Magnolia Tree Varieties: What Are Some Different Types Of Magnolia

Magnolia Tree Varieties: What Are Some Different Types Of Magnolia

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Magnolias are spectacular plants that provide beautiful blossoms in shades of purple, pink, red, cream, white and even yellow. Magnolias are famous for their blooms, but some varieties of magnolia trees are appreciated for their lush foliage too. Varieties of magnolia trees encompass a vast range of plants in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Although there are many different types of magnolia, many of the most popular varieties are classified as evergreen or deciduous.

Read on for a small sampling of the many different types of magnolia trees and shrubs.

Evergreen Magnolia Tree Varieties

  • Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) – Also known as Bull Bay, southern magnolia displays shiny foliage and fragrant, pure white blooms that turn creamy white as the flowers mature. This large multi-trunked tree can reach heights of up to 80 feet (24 m.).
  • Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana) – Produces fragrant, creamy white blooms throughout late spring and summer, accentuated by contrasting bright green leaves with white undersides. This magnolia tree type reaches heights of up to 50 feet (15 m.).
  • Champaca (Michelia champaca) – This variety is distinctive for its large, bright green leaves and extremely fragrant orange-yellow blooms. At 10 to 30 feet (3-9 m.), this plant is suitable as either a shrub or small tree.
  • Banana shrub (Michelia figo) – May reach heights of up to 15 feet (4.5 m.), but usually tops out at about 8 feet (2.5 m.). This variety is appreciated for its glossy green foliage and creamy yellow blooms edged in brownish-purple.

Deciduous Magnolia Tree Types

  • Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) – Cold hardy early bloomer that produces masses of white flowers in late winter and early spring. Mature size is 15 feet (4.5 m.) or more.
  • Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) – Slow-growing variety appropriately named for its massive leaves and dinner plate-sized, sweet-smelling white flowers. Mature height is about 30 feet (9 m.).
  • Oyama magnolia (Magnola sieboldii) – At heights of only 6 to 15 feet (2-4.5 m.), this magnolia tree type is well-suited for a small yard. Buds emerge with Japanese lantern shapes, eventually turning into fragrant white cups with contrasting red stamens.
  • Cucumber tree (Magnola accuminata) – Displays greenish-yellow blooms in late spring and summer, followed by attractive red seed pods. Mature height is 60 to 80 feet (18-24 m.); however, smaller varieties reaching 15 to 35 feet (4.5-10.5 m.)are available.

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Magnolia Tree Identification

Although the Southern magnolia is one of the best-known magnolia trees that grow in the United States, other species of this prominent ornamental tree do as well. Among them are a magnolia type called the Sweetbay and one with the odd name of Cucumber tree. The Bigleaf magnolia, Fraser magnolia and Umbrella magnolia are some other kinds of this very handsome species, a type of tree easily identified since many of its features stand out.

18 Gorgeous Magnolia Tree Types

Find out how to grow stunning magnolia trees in your garden and discover the best magnolia varieties.

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‘Saint Mary’ Southern Magnolia

Magnolias bring drama to any garden, whether you’re growing a classic evergreen type or a spring beauty like star magnolia. The signature fragrant flowers can stop traffic and will make you want to tuck magnolias into every corner of your yard. Magnolias are as versatile as they are beautiful, making it easy to find one that suits your growing conditions. Discover the range of magnolia magnificence, starting with the timeless Southern magnolia, above, offered as a dwarf form. This variety is ‘Saint Mary’ Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), growing 20 to 25 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7-9.

Learn More About Magnolia Trees: Magnolia Tree Care Tips

‘Centennial Blush’ Star Magnolia

Star magnolia bursts into bloom in early spring, when the first daffodils are just starting to show color. ‘Centennial Blush’ star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) opens pale pink flowers rich with fragrance. Blossoms unfurl before leaves, staging a stunning show. Star magnolias flower best in full sun but tolerate part shade (they actually benefit from shade during the hottest part of the day in warmest zones). Feed plants in spring using a slow release shrub and tree fertilizer with sulfur and/or iron to help green the leaves. This star magnolia grows 12 to 18 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. It’s hardy in Zones 4 to 9, which means it can welcome spring from Minneapolis, to Mobile, Alabama, to Medford, Oregon.

