Bigleaf Magnolia, Large-leaved Cucumber Tree

Magnolia macrophylla

Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia (mag-NO-lee-a) (Info)
Species: macrophylla (mak-roh-FIL-uh) (Info)



Foliage Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade



Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer




Other details:

This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From softwood cuttings

From hardwood cuttings

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Spanish Fort, Alabama

Los Altos, California

Meriden, Connecticut

New London, Connecticut

New Preston Marble Dale, Connecticut

Atlanta, Georgia

Canton, Georgia

Cornelia, Georgia

Decatur, Georgia

Lawrence, Kansas

Shawnee Mission, Kansas

Louisville, Kentucky

Pippa Passes, Kentucky

Slade, Kentucky

Denham Springs, Louisiana

Oscar, Louisiana

Annapolis, Maryland

Centreville, Maryland

Jackson, Mississippi

Moselle, Mississippi

Picayune, Mississippi (2 reports)

Lincoln, Nebraska

Exeter, New Hampshire

Bayside, New York

Highland, New York

Ithaca, New York

Rochester, New York

Gastonia, North Carolina

Huntersville, North Carolina

Statesville, North Carolina

Youngsville, North Carolina

Grove City, Ohio

West Chester, Ohio

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Easley, South Carolina

Rock Hill, South Carolina

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Christiana, Tennessee

Corryton, Tennessee

Loretto, Tennessee

Tracy City, Tennessee

Haslet, Texas

Houston, Texas

White Center, Washington

Eglon, West Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Dec 30, 2016, zoneimpaired from Toronto, ON (Zone 6b) wrote:

I have had a macrophylla growing in front of my house in Toronto Ontario Canada for the last 5 years. We are probably zone 6a but there has been some nasty cold weather. There has been no die back... they are slower in growing at our property in Nova Scotia 5b but they hang on.


On Feb 20, 2016, 1077011947 from Greer, SC wrote:

I have two of thee here in Simpsonville, SC. I grew up in SE KY where they were very Abundant along the streams . We would make hats out of the leaves, also we doubled the leaves into a triangular cup and drank water out of them when in the woods and found clean water. They are a beautiful and tropical looking tree.


On Jul 14, 2015, longjonsilverz from Centreville, MD wrote:

I have been growing several types of unusual plants here in Eastern Maryland (zone 7). I have a few types of palm trees and other things not usually seen around here, but its always the Bigleaf Magnolia that steals the show and gets the most attention. It seems like every person who passes by asks about it. These trees can handle full sun and and some pretty bad soil conditions when established but they look best with some shade and good soil. They are very cold hardy and do fine in heat with enough water. Keep in mind that these trees can get very large, up to around 100ft, although usually much less. There is a smaller variety called the Ashe Magnolia which grows to a much shorter height and tends to grow more horizontally. The Huge flowers have a nice smell similar to most Ameri... read more


On Mar 5, 2014, FlyPoison from Rock Hill, SC (Zone 7a) wrote:

When it comes to positive attributes, this rare native has many. If you want to add a very interesting conversation piece in your garden, look no further. I've found it easy to grow and extremely drought tolerant in my southeastern wooded preserve. Other deciduous magnolias that are worth trying are the Ash Magnolia, endemic to FL, the Pyramid Magnolia and Cucumber Magnolia.

Another wonderful and underutilized magnolia is the evergreen Sweet Bay Magnolia. Often found naturally in wetter areas, it can also grow in drier conditions. I prefer it to the much more popular Southern Magnolia.


On Nov 10, 2013, jwmoon1029 from Powder Springs, GA wrote:

There are several big leaf magnolias that grow on some family owned property in Paulding county Georgia. The trees huge leaves and beautiful blooms are an enjoyable addition to the area. Several people have commented on these trees.


On Jul 17, 2013, Phellos from Port Vincent, LA wrote:

I find this plant to be quite beautiful. I have seen it growing along native hillsides here in Louisiana. Around here, it despises full sun. The more shade, the better. I have had great difficulty over the years mimicking the proper growing conditions in my garden. I have had individuals struggle from both too dry and too wet conditions IN THE SAME AREA. I find that this plant does best when planted in very well-drained soil with plenty of mulch.


