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artinnature

Magnolia (Michelia) 'Stellar Ruby' disappointing fragrance

last month
last modified: last month

I planted one of these a month ago. It came home with me covered with flower buds, and several flowers open every day. There is no fragrance. I think low air temperature might have something to do with it. Jim Putnam has mentioned on YouTube that his plant in Raleigh, NC is only fragrant when its hot outside. I've grown M. 'Inspiration', M. 'Warm Fuzzies', M. 'Coppertallica', M. laevifolia, M. maudiae (all from the Michelia section of Magnolia, and all with white flowers), and they all have incredible fragrance no matter what the temperature, if there is a flower even beginning to open, it will be very fragrant, even if its barely above freezing. This is what I love about them, and I thought Stellar Ruby would be the same. Here's hoping that I still have flower buds opening when warm weather finally arrives here in Cascadia, so that I might be able to experience the fragrance.

'Stellar Ruby' is derived from the M. figo (Banana Shrub) section of Magnolia/Michelia, and it has dark, brownish-ruby colored flowers. This is my first experience growing any type of Banana Shrub, do others only have fragrance during very warm weather?

I think this is a pretty good example of how plants perform differently in the NW versus the SE, even though the hardiness zones might be the same. Some of those Southern Living Collection plants, etc. really do prefer the south, and perform better there than up here in the NW, where we have more cooling degree days/hours than almost anywhere.

Comments (14)

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    I've noticed that some 'selections' of plants, while selected for some supposedly superior characteristics, sometimes then lack other characteristics. Butterfly bushes for example, selected for some vivid 'new' color instead of the usual pale lavender, but then have almost no scent compared to the original ones (and less attractive to pollinators) and also less cold tolerant. Also, my selections of crape myrtle for color (Nachez and Catawba) different from the standard, and those too seem to be LESS tolerant of cold than the originals. Just my observations.....

  • last month

    bengz6westmd, You may be right. Stellar Ruby does have a very nice and incredibly dense habit for Magnolia, and that is the main reason I chose it, to serve as a privacy/screening plant. But fragrance might have been reduced in the selection process. I'm also hoping the dense, branching growth habit might be more resistant to ice & snow, which is always a big issue for all of my other Magnolia laevifolia types, which have long, thin branches and very few side branches and they bend badly with ice or snow load, and sometimes break.

  • last month

    80F here today and still no fragrance from Stellar Ruby. I'm declaring the plant a dud and moving it to a less prominent position where it will still serve as a screening plant.


    Next up: Magnolia 'Fairy White'. In addition to M. figo parentage, this one is derived from M. doltsopa. I saw M. doltsopa in full bloom in Brookings Oregon in March of 2023 and it was extremely fragrant. Anyone growing Fairy White?

  • last month

    art, the only magnolia I have is umbrella magnolia, but it is a very striking species w/huge leaves and flowers. I see the Japanese saucer magnolias around and, as they flower very early, about every other year the flowers get frozen and/or blown off by the northeast US spring weather.

  • last month

    So far no fragrance from stellar Ruby, Magnolia 'Fairy White is definitely fragrant but its not what i would call a strong fragrance! well not here in the uk anyway

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    My 'Stellar Ruby' can be quite fragrant (can smell it 10 feet away if the wind is right) as long as:

    1) the plant is in full bloom with lots of flowers,

    2) the temperature is at least in the upper 70s -- the warmer the better,

    3) the humidity is high. So that may only be on certain days.

    4) The blooms were not damaged in any way by a super-cold winter.

    Maybe up here in Northern Virginia, with our longer winters, it tends to bloom more all-at-once and therefore we have more blooms at one time? With individual blooms, I have to get my nose right in there to detect anything.





    My Mag. x 'Serendipity' has less fragrance, but what there is is more lemony and similar to Mag. virginiana.







    artinnature thanked Dave in NoVA • N. Virginia • zone 7A
  • last month

    I have no experience with Magnolias but my observation regarding fragrance is that high humidity helps. I have found that flowers have more fragrance or noticeable fragrance if otherwise missing after a rain or after being sprayed with water (indoor orchids).

  • 29 days ago

    That makes sense, we have super-low humidity when its warm here in the PNW. My M. 'Coppertallica' started blooming two days ago and it is again wonderfully fragrant, just like last year, even with the low humidity. 'Stellar Ruby' continues to bloom with no fragrance. FWIW, the flowers on my plant have no real "ruby" color like yours (Dave in NoVA), they're reddish-black, extremely dark, they never really open like in your photos, and the petals fall off quickly after partially opening.

  • 29 days ago

    @artinnature, time to spray them with water a couple of times a day. If that makes the blooms last longer and make them fragrant, I would say it' s worth the effort.

  • 28 days ago

    My michelia figo is only scented at certain time of the day so I'm guessing it's similar. Good to know it has a fragrance, thanks for the repot. Mine is still small but I do see some buds on it.

  • 28 days ago

    I'll be out there precisely at 5:20pm every day now. Last night I kept checking and the fragrance became more like bananas later in the evening. Back to no fragrance at all this morning.

  • 28 days ago

    Nice! I will check the blooms on mine too. I love the smell of M. figo so I'm wondering if Stella Ruby has a similar scent..


    What other fragrant plants are you growing artinnature? (I'm in pdx so we are probably neighbors)

  • 27 days ago

    Others fragrant plants I grow: Rhododendron occidentale Big Frilly, Trachelospermum jasminoides, Actaea Black Negligee, Daphnes: D. Summer Ice, D. odora Aureomarginata & Maejima, D. Eternal Fragrance, D. Perfume Princess, Sarcococca confusa, Sarcococca ruscifolia, Magnolia Inspration, Magnolia Majestic Beauty, Magnolia Edith Bogue, Magnolia Coppertallica, Magnolia Kay Parris, Nacissus Avalanche, Osmanthus heterophyllus Rotundifolius, Elaeagnus Olive Martini, Pittosporum heterophyllum, Pieris japonica.


    The fragrant plant I most want to add is Camellia Minato No Haru, or another C. lutchensis hybrid, they are incredibly fragrant!

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