional value. Try to position your lily magnolia where it will be protected from strong wind and the coldest winter temperatures, but don’t plant it next to your home, where the radiant artificial warmth may cause the buds to open too early in the spring.


For the most blooms and the best display of flowers, plant your lily magnolia in a spot that boasts full sunlight. That said, the plant can also grow adequately in partial shade (especially in hotter locations), but it may experience a slight reduction in flowering. Ultimately, aim for at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day.

Temperature and Humidity

Lily magnolia is best planted in a semi-sheltered area that is protected from strong winds and aggressively cold temperatures. It’s also a good idea to avoid southern exposures, which may cause the buds to open too early in spring. Don’t attempt to plan lily magnolia outside is USDA hardiness zone recommendation—even the northern part of zone five can sometimes be borderline for this plant, with spring flowers easily killed off by early cold spells.


Lily magnolia should only need watering as younger, newly planted trees, or during periods of drought. If lily magnolia is planted in the garden, it should be watered immediately after planting, and again when the water has seeped through, and repeated 4-5 times. Water it a second time 3 days after planting and a third time 5 days after planting.

After that, watering can be sparingly done, and established plants can absorb moisture from the soil. Pay close attention to checking if they survive. In the hot seasons, a little water can be used in the morning and evening, while in other seasons it is not necessary.


Lily magnolia plants do best when planted in moist, rich soils that are slightly acidic and well-draining. Heavy soils, or those that are nutrient deficient, should be amended with peat moss or compost before planting. You can also top the soil with a bit of mulch to help moderate soil temperatures and lock in moisture.


Organic fertilizer should be applied to the base of the plant in spring. At this time of year, your lily magnolia will just be starting to develop leaves and will want extra nitrogen to help with their production. This gives plants the energy to bloom a little later in the season. Therefore, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer such as dried-blood meal is recommended.

Later in the year, and particularly if your region has had heavy rain over the growing season, lily magnolia benefits from a lighter feed of fertilizer to help return vital nutrients into the ground. A fertilizer with potassium, such as potash, is suitable at this time of year and can be applied during fall before the tree becomes dormant over the winter.

Planting Instructions

The best time to plant young lily magnolia is during the spring. plants should be kept well-watered, and benefit from the addition of organic matter or pre-mixed fertilizer to promote strong, healthy growth. This should be mixed in with the soil around the roots of new plants. Be sure to choose a location with plenty of room for your plant to grow.


Lily magnolia requires little pruning. In fact, pruning can harm the trees or prevent flowering if pruned back too hard. Therefore, a light trim of younger trees during late spring/summer after they have finished blooming is all that is recommended to help shape your plant and to encourage more blooms in the coming years. Remove any damaged branches and ones that are crossing over. You can also trim back any extra-long, leggy shoots. Consider the tree shape when pruning your lily magnolia, and always aim for a balanced, open structure.


You can propagate lily magnolia by taking cuttings from an established plant or planting the seeds from it. If you’ve planted a hybrid variety, keep in mind that the plants resulting from the seeds may be different from the parent plant.

To propagate from cuttings, use a sterilized pruner to take 6- to 8-inch cuttings in early summer after the next year’s buds have set. Take the cuttings from growing tips of the branches, then remove all but the upper leaves. Make a 2-inch vertical slice into the end of the stem, then dip the cut end in a rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a small container filled with moist perlite.

Place the container in a loose plastic bag and set it in a bright location out of direct sunlight. Keep the cuttings moist and grow them in the containers for several months until a good root network has developed. At that point, they can then be transplanted into the garden come fall.

Pests and Diseases

Lily magnolia is a relatively problem-free shrub, and those problems that do occur are rarely life-threatening. Generally, you’re most likely to see pests like magnolia scale insects, which suck out sap from the stems. To rid your plant of them, encourage ladybugs to visit your garden, as they will snack on the scales and help remedy the problem to some degree. Horticultural oil can also be used at different stages in the life cycle, though it will not be so effective against adults that have formed a wax barrier on their bodies.

Powdery mildew can be another issue for the shrub, especially in humid conditions. To reduce powdery mildew, prune your lily magnolia to improve air circulation and keep the area around the plant free of debris. Spraying the shrub with water early on in the day may also help dislodge mold spores, and fungicides applied early in the season can prevent mildew.

III. Uses and Benefits 

Magnolia liliiflora is a beautiful tree that makes it one of the best ornamental plants to have in your garden. The sweet-smelling purple flowers are sure to draw a lot of attention and earn you compliments from neighbors. Additionally, the plant also has a tonne of medical properties that provides health benefits. Having them in your garden will definitely be a good choice due to these health benefits. 

Here are some of the top health benefits of Magnolia liliiflora that you must know:-

Improves mental health

Magnificent liliiflora possesses anxiolytic properties, which can help with maintaining hormonal balance in the body. It reduces and stabilises stress hormones that cause anxiety and panic. It influences the endocrine system and lowers the hormone release in the body. Additionally, it helps release dopamine which may combat depression and other mental illnesses.

Improves dental hygiene 

Studies have now revealed that extracts from Magnolia liliiflora can be useful in treating dental issues. It can soothe gingivitis and reduce gum inflammation and bleeding.

Reduces menstrual cramps

Extracts from Magnolia liliiflora have excellent anti-inflammatory properties that ease muscle tension. This characteristic of the plant can help reduce period cramps.

Solves respiratory problems

Magnolia was a useful extract for ancient medicine in China. It was used to make medicines for respiratory problems such as bronchitis, coughing, as well as asthma. 

Anti-allergenic properties 

Magnolia is also said to prevent allergic reactions and limit severe symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory properties also help to provide relief from allergic reactions. Hay fever, seasonal allergies, or specific allergen sensitivity can be cured by using magnolia supplements.

Promotes weight loss

Magnolia supplements have often helped to limit appetite, which can help with losing weight. Supplements made using magnolia extracts are highly beneficial in losing weight as it prevents overeating and helps in maintaining a strict diet.

Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora) Details

Common name Lily Magnolia
Botanical name Magnolia liliiflora
Plant type Perennial
Hardiness zone 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
Growth rate Slow
Height 8 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
Width 8 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Purple/Lavender
Leaf color Green