Sweet Thing Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana ‘Sweet Thing’) The Sweet Thing® is a very tough dwarf evergreen Sweetbay Magnolia. This cultivar was registered by George Dodson of Sleepy Hollow Nursery and Fernando “Campbell” Boyd III of Boyd Nursery Company on April 15, 2004. The original Sweet Thing® was discovered by George Dodson in a block of seedlings that were planted in 1990 at Sleepy Hollow Nursery. While Magnolia virginiana var. australis trees surrounding the original Sweet Thing® continued to grow, reaching heights in excess of 15 feet, the Sweet Thing® remained very dense and compact, only reaching a third of the size of its neighboring trees. After watching this unique little tree for years, Joe Fore, a landscaper from East Tennessee, was touring the farm in the late 1990’s and was shown what would soon become the Sweet Thing® magnolia. Because George wanted the new plant name to contain the words ‘sweet’ or ‘bay’— since the unnamed Magnolia was a Sweetbay Magnolia – Joe suggested the name ‘Sweet Thing’ and the name stuck! After several years of research, Campbell Boyd perfected propagation of the new plant.*

Notes and observations about the original plant continue to be made. The tree has cream-colored, lemon-scented flowers throughout the summer. It tolerates shearing, but it requires none to remain full. It can also be grown as a substitute for Holly and Laurel hedges. While the tree prefers wet, well-drained soil, the plant tolerates any soil type. It is an ideal evergreen foundation plant and can also live in large pots on patios with no protection. As further proof of its hardiness, Sweet Thing® roots have been exposed to -14 degrees Fahrenheit when left outside in pots over the winter–with absolutely no damage. It also has no known disease or pest problems. It is a strong growing, very tough and versatile plant.*

Sweet Thing Magnolia Facts

  • Scientific name: Magnolia virginiana ‘Sweet Thing’
  • Range: the Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast states and into Tennessee
  • Height: approximately 20 feet in height at maturity and 10 feet wide
  • Flowers: flowers are short-lived, but produced over a long period, from early to late summer, and are highly scented of lemon

If Trees Could Sing…

Click here to see Taylor Hicks talk about one of his favorite trees, the Sweetbay Magnolia. The ‘Sweet Thing’ Magnolia is a cultivar of the Sweetbay. Video courtesy of The Nature Conservancy and Taylor Hicks.

The newly planted Sweet Thing Magnolia tree at Old Town Arboretum. Picture taken February 2021.

*Information comes from the Boyd Nursery Company