Magnolia Perfume Ingredient: What is It? What Does It Smell Like?

Magnolia is an Asian flower renowned for its unique fragrance notes, ranging from floral and romantic to lemon-scented. Perfumers associate its sweet aroma with honey, while its fresh, citrus-like varieties make it an ideal ingredient for the most mesmerizing of fragrances.

It’s often encountered in Southeast Asia where the tree blooms during the warm season, and also in the Americas. Today, it’s used as a fragrance ingredient and natural health remedy in aromatherapy.

What is Magnolia?

Magnolia is a flowering garden plant species belonging to the Magnoliaceae family. 

Originating in Southeast Asia, magnolia trees are now commonly planted in the peat moss of China and Thailand. Some types, such as southern magnolia, grow in USDA zones from 6 to 9 due to favorable climate conditions.

The large, often star-shaped magnolia flowers have been used for centuries because of their therapeutic benefits. Their petals are called tepals, as they’re a mix between petals and sepals, and mostly bloom in spring. 

Contrary to its shallow root ball, it can grow up to 70 feet tall.

The tepals go through a steam distillation process to extract the natural essential oil. The resulting substance is widely used nowadays in perfumeries and aromatherapy due to its floral scent. 

However, it has been an important remedy for respiratory health problems for centuries. 

The fresh scent and delicate white, rose, or pink tepals make magnolia a popular garden tree. It’s best to plant it right after winter, as spring is its growing season.

What Does Magnolia Smell Like?

Magnolia flowers are prized for their alluring emanation, which ranges from sweet and floral to citrusy. Each type emits a perfume with a distinct, alluring scent. 

  • Nicknamed the ‘little gem’ due to its small, compact tepals, Magnolia Grandiflora, or southern magnolia, blossoms in early summer and has a strong lemon scent commonly used in aromatherapy after steam distillation. Magnolia grandiflora grows in USDA zones 6 to 9 with its large flowers soaked in full sun.
  • Yulan Magnolia bears large flowers ranging from pure white to pink and purple. Known to be the most fragrant of all magnolia trees, these magnolias bloom in early spring and have a light scent with subtle hints of lemon. 
  • Anise Magnolia blooms in early spring and its white petals emit a sweet scent similar to licorice or anise. Its tepals also have a citrus hint, especially post-distillation, and the ‘Van Veen Form’ variety is particularly fragrant.
  • Magnolia Denudata has one of the most intense citruses—just a few of its watered flowers can perfume an entire house! Its flower buds blossom throughout the warm season, emitting a tart lemon fragrance. 
  • Saucer Magnolia is a hybrid tree. The combination between magnolia and soulangiana results in deep rose, lemon-scented flowers with a hint of sweet fragrance.
  • Loebner Magnolia is a cross between Magnolia kobus and Magnolia stellata. Its star-shaped flowers feature white petals with a touch of lilac pink, but it’s the tepals and stems that emit a sweet, calming fragrance.

The resulting magnolia fragrance is also heavily influenced by air quality. The flowers are often most fragrant when air humidity is high, as it hydrates the stems and tepals. 

The sweet floral aroma is also stronger in the late afternoon, once the flowers are no longer exposed to direct sunlight.

What Scent Family is Magnolia?

Classified under the floral scent family, almost every magnolia flower from Eastern Asia emits a candy and honey-like sweetness. Therefore, it’s associated with ylang ylang, lavender, and even neroli. 

Certain species have citrus, lemon-scented flowers, hence their link to citrus trees such as lemon or the Seville orange tree (bergamot).

As a consequence, magnolia makes a great addition to romantic, feminine fragrances.

What are the Benefits of Magnolia?

Natives of the Asian continent have been prizing magnolias for good reason: once it blooms, its tepals offer several benefits relating to physical and mental health. 

The most notable ones are:

  • Anti-inflammatory, particularly for treating skin conditions and relieving muscle tension;
  • Reducing anxiety due to the linalool found in its extracted essential oil. This compound was found to promote relaxation, hence its use in aromatherapy and massage;
  • Treating gingivitis when used as an ingredient for toothpaste;
  • Combating insomnia because the resulting fragrance acts as a natural sedative. The essential oil is often combined with lavender for increased effectiveness;
  • Improving the respiratory system. Inhaling magnolia-infused steam is a natural way of reducing respiratory symptoms caused by bronchitis and asthma. 

Is Magnolia Feminine or Masculine Scent?

Since magnolia shrubs emit a delicate, floral scent, they’re commonly utilized in feminine fragrances. Their subtle citrus hint is often used to create a cool, yet romantic aroma.

As we’ve previously revealed, some magnolia species like saucer magnolia feature a strong lemon scent. When combined with base tones of musk, it creates a fresh combination that matches unisex fragrances perfectly.

Best Perfumes with Magnolia Notes

Magnolias make a perfect ingredient for captivating fragrances. Examples include:

1. Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel

Described as a sensual affair, this option mainly features a vibrant, citrus aroma. However, its vanilla and exotic musk base tones make it an ideal choice for relaxing autumn afternoons. 

2. Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile

Made of pure magnolia petals, this Italian option inspires delicacy and glamour. The woody base tones shine a spotlight on the floral jasmine aromas. 

Additionally, the soft hint of vanilla complements the mix, making it perfect for a summer date.

3. Lancome Magnolia Rosae

The unique combination of rose and magnolia with base notes of musk makes this fragrance the most romantic one on our list. Contrary to its predominantly musky undertones, this option is light due to its juicy, lemon-scented aroma, making it ideal for a bright, early fall afternoon.

The Bottom Line

The magnolia tree grows flowers containing citrus, yet floral-scented petals. Its flowers emit a unique and vibrant mix of lemon, candy, and honey notes. 

The essential oil of these delicate flowers has spawned some of the world’s most beloved perfumers. As a result, it’s still used in both affordable and luxury fragrances, inspiring both romance and delicacy.