Michelia Lemon Fragrant

Michelia “Lemon Fragrant” – Thirkettle hybrid Magnolia

Masses of large, pure white, lemon-scented flowers are borne in early spring.


Small evergreen tree, growing up to 5M. with a compact growth form that can be tightly clipped, making this plant good for hedging. Botanically Michelias are Magnolias and the Michelia yunnanensis parent of this hybrid is now correctly called Magnolia laevifolia. Separately, Mark and Abbie Jury at the Tokorangi garden have done a lot of work to develop Michelias with smaller leaves and a lighter, less oppressive feel compared to a Magnolia, which are sold under their “Fairy Magnolia” trademark.


Michelias come from China, though this particular hybrid comes from Hope, near Nelson, where it was bred by John & Jackie Thirkettle. They released this variety in 2009 and still hold the PVR. Lemon Fragrant is a hybrid of Michelia yunnanensis and a hybrid called “Bubbles”. Bubbles was itself bred in New Zealand several decades ago, this time by Os Blumhardt at Koromiko nurseries in Whangarei, and it is a hybrid of Michelia doltsopa and Michelia figo.

Soil / Aspect:

Michelia Lemon Fragrant is an easy going plant, once established. Keep it well watered in the first year. It is another of these plants that is best with its head in the sun and its feet in the shade. It prefers soil that does not dry out in summer and flowers best with sun on the leaves. It enjoys the acidic soils in Karin’s garden and, once you get your eye in you will find that there are many of this beautiful plant around.


If you are growing this as a hedge, or indeed as some kind of topiary, make sure you prune soon after flowering has finished. This avoids the perils of cutting off next year’s flower buds, but will involve some further tidying up later in the year.

There is an excellent article by Abbie Jury on Michelias here if you would like to know more.