12 Types of Magnolias with Pictures and Care Tips

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by Max - last update on May 14, 2020, 8:26 am
Types of Magnolias

Magnolia’s are classic trees that are known for growing in hot climates, though there are many varieties of this tree that are cold hardy and can be grown in a wide range of climates. These trees are easy to grow, they will adapt to almost any soil type so long as it drains well, and they will tolerate both full sun or partial shade. They are prized for the stunning flowers, which can be white, pink, or purple, ranging in size from small and dainty to enormous and showy. The blooms also have the added benefit of being attractively scented. Most magnolia trees are early bloomers and can be evergreen or deciduous. If you’re looking for a magnolia tree that will thrive in your local climate, read our list of the most popular types of magnolias to discover the many varieties available.

12 Types of Magnolias

1. Southern Magnolia

Southern Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia grandiflora

Mature Size: Up to 80 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-9

Light: Full sun to part shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Shade tolerant

This evergreen tree is native to the Southeastern United States and is the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana. It needs a warm climate to thrive and is cultivated in temperate regions across the world. This tree is large in every sense and needs plenty of space to grow; it reaches great heights of up to 120 feet, though more typically tops out at 80 feet. It has a wide spread, big leaves that measure up to 10 inches in length, and huge, showy flowers that can span 12 inches across. The foliage of this tree has a texture like glossy leather in a deep shade of green. Blooms are white, with a long flowering period of mid-spring through to early fall. Flowers are followed by pink fruits with a rosy hue. This tree likes to grow in moist conditions, though it will not tolerate wet or soggy soil. Unusually, this magnolia prefers a shaded position, compared to most other magnolias, which like a combination of full sun and partial shade.


2. Sweetbay Magnolia

Sweetbay Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia virginiana

Mature Size: Up to 35 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-10

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Moist, acidic soil

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Tolerant of wet and poorly draining soils

This plant is native to the eastern US. It grows in a range of climates, but these will affect the shape it takes. In warm climates, it will be an evergreen tree, whereas, in cooler climates, it will take the form of a deciduous shrub. Creamy white flowers with a waxy texture appear in late spring to mid-summer. They measure between two and three inches across and have a mild sweet citrus scent. The blooms last until late summer when they give way to bright red pea shaped berries, which are a popular source of food for birds. This plant enjoys moist conditions and is tolerant of soggy soil, making it well suited to boggy terrain and poorly draining soils.


3. Umbrella Magnolia

Umbrella Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia tripetala

Mature Size:  Up to 30 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Cream

Special Features: Enormous decorative foliage

This deciduous tree is native to the eastern US, where it grows under the canopy of taller trees in its natural habitat. This means it is well suited to partially shaded conditions. It is a relatively small tree, typically growing to little over 20 feet tall, with enormous leaves that fan out into an umbrella shape, giving the tree its common name. The leaves measure up to 10 inches across and 24 inches long, and gather together in clusters at the end of branches, drooping down to create quite a striking look. The creamy colored flowers of the tree are also large, measuring up to ten inches across, and arriving in early summer. They give way to a red cone-shaped fruit in the fall, at which time the foliage fades to yellow before dropping.


4. Star Magnolia

Star Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia stellata

Mature Size:  Up to 20 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Flower Color: White or pale pink

Special Features: Early bloomer

This plant is native to Japan and can take the form of a small tree or large shrub. It can be deciduous or evergreen, depending on the climate it is growing in. The name ‘star magnolia’ comes from the star-shaped flowers of the tree, which are white and measure up to four inches across. These flowers bloom incredibly early in the season before any other flowers appear in late winter or early spring. This plant can be damaged by frost, so it should be kept in a sheltered spot through colder months (Royal Horticultural Society).


5. Sprenger’s Magnolia

Sprenger’s Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia sprengeri

Mature Size: Up to 50 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Moisture retentive, well-draining

Flower Color: Pink

Special Features: Early bloomer

This medium deciduous tree is native to China and is named after the German botanist Carl Ludwig Sprenger. It produces vibrant and sweetly scented flowers, which bloom before the arrival of foliage in mid-spring. The leaves are deep green with a silver underside, and take an ovate shape with their narrowest point at the base. This is a popular specimen tree that is widely cultivated, with several varieties available. These include ‘Diva,’ ‘Wakehurst,’ and the award-winning ‘Copeland Court,’ and ‘Burncoose.’