Felix Magnolia

Felix is part of a group of magnolias known as the Jury Series. Developed by plant breeder Mark Jury, these magnolias deliver big, bold blooms on small trees with fuss-free personalities. Felix (Magnolia ‘JURmag2’) unfurls hot pink, fragrant flowers the size of dinner plates—a whopping 12 inches across. This magnolia is a great choice for courtyard or entry gardens, or if you want a pair of stately trees flanking a drive without blocking the view. Trees flower at a young age and eventually open hundreds of blooms each spring. Plants grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide and are hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

‘Leonard Messel’ Magnolia

This dwarf magnolia is suitable for any size yard. Plants typically grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide. ‘Leonard Messel’ boasts strong frost tolerance, which means those flowers stand a better chance of not getting zapped by late spring cold snaps. Each strappy petal features two colors: purplish-pink outside with a white interior. The fragrant flowers unfurl before leaves, bringing branches to colorful life. Water your magnolia consistently during the first growing season. After that, most magnolias are moderately drought tolerant, although benefit from water during extremely dry seasons. Grow ‘Leonard Messel’ as a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree in Zones 4 to 9.

‘Yellow Bird’ Magnolia

Canary-yellow flowers appear with leaves when this magnolia bursts into bloom. Blossoms are roughly 3 inches and stage an eye-catching show when a tree is in full flower. Introduced by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1981, ‘Yellow Bird’ makes an ideal specimen or shade tree in a yard. The shape is strongly pyramidal, and the branch form is attractive in winter. Site this magnolia in full sun to part shade, providing mulch over the root zone to help soil retain moisture. This is a large tree, growing 20 to 30 feet tall and wide. It's hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

'Jane' Magnolia

‘Jane’ magnolia was developed in the 1950s as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant breeding program. It’s one of eight magnolia hybrids known as the Little Girls. Of these magnolias, ‘Jane’ flowers the latest, about four weeks later than similar types. This late flowering window means your plant is less likely to suffer frost damage to blooms. Magnolias dislike being moved, so choose a planting spot with care (aim for full sun). Keep the root zone mulched. The right time to prune is after flowering, but this is rarely needed. ‘Jane’ forms a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree, growing 20 to 25 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Black Tulip Magnolia

Give your yard some springtime drama with the deep black-purple blooms of Black Tulip magnolia (Magnolia ‘JURmag1’). This stunner boasts perfumed, goblet-type flowers that measure 6 inches across. Black Tulip is one of the darkest magnolias on the market, with flowers appearing before green leaves emerge. Trees bloom at a young age and have an attractive branch structure in winter. This is a small tree, reaching 10 feet in 10 years. Use it in a dooryard garden so you can savor the fragrance each spring. Plants grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

‘Rose Marie’ Magnolia

Large, bright pink flowers with a lemony fragrance cover ‘Rose Marie’ magnolia in spring. The flowering window is luxuriously long, lasting up to six weeks. Created by a plant breeder in Wisconsin, ‘Rose Marie’ has good winter hardiness. It flowers about four weeks later than other magnolia varieties, which helps reduce the likelihood of frost damaging blooms. Unlike other saucer magnolias, bright green leaves are present when flowers unfurl, creating a striking color contrast. This is a small tree, growing 10 to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Keep magnolias mulched beneath the drip line to help insulate fleshy roots. Hardy in Zones 5 to 8.

Fairy Magnolia White

Discover the beauty of a magnolia cousin that flowers heaviest from early to late spring. Fairy magnolia white (Michelia x ‘Mic JUR01’) opens fragrant blooms along branches covered with glossy evergreen leaves. Although the plant has a naturally compact, bushy habit, you can also grow Fairy magnolia as a small tree by removing lower branches. This magnolia adapts to full sun or part shade and grows best in well-drained soil. Use it as a showstopper in your landscape — it will deliver. Plants grow 9 to 12 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide and are hardy in Zones 7b to 11.

