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Magnolia Trees and Shrubs

Members of the Magnolia Genus

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The name Latin and common magnolia was given because of a French botanist, Pierre Magnol. These trees are either evergreen or deciduous and bear beautiful flowers. This genera belongs to the Magnoliaceae family. Other members include the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and the banana shrub (Michelia figo), which is sometimes included within this genus.

Make sure your soil has proper drainage, as magnolia trees do not do well with wet feet. Create a watering system to make it easier.

One interesting fact about magnolias is that they are pollinated by beetles. There were no bees around yet when this genus came into existence, so the flower evolved to attract the insects that were present.

1. Anise Magnolia

Magnolia salicifolia is known as the anise magnolia or Japanese willow
Image by 松岡明芳 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia salicifolia
  • Other Common Names: Willow-leaved magnolia, Japanese willow leaf magnolia
  • Native to: Japan
  • USDA Zones: 4b-9a
  • Height: 15-30' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

As the Latin and common names note, the anise magnolia has leaves that look somewhat like those of a willow tree or shrub. They are wider than willow leaves but not as wide as the usual magnolia leaf. The tree will flower before the leaves unfurl.

2. Ashe's Magnolia

Ashe's magnolia is named for William Willard Ashe
Image by MeganEHansen under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia ashei or Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei
  • Other Common Names: Ashe magnolia, deciduous magnolia
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA Zones: 6-9
  • Height: 10-30' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

This species can be either a large shrub or small tree. It is sometimes treated as a subspecies of the bigleaf magnolia. The name is in honor of William Willard Ashe from the United States Forest Service.

3. Bigleaf Magnolia

The bigleaf magnolia does indeed have big leaves.
Image by dmott9 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia macrophylla
  • Other Common Names: Large-leaved cucumber tree
  • Native to: Southeastern United States and Mexico
  • USDA Zones: 5-8
  • Height: 30-40' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Bigleaf Magnolia Growing Profile

This species lives up to its name and produces leaves that can be up to 32" long. It is one of the magnolias that is usually deciduous, though it can be somewhat evergreen in the warmer zones.

4. Cucumber Tree

The fruits of the cucumber tree are cucumber-like.
Image by magnolia1000 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia acuminata
  • Other Common Names: Cucumbertree, mountain magnolia, cucumber magnolia, yellow-flower magnolia, yellow cucumbertree, blue magnolia
  • Native to: Eastern North America
  • USDA Zones: 4-8, 3 with protection
  • Height: 40-80' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Cucumber Tree Growing Profile

This magnolia is so named because the fruits look somewhat like cucumbers. The flowers are an interesting shade of yellow-green.

5. Lily Magnolia

The lily magnolia is a hybrid species
Image by urasimaru under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia liliflora or Magnolia liliiflora
  • Other Common Names: Woody-orchid, Jane magnolia, red magnolia, Mulan magnolia, tulip magnolia, purple magnolia
  • Native to: China
  • USDA Zones: 5-9
  • Height: 10-15' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun. Some shade will be tolerated, but better flowering occurs in sun.
  • Lily Magnolia Growing Profile

The lily magnolia is one of the smaller species, forming into a shrub or short tree. The reddish-purple or pink flowers are lightly perfumed. It is one of the parents of the saucer magnolia.

6. Loebner Magnolia

Loebner magnolia is a hybrid tree
Image by magnolia1000 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia x loebneri
  • USDA Zones: 5-8
  • Height: 20-30' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

This hybrid results from breeding Kobus magnolia and star magnolia. It usually has several trunks, but you could create a central leader through pruning if you prefer that look.

7. Kobus Magnolia

Kobus magnolia is an early bloomer
Image by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia kobus
  • Other Common Names: Kobushi magnolia, Northern Japanese magnolia
  • Native to: Japan
  • USDA Zones: 5-8
  • Height: Usually 25-40' tall, but can reach 75'+
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

As mentioned above, this is one of the parents of the Loebner magnolia. The Kobus magnolia produces flowers earlier than other species. It tends to form multiple trunks.

8. Saucer Magnolia

The saucer magnolia is a result of hybridization.
Image by Tatters:) under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia × soulangeana
  • Other Common Names: Tulip tree
  • USDA Zones: 4-9
  • Height: 20-30' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

This tree was created by crossing the lily magnolia (Magnolia liliflora) and the Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata). It can either be a large shrub with more than one trunk or a small tree.

9. Southern Magnolia

A favorite flower throughout the southern United Sates is the southern magnolia
Image by Ettore Balocchi under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia grandiflora
  • Other Common Names: Bull bay
  • Native to: Southeastern United States
  • USDA Zones: 6-10
  • Height: 60-80' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

When people mention magnolias, they are likely talking about this species. It is found throughout the southern United states especially, though it can grow elsewhere. It is drought tolerant.

This magnolia has been named the state flower for Louisiana and Mississippi.

10. Star Magnolia

StarMagnoliaFlickrwallygrom.jpg
Image by wallygrom under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia stellata
  • Native to: Japan
  • USDA Zones: 4-8
  • Height: 15-20' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

When possible, plant this in a sheltered location to help flowering in the spring as the buds are often damaged by frost. This species is deciduous and is a small tree or large shrub.

11. Sweetbay Magnolia

Picture of Magnolia virginiana 'Mattie Mae Smith'
Image by MeganEHansen via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • Latin Name: Magnolia virginiana
  • Other Common Names: Beaver tree, sweetbay, swamp magnolia, swampbay, whitebay, laurel magnolia
  • Native to: Eastern United States
  • USDA Zones: 5-10
  • Height: 10-60' tall depending on location
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

In cooler locations, the sweetbay magnolia is deciduous. It is the type species for the Magnolia genus.

12. Umbrella Magnolia

Another name for the umbrella magnolia is elkwood
Image by wlcutler under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
  • Latin Name: Magnolia tripetala
  • Other Common Names: Umbrella-tree, elkwood
  • Native to: Eastern United States
  • USDA Zones: 5-8
  • Height: 15-40' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade, may be able to handle full shade

The name umbrella magnolia refers to the appearance of the leaves since they hang down around the ends of the branches.

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