Magnolia liliiflora. Photo by Mona Bourell.
Magnolia liliiflora is known by various popular names including purple magnolia, woody-orchid, red magnolia, Jane magnolia, Japanese magnolia, tulip magnolia, Mulan magnolia and lily magnolia. The species epithet, liliiflora, means lily-like flower.
The lily magnolia is native to southwestern China (Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces) but has been cultivated for centuries elsewhere in China, and also in Japan. It was first introduced to English-speaking countries from plants cultivated in Japan, and thus is sometimes called Japanese magnolia. Nowadays it is also planted as an ornamental in North America and Europe, but less often than its popular hybrid, the saucer magnolia.
The lily magnolia naturally grows as a large shrub or a small tree branched from the base, and is one of the smaller species found in the Magnolia genus. It is deciduous and flowers in late winter to early spring, usually before the leaf buds open. Blooming profusely, it is mildly fragrant having showy two-toned flowers with upright tepals that are purplish red on the outsides and whitish on the insides.
With its unusual shrubby size and shape, and vase-shaped flowers, the lily magnolia is an important parent in magnolia breeding programs. It is most commonly crossed with the Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata) and the result is the saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana.)
In the wild it grows on slopes and forest edges at elevations of 1000-5300 feet. In order to promote the best flowering in cultivation, it prefers an area that receives full sun but does well in partial shade too. It is drought tolerant once established and reputedly tolerant of air pollution. It is frost hardy to 5°F. Slow-growing to 9 to 12 feet high, and 8 to 15 feet wide, this shrub can be used as a focal point in a garden. Especially striking, it will be covered with an abundance of gorgeous blossoms on bare branches in early spring.
Traditionally the flowers and unopened flower buds have been used medicinally, primarily for sinusitis, allergic rhinitis and colds with a runny nose.
||Magnolia liliiflora (The name Yulania liliiflora is a synonym)
||Deciduous shrub or small tree
||Sun or partial shade; prefers deep, rich, well-drained soil and a location sheltered from wind. It is drought tolerant and can tolerate air pollution. USDA hardiness zone : 4-9
||Flowers emerge before leaves in late winter to spring; upright tepals are pinkish-white to reddish-purple.
||As accent specimen in full sun or in woodland garden with dappled shade.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor and Mona Bourell. Text and profile by Mona Bourell