Fairy Magnolia Cream

With their naturally bushy form, you can use Fairy magnolias as a hedging plant in the landscape. Space plants 3 feet apart for a dense evergreen privacy hedge. Fairy magnolia cream (Michelia x ‘Mic Jur2’) has creamy white flowers that blanket branches in spring. It’s adaptable, growing in sun or part shade, and thrives in well-drained soil. Fairy magnolia cream is a low-maintenance plant. Fertilize with a standard tree and shrub plant food after flowering and again in early fall. Plants grow 9 to 12 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 7b to 11.

Baby Grand Southern Magnolia

If you've always wanted a magnolia but don't have the space for a big tree, Baby Grand is the plant for you. It has classic Southern magnolia style with brown felt-backed evergreen leaves and creamy white perfumed blooms. Overall plant size after 12 years is 11-1/2 feet tall and 6-1/2 feet wide. That means it fits in small yards, entry gardens or even containers. Better still, this small beauty makes a stunning evergreen hedge (space plants 5 feet apart). Prune plants after flowering to form a tree, topiary or espalier. Left untrimmed, plants grow as a shrubby bloomer. Look for the white flowers in spring. Feed plants in the ground once annually after flowering. In containers, fertilize twice a year: after flowering and again in early fall. Hardy in Zones 7 to 11. The botanical name is Magnolia grandiflora ‘STRgra.’

‘Royal Star’ White Magnolia

‘Royal Star’ magnolia erupts into bloom in early spring, opening flowers before leaves appear on branches. Like all star magnolias, you’ll get best flowering in a full sun location. Try to avoid planting early flowering varieties in a southern exposure. The extra heat plants experience in that setting can coax blooms to open too soon. This is a smaller variety that grows 10 to 20 feet tall and 12 to 15 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Burgundy Star Magnolia

Usher in spring with the deep claret-red flowers of Burgundy Star magnolia (Magnolia ‘JURmag4’). These blooms open to 6 inches across with a light fragrance. The tree’s shape is columnar. It’s the right choice when you need a magnolia with a narrow footprint, like along a drive or sidewalk. Or plant several in a circular bed, under-planting with a groundcover rose like Flower Carpet White. Trees grow best in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil. Flowers unfurl before leaves appear. Plants grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

‘Monland’ Southern Magnolia

This gorgeous Southern magnolia is sold as Timeless Beauty magnolia. Classic white magnolia blooms appear over a long season. Flowers are fragrant and blend beautifully with glossy evergreen leaves. Plant form is strongly upright with dense branches. It’s the perfect accent tree in a small landscape. Give this magnolia a spot in full sun to part shade, providing mulch over the root zone to help soil retain moisture. This is a large tree that's usually wider than tall. It grows 15 to 20 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide, and is hardy in Zones 6 to 9.

Fairy Magnolia Blush

If pink is your signature color, look for Fairy Magnolia Blush (Michelia x ‘Mic Jur01’). Lilac-pink blossoms cover the plant in spring, peeking out among the lush evergreen leaves. With all Fairy magnolias, plants often rebloom with a lighter flowering in summer. Fragrant blooms provide good forage for bees and other pollinators in spring. The evergreen leaves offer nesting habitat for birds. Use Fairy magnolias as a hedge, specimen plant or tucked into containers. Plants grow 9 to 12 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide. They're hardy in Zones 7b to 11.

‘Ann’ Magnolia

‘Ann’ magnolia is another of the USDA introductions developed by crossing shrubby ‘Nigra’ lily magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora) and small tree ‘Rosea’ star magnolia (Magnolia stellata). The resulting magnolia is the perfect answer for a spring-flowering beauty perfect for smaller settings. Flowers open two to four weeks later than similar types, which reduces the likelihood of frost damage to blooms. Plants demand little care. The right time to prune is after flowering, but this is rarely needed. ‘Ann’ grows 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. It's hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Honey Tulip Magnolia

Creamy gold-toned blossoms welcome spring on Honey Tulip magnolia (Magnolia ‘JURmag5’). Opening to 6 inches across, the goblet-shape flowers cover the tree in early spring. This magnolia has a narrow growth pattern, reaching only 4 to 6 feet wide. It fits neatly into small gardens or can play a supporting role in a larger landscape. Count on Honey Tulip to provide spring color in a shrub or perennial border. Trees grow best in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil. Flowers unfurl before leaves appear, creating a stunning showpiece in a yard. Plants grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

‘Merrill’ Magnolia

Choose this magnolia if you want a traditional tree-size bloomer. Large white flowers tinged with a hint of pink appear on branches in spring. The blossoms boast 15 or more petals and open to 3.5 inches wide. 'Merrill' magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri) is an heirloom plant, developed at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston from seed planted in 1939. The formal name 'Merrill' came in 1952, honoring a former Arboretum director. This magnolia is a full size tree, growing 20 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 45 feet wide. Use it as a lawn tree or part of a shrub border. Hardy in Zones 5-9.

