Secrets of Lirianthe coco: A Guide to Growing Night-Blooming Magnolias

The Lirianthe coco, commonly known as the Night-Blooming Magnolia, is an evergreen small tree belonging to the Magnoliaceae family within the Lirianthe genus.

It is characterized by a hairless structure throughout; the bark is gray, and the twigs are green. The leaves are leathery, ranging from elliptical to narrowly elliptical or inversely ovate.

The flower stems droop downwards, and the flowers themselves are spherical to inversely ovate with a concave ventral side. The seeds are also ovate, with a brown inner seed coat featuring a lateral pore at the ventral apex. This magnolia blooms in the summer and bears fruit in the autumn.

Lirianthe coco

Native to China and also found in Vietnam, the Night-Blooming Magnolia is shade-tolerant and thrives in fertile conditions. It prefers warm, moist, partially shaded environments.

Well-drained, fertile, slightly acidic sandy soils are ideal, while it does not fare well in calcareous soils. Propagation of this magnolia is primarily achieved through layering, grafting, and cuttings.

In terms of ornamental value, the Night-Blooming Magnolia is renowned for its dark green, rustling foliage and pure white flowers, which emit a more potent fragrance at night.

It’s a famous ornamental tree long cultivated in the gardens of Southern China. Additionally, this species contains neolignans that have been found to have therapeutic effects on liver damage, cancer, and headaches.

I. Morphological Characteristics

An evergreen shrub or small tree, reaching heights of 2-4 meters, entirely hairless across all parts; the bark is gray, while the young branches are green, smooth, slightly angled, and glossy.

The leaves are leathery, ranging from elliptical, narrowly elliptical to inversely ovate-elliptical, measuring 7-14(-28) centimeters in length and 2-4.5(-9) centimeters in width, tapering to a pointed tip, with a wedge-shaped base, the upper surface is a lustrous deep green with slight undulations, and the edges curl slightly.

There are 8-10 lateral veins on each side, with sparse reticulation; the petioles are 5-10 millimeters long; and the stipule scars reach the top of the petiole. The pedicels droop downward, bearing 3-4 caducous bract scars.

The flowers are globular, 3-4 centimeters in diameter, with 9 perianth segments that are fleshy and inversely ovate with a concave ventral surface. The outer three segments are green with 5 longitudinal veins, approximately 2 centimeters long.

The inner two whorls are pure white, 3-4 centimeters long, and about 4 centimeters wide; the stamens are 4-6 millimeters long, the anthers about 3 millimeters with a protruding short acute connective; the filaments are white and roughly 2 millimeters long; the pistil cluster is green and ovate, measuring 1.5-2 centimeters in length.

The carpels are about 10 in number, narrowly ovate, 5-6 millimeters long, with a dorsal groove extending to the base of the style, the stigma is short, and after falling off, the top is truncated.

The aggregate fruit is about 3 centimeters long; the mericarps are nearly woody; the seeds are ovate, about 1 centimeter tall, with a brown inner seed coat, a ventral pore at the apex, an indistinct ventral groove, and a pointed base.

The flowering season is in the summer, with nearly year-round blooming in Guangzhou, and the fruiting season is in the fall.

II. Growing Environment

Thrives in the moist, fertile soils of forest understories at elevations ranging from 600 to 900 meters. Prefers warm, humid conditions with dappled sunlight, growing best in fertile, loose, slightly acidic sandy soil.

III. Distribution

Native to Vietnam and China; extensively cultivated in Southeast Asia.

IV. Propagation Methods


When cultivating the fragrant Lirianthe coco in gardens or courtyards, it is essential to start with seedlings to develop a clump-shaped plant.

The method involves pruning the base to foster the growth of multiple main branches and mounding with nutrient-rich, slightly acidic sandy soil to encourage rooting at the base of each stem.

After 3-4 years, the plants can be divided for propagation, treating each main trunk as a unit. Division should be carried out in late February or early to mid-March.

During division, the entire plant should be lifted with the soil intact (mainly to protect the root system), gently tease out the soil with a bamboo stick to fully expose the main and lateral roots, then use a sharp knife to separate them along the natural divisions of growth, applying wood ash or sulfur powder to the cuts to disinfect and dry them.

Make incisions as small as possible, preserving all lateral and fibrous roots. When planting, dig an appropriately sized hole, apply a base fertilizer, backfill with slightly acidic sandy soil, plant on top, firm the soil around it, and water thoroughly.

Division is highly successful, with rapid germination, growth, and early flowering. However, the number of plants produced is limited, making it suitable for small-scale propagation by home gardeners.


If the Lirianthe coco has few basal shoots and has not formed a clump, air layering can be used for propagation during the peak growth months of May and June.

Choose healthy branches free from pests and diseases, and at a smooth spot near the base, make a circular cut and remove the bark to a width of 2.5 to 3.0 centimeters. After peeling, check for any remaining cambium and scrape it off carefully.

