The Q&A Archives: Magnolia virginiana/Sweet Bay Magnolia

Question: Is Sweet Bay magnolia the same species as the sweet bay shrub I grow in my Greensboro Garden for bay leaves? (When I bought the sweet bay shrub, I was told it was marginal for our zone in the winter; I don't know the species ...) I know sweet bay magnolia can be a shrubby tree here; I am interested in using 2 as specimen trees in my north- facing front yard, near power lines, so I want something smallish. Thanks!

Answer: Magnolia virginiana is also called Sweetbay magnolia or Swamp magnolia. It is hardy in Zones 5-9. This plant has a conical narrow, rounded crown; multistemmed; upright spreading habit, growing to a height of 10 to 60' and a width: 10 to 20'. the leaves are 3 to 5" light gray green above; underside of leaf is blue-white to silvery. Although the foliage is fragrant, it is not the same as the bay leaves used for cooking.

The Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis) is the plant you'll want for bay leaves. It is hardy in Zones 8-11. It can be grown outside in the ground only if the temperature does not go below 25 degrees.

Hope this information is helpful!

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