Getting Started With Magnolias

Magnolia sieboldii

Magnolias are prized worldwide for their flowers and forms. Growing as large shrubs or trees, they produce showy, fragrant flowers that are white, pink, red, purple or yellow. Some forms are evergreen with glossy and leathery leaves and some evergreen types have buds, stems and undersides of leaves that are covered with attractive gold to copper to brown felt-like hairs. There are more than 200 species of Magnolia native to temperate, subtropical and tropical areas of southeastern Asia, eastern North America, Central America, the Caribbean and parts of South America. Many are now grown worldwide because of their beautiful flowers, shape and form.

How do you know if a magnolia is right for you? Ask the following questions to help determine if you should consider a magnolia -- and if so, where best to plant it:

What kind of winters do you have?

The easy way to answer this question is to figure out what “zone” you live in. The U.S. is divided into zones by the USDA depending on how cold the winters are. Similar hardiness zone maps are available for Australia, Canada, China, Europe, and Japan and many other regions are developing maps.

Magnolias are available for almost any climate, especially if you can provide protection from harsh conditions.

What kind of light does your garden receive?

Magnolias prefer a spot in the garden that receives full sun to light shade. That said, if you live in a particularly warm or dry climate, your magnolia might benefit from a location shaded from the hot afternoon sun. If possible, avoid exposed, windy locations because strong winds can damage large flowers and the typically brittle branches.

What kind of soil do you have?

Most magnolias grow best in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soils but neutral to slightly alkaline soils are also suitable for growth. Magnolias are adaptable to clay, loam or sand soils, but most grow poorly in wet or poorly drained soils. Well-established plants can be moderately drought tolerant.

Which magnolia is right for you?

So many choices, too small a garden. When you start looking into magnolias, you will want one in every bed! Some magnolias are grown primarily for their flowers, usually in the form of a shrub or small tree. Other magnolias grow to be large shade trees, and yet others are used as evergreen shrubs, trees or hedges. Consult our Magnolia Cultivars Checklist for options and consider visiting one of the gardens listed on this map to get an idea for the kinds of magnolias that are likely to do well in your climate.

What are some of the common types of magnolia available at local nurseries?

Star Magnolia: Those of you living in colder areas may already be familiar with Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata. This magnolia is one of the best known species because it is very cold hardy (USDA Zones 4-8), widely adaptable and blooms when very small. Star Magnolia is a slow growing, broad spreading, small tree or large shrub, ultimately reaching 15 feet tall or more. Leaves may be 4-8 inches long and up to 3 inches wide. As a deciduous plant, the dark green leaves drop in fall, sometimes turning yellow before falling.

Star Magnolia flowers are 3 to 5 inches in diameter with 12 to 40 petal-like parts called "tepals." The overall effect of the tepals is that of a starburst, hence the name, "Star Magnolia." Flowers are white, although a few cultivars have pinkish flowers. Star Magnolia's characteristics have made it popular as a parent of many hybrids.

Saucer Magnolia: Saucer and other large-flowered hybrid magnolias are deciduous trees known for their spectacular display of flowers appearing before the foliage in late winter and early spring. They are considered some of our most beautiful flowering trees, and some cultivars are hardy into USDA Zone 4 while others are adaptable in warmer Zone 9. These deciduous flowering magnolias generally are considered small trees with slow to moderate growth rates. Smaller cultivars may be grown as large shrubs and some larger trees may eventually grow 40 to 70 feet tall. Tree shape characteristically is upright to rounded when young and becoming rounded or broad-spreading with age. The medium green leaves are oval to circular in shape and vary in size from 3 to 10 inches long and 2 to 10 inches wide. Leaves turn a nondescript yellow to brown before dropping in fall. The trunk has smooth, tan or grey bark and branches exhibit large, fuzzy flower buds.

