Growing the Lily Magnolia

Magnolia (Magnolia liliflora nigra x veicthii) 'Raspberry Ice'
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The lily magnolia (Magnolia liliflora or Magnolia liliiflora) is a deciduous shrub that sports perfumed blossoms that can be pink or reddish-purple.

It is one of the smaller species found in the Magnolia genus. This shrub has been crossed with the Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata) and the result is the saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana.)

You may see two different spellings used for this species. It can be either Magnolia liliflora or Magnolia liliiflora. It is placed in the Magnoliaceae family along with the other magnolia trees and shrubs, the banana shrub (Michelia figo), and the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).

If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9, this plant is a possible choice for your garden. It comes from China originally.

Common Names

There are several names that are associated with this tree. You may see lily magnolia, purple magnolia, woody-orchid, red magnolia, Jane magnolia, Japanese magnolia, tulip magnolia, or Mulan magnolia.

Size and Shape

The lily magnolia will reach a mature size of about 10 to 15 feet tall and wide and form into a rounded shape.


In order to promote the best flowering, find a site in your garden that receives full sun. It is also able to grow in spots with partial shade.


The dark green leaves are up to 4 inches wide and 8 inches long.

At the end of winter/beginning of spring, you will see pink or reddish-purple buds unfurling. They have a pleasant fragrance and are up to 7 inches long depending on the variety. The blossoms will continue throughout the season and some may appear in summer also.

As with other magnolia species, pollination is facilitated by beetles. The result is an aggregate of dry fruits called follicles. They are purple or brown.

Design Tips

This shrub can definitely be used as a focal point in the garden since it will be covered with gorgeous blossoms. It is also drought tolerant provided the roots have had a chance to firmly anchor themselves.

'Nigra' is a popular variety that has intensely colored flowers. It is often crossed with other Magnolia species to produce new hybrids. For example, the U.S. National Arboretum created eight different varieties by crossing 'Nigra' with Magnolia stellata 'Rosea'. They are collectively called "The Girls" since they were given female names: 'Ann', 'Betty', 'Jane', 'Judy', 'Pinkie', 'Randy', 'Ricki' and 'Susan'.

If you want a variety that is not quite as wide as the species, look for 'Gracilis'. The leaves are also narrower.

Geeky gardeners might want to look for a hybrid called 'Star Wars'. It is produced by crossing the 'Nigra' variety of the lily magnolia with the Campbell's magnolia (Magnolia campbellii).

Growing Tips

You can propagate this magnolia by taking cuttings or planting the seeds. If you have planted a variety, the plants resulting from the seeds may be different from their parents.


You should not need to do much pruning for this species or for magnolia trees and shrubs in general. If you find that some trimming is in order (i.e. you have wood that has become dead, damaged or diseased), you should make your cuts right after the shrub has finished blooming.


Magnolia scale (Neolecanium cornuparvum) suck out sap from the stems. Encourage ladybugs to visit your garden as they will snack on the scales and help remedy the problem to some degree. Horticultural and dormant oils can be used at different stages in the life cycle, though they will not be so effective against adults that have formed a wax barrier on their bodies.


Black sooty mold can form on plants that are infested with the magnolia scale. They drop a sugary substance called honeydew that the mold grows upon. It can also attract other insects like ants to the shrub. Control the scales to help control the mold problem.

Powdery mildew is another fungal problem that can crop up. There are ways to control powdery mildew organically.