Plant Collector: Magnolia laevifolia “Velvet and Cream”

Now renamed Magnolia laevifolia

Now renamed Magnolia laevifolia

The naming of this plant is a complicated story. It was and still is widely sold as Michelia yunnanensis. It then had a fling with the name Magnolia dianica but is now Magnolia laevifolia. There are sound reasons for the changing name but it makes it confusing. In this country, it is almost a certainty that you will find it sold under its original name of M. yunnanesis. Michelias have now been reclassified as magnolias. Though evergreen, their foliage is much finer than the tough grandiflora types we normally associate with evergreen magnolias.

“Velvet and Cream” is a particularly good flowered form first released by former Cambridge nurseryman, Peter Cave. It has larger flowers in a beautiful cup form. M. laevifolia sets seed so prolifically that every man and their dog has raised seedlings and named them – some are better than others. Grown in open conditions with full sun, plants will stay bushier and more compact but generally these plants are a little slow to get established but eventually make small trees around the 3 metre mark if not trimmed. They are generally sold as fragrant, though I have yet to find one that has more than just a hint of perfume.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

2 thoughts on “Plant Collector: Magnolia laevifolia “Velvet and Cream”

  1. Robyn Kilty

    So this once Michelia yunnanensis, now M. laevifolia “Velvet and Cream” would be a smaller tree than a Michelia doltsopa? I have a M.doltsopa which is outgrowing it’s space in my garden, in spite of much thining and reducing. Eventually it will have to come out, and I’m thinkng M.laevifolia could be a good alternative if it’s not too big. Robyn

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Yes much smaller. Just make sure you get a good form of it (they’re not all equal). Makes a most graceful small tree over time and a better fit for a very small garden than doltsopa which you will be fighting forever to keep reduced in size! Hardier too so won’t get frosted.

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