The fragrant flowers open before the foliage and range in color from white to pink to purple. Often flowers display one color on the outer side of the tepal and a lighter color inside. Many different cultivars or varieties have been selected over the years. Characteristics vary with the cultivar but flowers range from 3 to 12 inches in diameter. Peak bloom usually occurs in early spring because of this, flowers are sometimes damaged by frosts. Some cultivars produce flowers sporadically through the summer and fall. Reddish fruits sometimes develop in the fall.

Southern Magnolia: Residents of warm temperate climates (USDA Zones 7-9) may be familiar with the Southern Magnolia. This native of southeastern North America was first introduced to Europe in 1731, and quickly became popular because of its glossy evergreen foliage, large beautiful flowers and elegant form. Growing as a small to large evergreen tree, Southern Magnolia also was found to be widely adaptable to different climates, soils, and exposures. Thus, it was the first Magnolia to be planted widely as a street or shade tree and is now grown nearly worldwide wherever suitable climate and soils exist.

Southern Magnolia has glossy, leathery, evergreen, oval-shaped leaves that are 5 to 8 inches or more long and half as wide. The upper leaf surface is dark green and the lower surface is often covered by brown, dense, felt-like hairs. The fragrant white flowers are 8 inches in diameter, appearing in late spring and intermittently throughout the summer. The flowers are followed by reddish, 3- to 5-inch long, oblong-shaped fruits displaying red seeds ripening in late fall. This species is extremely variable in size, shape, habit, growth rate, canopy density, leaf color, and flowering season. This variability has allowed a large number of beautiful cultivars to be selected.

Southern Magnolia is used as a specimen plant, street tree, shade tree, screen or windbreak. This tree also can be grown as an espalier.

Champaca Magnolia: Many magnolias grow in subtropical and tropical climates typical of USDA Zones 10-12 and warmer. Champaca Magnolia is a native of southeastern Asia famous for its extremely fragrant creamy-white, yellow or yellow-orange flowers. The small flowers are produced in large numbers because they form all along the branches and not just at the stem tips as with many other magnolias. Champaca blooms from spring through summer and sporadically flowers in winter. Its fragrance is so beautiful and powerful, it is used to make perfumes.

Champaca Magnolia is often grown in humid subtropical and tropical areas because it is valued for its form as an evergreen tree as well as its floral fragrance. Champaca Magnolia's typical size in the landscape is 30 feet tall and wide, though this tree may grow much larger with time.

Many new magnolias have been discovered in tropical areas of Asia and South America, and these may become more available in the future.

What time of year should you plant a Magnolia?

Deciduous magnolias (those that drop their leaves in fall) are best planted when dormant, typically in late fall or winter in warmer climates and early spring in cold climates. Evergreen magnolias are best planted in early spring. For the first 6 to 12 months after planting, both types will benefit from mulch and regular irrigation during warm or dry weather.

How should I plant my magnolia?

  • Gently remove the upper layer of soil from the container or root ball until you expose the topmost root. It should be within the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the surface.
  • For balled trees, remove any root ball coverings (such as burlap). For a container plant, remove the container and make four evenly spaced slices down the sides of the root ball. Use a knife, trowel or shovel to make 1-inch (2.5 cm) deep slices. This process helps eliminate circling roots that otherwise might constrain root growth.
  • Dig a hole at least 1.5 times as wide as the container or ball.
  • Dig the hole slightly less deep than the depth of the root ball.
  • Place the root ball so the upper most root (uncovered in step one) is even with or slightly above the surface of the surrounding undisturbed soil. In the case of clay soil, the root ball should be placed so the upper most root is higher than the undisturbed soil surface so that 10-33% of the root ball is exposed.
  • Fill the hole around the root ball using soil you dug out of the hole. Firm the soil to eliminate air pockets but do not overly compact the soil. Some people will partially fill the hole, irrigate, then allow water to completely drain before filling the rest of the hole with soil.
  • Do not cover the top of the root ball with soil. You may apply a thin layer of mulch over the root ball.