6. Anise Magnolia

Anise Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia salicifolia

Mature Size: Up to 30 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9

Light: Full sun to part shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Sweetly scented

This deciduous tree is native to Japan. It blooms with pretty white flowers in early spring before the arrival of foliage. Each flower can measure up to six inches across and is flushed with pink at the base. The blooms are sweetly scented with a fragrance reminiscent of anise, giving the tree its common name, though it is also sometimes known as the willow-leafed magnolia, due to the willow-like foliage. Leaves emerge in a shade of copper before developing to bright green, then finally golden yellow before dropping in the fall. The tree takes a natural pyramid shape as it matures.


7. Bigleaf Magnolia

Bigleaf Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia macrophylla

Mature Size: Up to 50 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun to part shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Acidic, well-draining

Flower Color: White and purple

Special Features: Giant foliage

This tree is native to Mexico and the southern United States. It is typically a deciduous tree, but it can be evergreen in hot climates. Though many types of magnolia do have large leaves, this tree has exceptionally big foliage, giving it the common name of ‘bigleaf magnolia.’ Each leaf can measure up to 32 inches long, making it the species with the largest single leaf of any tree in North America. The flowers are also fairly large at ten inches across, blooming in May, and are mostly white with purple-tinged bases. This tree enjoys partial shade, and in its native habitat, grows under the canopy of taller trees. Unsurprisingly, the branches of this tree can sometimes droop due to the weight of its enormous leaves.


8. Kobus Magnolia

Kobus Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia kobus

Mature Size: Up to 50 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Acidic, well-draining

Flower Color: Pink tinged white

Special Features: Early bloomer

As a native of Japan, this tree is also sometimes known as the Japanese Magnolia. It is slow-growing, taking a long time to reach its maximum height of 50 feet, though, in ideal circumstances, some very old kobus magnolias have been known to reach 70 feet. This tree can be evergreen or deciduous, depending on the climate it is grown in. Young trees do not flower, but as the tree matures, it produces large, scented white flowers that are tinged with pink, measuring around four inches across. These arrive before the foliage in spring, creating a striking floral display. The summer foliage of this tree is dark green, and in deciduous magnolias, these will become golden brown before dropping in the fall.


9. Cucumber Tree Magnolia

Cucumber Tree Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia acuminata

Mature Size: Up to 80 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Acidic, well-draining

Flower Color: Green tinged white

Special Features: Cold hardy

This tree is native to the eastern United States and Canada and gets its common name from the fruits it produces, which resemble the cucumber. This is a large magnolia that mimics the growth habit and shape of its Southern cousins, but the flowers of this tree might be somewhat disappointing compared with other magnolias. The blooms are white flushed with yellow-green and measure no more than two inches across. They typically have quite closed petals and are not very showy. Due to their coloring and small size, they blend in quite easily with the leaves of the magnolia. The foliage of this tree is very attractive, with large glossy green leaves that can measure up to ten inches in length. This is one of the hardiest types of magnolia, and though it loves full sun, it will tolerate shade, making it suitable for cultivation in many places.


10. Lily Magnolia

Lily Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia liliiflora

Mature Size: Up to 12 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10

Light: Full sun to part shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Rich, acidic, well-draining

Flower Color: Purple pink

Special Features: Heavy bloomer

This small magnolia is native to China and gets its common name from the flowers it produces, which are reminiscent of lilies. This plant is grown as a medium-sized shrub or very small tree, rarely exceeding 12 feet in height. It has a similar-sized spread and is popularly grown as informal hedging.  It is an early bloomer, with an abundance of flowers appearing at the beginning of spring before the leaves are showing. Flowers of this plant have more vivid coloring than most magnolias, with blooms in shades of deep pink or purple-red. When foliage makes an appearance, it is deep green and elliptical in shape.


11. Yulan Magnolia

Yulan Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia denudata

Mature Size: Up to 40 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Acidic, rich, well-draining

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Award-winning tree

This tree is native to China and is prized for its elegant blooms, which have a sweet lemon scent and are creamy-white tinged with pink at the base. These flowers arrive very early, from late winter to early spring, appearing on bare branches as the leaves have yet to form. Though the tree is cold hardy, the blooms are not, so in order to ensure the flowers arrive without damage, you will need to protect the tree from frost in cold climates. This magnolia tree has won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.


12. Saucer Magnolia

Saucer Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia x soulangiana

Mature Size: Up to 25 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Rich, acidic, well-draining

Flower Color: White and pink

Special Features: Bi-colored flowers

This popular magnolia is a hybrid species, which was the result of crossing the Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora) and the Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata). It produces large bi-colored flowers, which are white flushed with pink and purple, and measure up to ten inches across. It is a deciduous tree with medium green leaves that fade to gold before dropping.

12 Types of Magnolias with Pictures and Care Tips

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