Then tie the lower end of the cut with plastic film, filling the inside with a rooting medium made of moss and clay, water thoroughly, and secure the upper end, forming a fist-sized ball of soil around the cut.

For smaller branches, the ball of soil should not be too large; if necessary, stabilize it with a support. After air layering, maintain soil moisture, especially after the cut heals and roots form, to facilitate root growth.

After 100-120 days, the new plant can be separated from the parent in the fall, remove the film, and cultivate with soil attached. Once established, it will be a complete Lirianthe coco plant.


Lirianthe coco can also be asexually propagated through cuttings, ideally during the rainy season from September to October. For the cutting bed, use an old wooden box that is easy to move.

The cutting medium can be made of yellow sand, charred rice husk ash, vermiculite, perlite, etc. Select robust branches that sprouted in the spring of the same year, cuttings should be 8-12 centimeters long, cut the base at an angle and the top straight, ensuring smooth cuts, remove leaves from the part to be inserted into the soil, leaving two leaves at the top.

To minimize water loss, trim the top leaves by half. After cutting, soak the base of the cuttings in a 0.05-0.01% naphthaleneacetic acid solution for 5 seconds, allow to air dry briefly, and then insert into the soil at a depth of one-third the length of the cutting.

Water thoroughly using a fine spray, cover with glass, and place in a cool, ventilated area. Keep the temperature of the cutting bed between 22-25°C, uncover in the evening to collect dew, and cover again by 8 a.m.

After 10-15 days, when callus forms at the base, expose the cuttings to weak sunlight for 2-4 hours daily to promote root primordia formation. Successful cuttings will root below and bud above within 20-30 days.

V. Cultivation Techniques

Potting Medium

Night-Blooming Magnolia, with their tall and slender forms, lush green leaves, and uniquely fascinating flowers, are most suitable for pot cultivation. When cultivating young plants, choose a terra cotta pot of appropriate size.

If the pot is new, it must be soaked for 24-48 hours before use. During planting, first cover half of the pot’s drainage hole with a tile shard, then place another appropriately sized tile shard on top, creating a bridge-like structure, and surround it with broken tile pieces to allow drainage without loss of soil.

At the bottom of the pot, place a small amount of decomposed cake-like solid fertilizer, then a layer of fertile sandy loam, plant the seedling in the center, cover with soil, tamp down firmly, water thoroughly, and place the pot in a cool and ventilated area.

Let the seedling acclimate for a week before returning to normal care, allowing it to recover its vitality.

Water and Fertilizer Management

Night-Blooming Magnolia possess vigorous sprouting energy and robust growth, with large leaves that maintain a jade-green hue throughout the year. Throughout the growing season, they require abundant water and nutrients.

During the growth period, apply decomposed organic liquid fertilizer every 10-15 days. In spring, when new buds sprout, use nitrogen fertilizer to promote vegetative growth.

Before flower bud formation, cease nitrogen application and switch to phosphorus and potassium fertilizers, such as adding 0.3% potassium dihydrogen phosphate to organic fertilizer solutions to encourage flower bud differentiation and prompt blooming.

Fertilization halts during the heat of summer and resumes after the start of autumn to maintain fertile, loose soil, facilitating nutrient absorption. Yulan magnolias thrive in warm, moist climates.

In spring and autumn, water thoroughly every 2-4 days, in conjunction with fertilization. For plants grown on balconies in the summer, water them every evening.

If the early part of summer is particularly dry, water may be needed both morning and evening. In winter, water every 10 to 15 days, maintaining slightly moist soil.

Temperature and Light

Night-Blooming Magnolia favor warm temperatures and soft sunlight, thriving best in partially shaded environments. Young plants should be placed under tree canopies or in shaded structures to receive diffused light.

During the intense heat and sunlight of summer, provide shade for large-scale plantings of young plants as necessary, increase watering, and mist them to prevent leaf scorch.

However, in spring, autumn, and winter, increase sunlight exposure to boost plant vigor. The optimal growing temperatures for yulan magnolias range from 15-25°C, with a flowering period ideal temperature of 22-25°C.

Temperatures below 20°C can delay the flowering phase. During winter, maintain daytime temperatures around 10°C and nighttime temperatures around 5°C to safely overwinter the magnolia and ensure better growth following the low-temperature dormancy period.

VI. Primary Value

Ornamental Value: This species boasts deep green, gracefully swaying branches and pure white flowers that emit a stronger fragrance at night.

It is a long-cultivated garden ornamental tree in South China, ideal for landscaping in tropical and subtropical regions, enhancing the beauty of gardens and courtyards.

Economic Value: The flowers can be used to extract essential oils and are also infused in tea leaves as a fragrance enhancer.

Medicinal Use: The bark of the root is used in traditional medicine to disperse blood stasis and eliminate dampness, treat rheumatism and injuries from falls, while the flowers are used to treat urinary cloudiness and discharge.

VII. Conservation Status

Listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN) as Endangered (EN).

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