After planting, irrigate two times per week (cool climates) to three times per week (warm climates) for the first three to six months, and weekly for the rest of the growing season. Apply 2-3 gallons per inch (3.0-4.4 liters per cm) of trunk diameter. Place a layer of mulch around the plant that is at least 2 inches (5 cm) thick (thicker for light mulches like pine needles). Fertilizer is not necessary at planting.

For more information, contact a local nursery grower or a local Extension office, agriculture/horticulture agency or gardening organization.

Where to go to buy my Magnolia?

Check with your local retail nursery or garden center. They may know which magnolias grow well in your area and will have these for sale. You may need to look for specialty, rare or new magnolias at "better" garden centers or from an online magnolia nursery. Consult our list of magnolia nurseries for suppliers specializing in this family.

What should you look for when selecting a magnolia?

Look for healthy magnolias with evenly spaced branches. A container-grown plant can be slipped out of its pot to inspect the roots. Healthy roots are white, whereas diseased roots are brown to black and often have a sour odor.

  • spotted, discolored or distorted leaves
  • discolored stems
  • broken branches
  • crossing and rubbing branches
  • wounds on the main trunk(s)
  • discolored roots
  • swollen areas on stems or roots (however, note that grafted or budded plants sometimes have swollen areas where the bud or graft was attached check with nursery personnel to determine if this is the case)
  • many circling roots just inside of the container indicating the plant may be rootbound, making the plant more difficult to establish and often resulting in poor long-term growth and survival.

Related links

Check out our Magnolia Cultivars Checklist for more information on the varieties that might be available at your local nursery.

Find out where to go to see magnolias near you using this Google map.

Have a question about your magnolias? Send it to us.

Use this listing of magnolia suppliers to find a nursery online or near you.

How to Identify Magnolia Trees

How to Identify Magnolia Trees. The thought of Magnolia trees brings to mind sultry, southern nights, fragrant odors and gorgeous many-colored flowers. This tree family is relatively easy to identify, given a few facts. They can be a beautiful addition to your landscaping project, although you may have to wait 15 to 20 years for the tree to flower.

Remember there are over 200 species of Magnolia trees, so with each one there will be variations. But there are common factors in each one which help to identify them. The Magnolia is a medium-sized tree (60 to 90 feet tall), evergreen or deciduous, fast-growing and has a soft wood. They are most commonly seen in the southern United States or Eastern Europe.

  • How to Identify Magnolia Trees.
  • Remember there are over 200 species of Magnolia trees, so with each one there will be variations.

Notice the flowers are the most interesting part of the tree. Magnolias are known for their beautiful fragrance and incredibly large flowers--some species grow to be approximately 1 foot across. They bloom in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, white, purple and pink. Each flower has any stamens on a long or spiral stem.

Note the size of the leaves on some Magnolia trees. They can grow to be 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. They are a dark, glossy green on the topside, and the underside displays lighter, subtler colors. The leaves are alternating, with short stems and wavy edges.

  • Notice the flowers are the most interesting part of the tree.
  • They are a dark, glossy green on the topside, and the underside displays lighter, subtler colors.

Examine the bark of the Magnolia tree. It is thin and smooth, and covers a cork-layer, which is difficult to burn, and is heat-resistant. The twig has prominent bundle scars (marks left on the twig when the leaf breaks off). Magnolia bark is said to have many healing properties and has been used as a home-remedy to treat osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity and is used to boost the immune system.

Look at the fruit of the Magnolia tree. The dark red seeds grow in cone-like bunches where one to two seeds extend from pod-like containers when ripe. They provide food for birds who also propagate the seeds. The odd, rope-like root-structure of the tree exhibits one long taproot and is not branched like most trees.

Other Species & Hybrids

Large, white fragrant flowers form in late May on bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla).
Joey Williamson, ©2016 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Magnolia acuminata (Cucumber Tree) – This is a very large native tree (50 to 70 feet tall, 40 to 60 feet wide). It has small, inconspicuous flowers, light green leaves (6 to 10 inches long) and unusual cucumber-shaped fruit, which turns from a bright green to red in autumn. This is a hardy tree and a rapid grower and is best used in natural areas.

