The Complete Guide for Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia Virginiana) Care

The Sweet Bay Magnolia, otherwise known as the Magnolia Virginiana or Sweetbay, Sweetbay Magnolia, Southern Sweetbay, Swampbay, Swamp Magnolia, Sweet Magnolia, Small Magnolia, Laurel Magnolia, White Bay, White Laurel, Swamp Laurel, Beaver Tree, is a somewhat well known shrub plant native to the Southeast, Northeast, and the Southwest of the United States.

Best known for its low maintenance and moderate growth, this shrub will likely liven up your house (or garden) with its green colored leaves. But, only if you learn how to take proper care of it for it to thrive.

Fortunately, this is exactly what we’ll cover in this Sweet Bay Magnolia Care Guide. So let’s dive in.

The basic care guidelines you need to remember for your Sweet Bay Magnolia are the following:

  • Water: The Sweet Bay Magnolia grows best with watering each week. Increase the frequency of watering when it gets hot.
  • Light: Keep your Magnolia Virginiana in an environment where it can receive partial sun on a daily basis. 
  • Soil: Make sure to keep the Sweet Bay Magnolia in soil with moist but well-draining properties, so ideally, one that is made of sand, loam, and clay.

And as with many other plants, these are the only three care factors you need to remember to make sure your Sweet Bay Magnolia is, for the most part, healthy and well to survive.

Magnolia Virginiana flowers

Scientific / Botanical Aspects

In botanical terms, the Sweet Bay Magnolia belongs to the Magnoliaceae family, the genus Magnolia and the species Virginiana, hence its scientific (or botanical) name Magnolia Virginiana.

As with other Magnolia’s, the Sweet Bay Magnolia is an evergreen plant, which means it will be present year round in your garden.

Growing Region

The Sweet Bay Magnolia is a plant native to the Eastern United States. This is why the Magnolia Virginiana is used to growing in specific regions such as the states in Southeast, Northeast, and the Southwest of the United States.

Knowing your plant’s native region is very useful, as it can give you tips on which environment is best for your Sweet Bay Magnolia. If you keep it in mind, you can try to replicate these conditions at home, and you’ll likely end with a healthier plant.

With this in mind, the Magnolia Virginiana will be most used to the heat zones in the 6 – 9 region, as the plant hardiness level falls between 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a and the ideal climate zone is between 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.

Growth and Size


In terms of size and growth, the Sweet Bay Magnolia is a relatively moderate grower, which makes things somewhat easy for any plant enthusiast.


But, what size of Sweet Bay Magnolia are we talking about? What can you expect in terms of height, spread and spacing? Let’s dig in…

The Magnolia Virginiana can grow up to 10′ – 35′ (3m – 10.5m) in 10′ – 35′ (3m – 10.5m) and 10′ – 35′ (3m – 10.5m) in 10′ – 35′ (3m – 10.5m). 

Also, expect it to grow in a wonderful rounded shape, which is something worthwhile to remember when making your garden landscape plans.


In terms of watering, the Sweet Bay Magnolia is a fairly simple plant to take care of.

This is mostly because it has a straightforward watering schedule and somewhat regular watering needs.

Specifically, most experts agree that the Magnolia Virginiana grows best with watering each week. Increase the frequency of watering when it gets hot.

Which is why it is considered a plant with relatively average needs in terms of water. 

Magnolia Virginiana plants


As a rule of thumb, you should remember to keep your Sweet Bay Magnolia in soil with moist but well-draining characteristics, as these will guarantee the right conditions for your plant to grow and thrive. 

When you consider this, this is why you should aim to choose soil that has good drainage, moist, and occasionally wet properties to keep the right moisture levels at all times. 

In our experience, the famous ‘thumb’ or ‘finger’ test is what works best for the Sweet Bay Magnolia since with it, you will be able to give it the right amount of water, every time – regardless of the environment or placement where you do decide to keep it.

Soil Mix

As mentioned earlier, the Sweet Bay Magnolia prefers to have soil with good drainage, moist, and occasionally wet properties at all times, reason why you need to make the soil mix out of sand, loam, and clay.

This is why most experts agree that the Sweet Bay Magnolia requires soil with high organic matter, which will give you the right conditions it needs.

In addition to this, expert gardeners recommend having preferably neutral to acid soil.

Light and Exposure

In terms of light & exposure, the Sweet Bay Magnolia requires partial sun in order for it to thrive under the right conditions. 

Most experts agree that this shrub will do well as long as you keep it in partial to full sun, and it will be able to grow properly.

Specifically, we recommend that you place your Magnolia Virginiana in little to partial shade (only 2-6 hours of direct sunlight a day), to full and direct sun (more 6 hours of direct sunlight per day).


Being an evergreen plant, the Sweet Bay Magnolia will be present year round in your garden.

But, you can expect it to have its ‘prime-time’ during the spring (mid, late), and during the summer (early, mid, late).


You can expect your Sweet Bay Magnolia to flower around the spring and in the summer months from April to June (spring), and from July to September (summer).

In particular, this shrub is well known for its fragrant, flowers for cutting and showy flowers around the plant enthusiast community.

The Sweet Bay Magnolia produces some beautiful white, or cream/tan and white flowers around this time of year.


The leaves from the Sweet Bay Magnolia have a beautiful green color during most of the year.

In particular, they have a simple arrangement with a alternate organization in its leaves.

You can expect the leaves from your Magnolia Virginiana to be around (3-6 inches) in size.

Magnolia Virginiana care

Attracts, Tolerance and Resistance

The Sweet Bay Magnolia is well known for being able to attract birds, so keep that in mind when choosing your plant, as you’ll likely end up finding one or another in your garden.

Additionally, it has a special tolerance for clay soil and wet soil, so don’t worry if any of these come along, your Magnolia Virginiana will be fine.


How should you then organize your garden to include your new Sweet Bay Magnolia? Here are some recommendations by expert gardeners.

Other owners consider that they complement well most gardens of mediterranean garden, city and courtyard, informal and cottage, and in traditional garden styles. 

In particular, the Sweet Bay Magnolia’s best location within your garden is in beds and borders, and in ponds and streams, others use it for landscaping in a very wet areas, coastal exposure, cutting garden, or a woodland garden.

Companion Plants

Sweet Bay Magnolia’s do well with some other plants beside it. One good companion plant is the Hibiscus, which will pair up nicely with your leafy friend.

Others consider that a nice Campsis radicans will work well too, so choose whichever you find works best for you!


And we’ve come to an end. Fortunately, that’s everything you need to know about your Sweet Bay Magnolia to keep it safe and sound in your garden or home. Enjoy planting!

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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