Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata): History, Characteristics, Lifespan & More

Magnolia denudata, commonly known as Yulan Magnolia or the lilytree, is a small tree that is native to eastern and southern China. It is a member of the Magnoliaceae family with fragrant flowers that bloom in early spring.

The Yulan Magnolia has a rich history in Chinese culture. It has been cultivated in Chinese Buddhist temple gardens for over a thousand years and was considered a symbol of purity during the Tang dynasty. It was even planted in the grounds of the emperor’s palace. It is the official city flower of Shanghai.

Yulan magnolia produce white flowers that are goblet-shaped and have 9 thick white petals. Flowers bloom before the leaves emerge.  Flowers give way to cone-like fruits that mature to a striking red color in late summer, releasing individual red coated seeds at maturity.

The Yulan Magnolia can grow up to 30-40 feet tall with a rounded spreading crown, and its leaves are dark green above and light green below. The tree is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9, and although it is relatively low-maintenance, it may take 6-7 years before it produces its first blooms.

This variety is slow growing with a short trunk and non-invasive, shallow root system. It is suitable to plant closer to buildings, providing highly sought after shade in summer. This magnolia can live for 80 to 120 years.

Cultural Characteristics of Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata)

  • Hardiness: It is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9. It is not well-suited for regions with extremely cold winters or hot, dry summers.
  • Light: This tree prefers full sun to partial shade. It will produce the most flowers when it receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Soil: It grows best in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It can tolerate a variety of soil types, including clay, loam, and sand, but it does not like to be waterlogged.
  • Water: Regular watering is important, especially during the first few years after planting. Once the tree is established, it can tolerate some drought, but it will perform best if it receives regular water.
  • Pruning: This tree does not require much pruning, but it can be pruned to shape or to remove dead or damaged branches. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.
  • Flowering: It blooms in late winter to early spring, producing large, showy, white flowers that are fragrant and up to 6 inches in diameter. The flowers appear before the leaves, making for a stunning display.
  • Fruit: After flowering, the tree produces small, cone-like fruits that ripen to red in late summer. The fruits contain seeds that are dispersed by birds and other wildlife.

Cultivars of Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata)

‘Forrest’s Pink’Pink tepals, darker at base
‘Purple Eye’White with purple bases
‘Sunspire’Yellow flowers
‘Ann’White flowers, contrasting purple-magenta inside, with the darkest coloring at the base of the petals
‘Yellow Bird’Yellow flowers
‘Elizabeth’Yellow flowers
‘Butterflies’Yellow flowers
‘Yellow Lantern’Yellow flowers
‘Yellow Fever’Yellow flowers
‘Yellow Crown’Yellow flowers
‘Yellow River’Yellow flowers
‘Yellow Star’Yellow flowers

Yulan Magnolia Leaves

Yulan Magnolia Flower

Yulan Magnolia Bark

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