Magnolia fraseri (Fraser’s Magnolia) – This native magnolia is also known as the fishtail magnolia because of the lobed fishtail-like base to the 12 inch long leaves. The flowers are large, white and fragrant. Fraser’s magnolia may be found in the mountainous Upper Piedmont SC counties.

Magnolia pyramidata (Pyramid Magnolia) – The pyramid magnolia is a rarely encountered native tree to the coastal regions of the state. The leaves and flowers are quite similar to Fraser’s magnolia, but smaller.

Magnolia macrophylla (Bigleaf Magnolia) – This tall tree or shrub (30 to 40 feet) has the largest leaves and blooms of any hardy native North American tree. Leaves are 1 to 3 feet long, and the fragrant flowers are 10 to 12 inches in diameter. This tree is rare in South Carolina, and has a preference for calcareous soils with a soil pH near neutral.

Immature fruit aggregate and large leaves of a bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla).
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Magnolia tripetala (Umbrella Tree) – This native, deciduous tree grows to 15 to 30 feet tall. The leaves are up to 20 inches long, and the flowers are creamy-white and up to 11 inches in diameter.

Immature fruit aggregate (seed cone) developing on an umbrella tree (Magnolia tripetala).
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

The flowers open after the leaves have emerged in the late spring. This species grows well in partial shade to full shade.

Magnolia figo (Banana Shrub formally Michellia figo) – Recently, plants in the genus Michellia were transferred to the genus Magnolia. These large shrubs grow to 10 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide, and bloom in late April through early May.

False Oleander Scale (Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli) has been diagnosed on banana shrubs in South Carolina.

The species is divided into 3 naturally occurring varieties, M. figo var. figo, M. figo var. skinneriana, and M. figo var. crassipes. The flowers (tepals) of the first two varieties are pale yellow and may be edged in reddish-purple. Those of the latter variety are completely purplish-red to dark purple. There are several cultivars of banana shrub available. All are very strongly scented of bananas. Banana shrubs are native to China.

Banana shrub (Magnolia figo var. figo) in bloom.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Magnolia laevifolia (formally Michellia yunnanensis) – This evergreen shrub or small tree grows to about 12 feet tall, and has brown buds that open to sweetly fragrant, white flowers. There are several cultivars available. Some are smaller shrubs, and have a brown indumentum (a dense hairy covering) on flower buds, stems and lower leaf surfaces.

The brown buds of Magnolia laevifolia open to white fragrant flowers.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Magnolia x loebneri (Loebner Magnolia) This deciduous tree is 15 to 30 feet tall with a slightly greater spread. It is a hybrid of M. stellata and M. kobus (from Japan). The fragrant flowers bloom in March-April before the foliage appears, but a couple of weeks later than its M. stellata parent. They have star-shaped flowers with 12 narrow petals (tepals). The leaves are medium green. Recommended cultivars include ‘Leonard Messel,’ ‘Merrill,’ ‘Ballerina,’ and ‘Spring Snow.’

Magnolia x ‘Butterflies’ (PP #7456) – This cultivar is a cross between selections of M. accuminata and M. enudata. The flowers are a buttery yellow. The upright tree may grow to 25 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and flowers in the spring before the foliage appears.

The deciduous Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ has yellow flowers that open during late March before the foliage appears.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

The ‘Little Girl’ hybrids (Ann, Betty, Judy, Randy, Ricki, Susan and Jane) are hybrids of M. liliiflora and M. stellata. These cultivars are later flowering than both the star and saucer magnolias, and their blooms are less often damaged by late spring frosts.

Deciduous, hybrid magnolia (Magnolia ‘Jane’) flowers.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension

These ‘Little Girl’ cultivars are hybrids produced by the US National Arboretum and released in 1968. These hybrid cultivars grow to 15 feet tall, and begin blooming just before the foliage appears. The cultivars are listed in order of flowering time, and their flowers range in color from reddish purple to pink. The cultivar ‘Jane’ is one of the most common of the group, with very fragrant flowers – reddish purple on the outside and white on the inside.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.

Original Author(s)

Debbie Shaughnessy, Former HGIC Information Specialist, Clemson University
Bob Polomski, PhD, Associate Extension Specialist, Clemson University

Revisions by:

Joey Williamson, PhD, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.

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