On May 13, 2013, Mlgcohio from Grove City, OH wrote:

I have acquired this plant, a few of them in fact in 2011 from a friend in Southeastern Ohio that was clearing a piece of wooded land for access to his pond and just this one survived the past two winters & the drought last year. The ones I have seen around his pond are the coolest blooming trees I have ever seen in Ohio. Once I finally figured out what this tree was I wanted to find out more about it to help it grow to maturity around my new back patio in Grove City Ohio.
I need to move the tree as the spot it is growing will not work permanently.
I have a SSW facing patio and would really like to get it moved now & not risk killing it.
I have placed a lot of good topsoil around this patio but the underlying soil is clay which Im not sure about this tree growing in? ... read more


On Jan 20, 2013, Raewyn2 from Waipukerau,
New Zealand wrote:

I bought a home in New Zealand in the North Island with a mature Magnolia macrophylla. It is the only one I have ever seen here and no garden centre or horticulturist was able to identify it. The nearest we came was seboldii. Have just discovered it is macryphylla and am amazed that it is here in New Zealand. It has produced a seedling, true to type which is in a pot. The house was owned by an old lady who had lived there for 45 years until she entered a rest home and passed. So no one to ask how she came by it. The garden is very small and has some nice varieties of unusual plants.
Does anyone know how this tree came to be in New Zealand?
I just love it. The light shining through the pale jade leaves and those enormous flowers look like white herons perching in the tree. I ... read more


On Sep 23, 2012, DIXIELADY87 from Pearl, MS wrote:

My first experience with the big leaf magnolia was in 1982 when I saw my first one at Bankhead National Forest in Double Springs, AL. They were magnificent and they were very prolific. They were usually at the edge of the dense forest and were in very moist rich soil. I later found them in MS as well and acquired 8 and planted them in a shaded area of my mothers front yard. Five are alive today and have several small ones. Two were propagated from seed because they are located several feet from the adults and four are coming from the parent as an offshoot or runner. They produce wonderful shade in the summer and are very fragrent.


On Sep 3, 2011, raymondct from Meriden, CT wrote:

We've got 1 specimen growing in our yard way up in Connecticut. Obviously not native but it does great in all weather and seasons. Sadly we lost a good portion of it in hurricance Irene, but I know the tree will live on, as it has lost major branches and has had a split in the trunk for years with no ill effects. This tree gives tons of shade with it's huge leaves and lends a tropical look right next to our pool.


On Jul 18, 2011, RobinLane from Loretto, TN wrote:

This is now my favorite tree! My husband and I discovered a grove of Bigleaf Magnolias canopied in the woods on our farm in southern Middle Tennessee, and they looked like magical, green umbrellas overhead. There were babies popping up everywhere. We dug up a rather smallish one, and it has thrived in a pot for over a year. We will plant it this fall near our house. A naturalist here identified it as a Cowcumber Tree. That is the common name rather than Cucumber Tree, I believe. And, we were thrilled to discover that it is a native tree!


On Apr 9, 2011, alkinley from Gastonia, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

Have these growing naturally in the woods along a creek at my home near Gastonia, NC (Spencer Mtn. area).


On Jan 5, 2011, Fires_in_motion from Vacherie, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

The only specimen I've seen in person was at Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, MS. I have to say it looked pretty raggedy, but then again, this was on a 98 day in July. (It was growing in a very shady mature forest nook, though.) The forest guide dude was really excited to tell me about it, so that's how I knew it was not your everyday magnolia. They looked like an even uglier Catalpa to me, to be honest, but it was pretty cool to see such a rare-ish native tree up close. So I'm giving this tree a "Positive" rating simply because I can find no rationale to give it a Neutral or Negative just based on not being aesthetically pleasing to me.

Update, Oct. 2011: The guide told me that the tree looks bad because a kid had swung from it and split it, so he put some screws in it t... read more


On Aug 6, 2006, sladeofsky from Louisville, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

This is an amazing tree which is not as well known as it should be in the garden. With leaves up to 80cm. long it holds the record as the plant with the largest simple leaves in North America. And even though the evergreen Southern Magnolia has the honor of being named Magnolia Grandiflora, Magnolia Macrophylla has the largest single flower in North America. The gigantic leaves on the single stick saplings fool many as being banana trees. The Umbrella Magnolia which also has large leaves is sometimes confused with the Big Leaf Magnolia. Leaf shape is one easy way of differentiating. The Umbrella Magnolia has cuneate (wedge-shaped) leafe bases whereas the Big Leaf Magnolia has auriculate (ear-shaped) leaf bases. This is an understory forest tree. In cultivation it should be planted... read more