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Magnolias are among the most beautiful and popular landscape plants. A number of hybrid magnolias have been developed to provide a wider range of sizes, shapes and floral characteristics. Some of the more common hybrids and their cultivars are presented here. 

  • Family (English) Magnolia
  • Family (botanic) Magnoliaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Compact tree (10-15 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Large tree (more than 40 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Season of interest mid spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Pink, Purple, White, Yellow
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Pyramidal, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size & Form:  

Size and form vary by hybrid and can grow from 8 to 25 feet high. Magnolias can be multi-stemmed or single trunk. Many of the smaller sized magnolias are shrub-like.

Bark color and texture:

Most magnolia hybrids have smooth gray bark.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple leaves are arranged alternately on the stem.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are solitary and vary in shape and color, depending upon the variety. Magnolias flowers do not produce nectar. They are typically pollinated by beetles.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The fruit is a pickle-shaped structure (aggregate) that matures from green to pink, then turns red.  When it matures the structure splits open to reveal seeds.

Plant care:

Magnolias should be planted only in spring. Pick a sheltered location to avoid damage from strong winds, and full sun for best flowering potential. Select late-blooming varieties to avoid frost damage to flowers. Magnolias are shallow-rooted and benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature fluctuation and conserve moisture. Prune after flowering.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Possible problems include magnolia scale, verticillium wilt, and chlorosis in high pH soils.

Ann magnolia (Magnolia ‘Ann’): 

This cultivar grows 8 to 10 feet high and wide.  It has an upright shrubby form and blooms in mid-April.  It can be grown as a shrub or small tree with an open habit. It is erect and has tapered buds opening to red-purple flowers. One of the little girl series.  Zone 4-8

Ballerina Loebner’s magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Ballerina’): 

Growing 15 to 20 feet high and wide this cultivar has a rounded form and blooms early to mid-April. Flowers have numerous pure white petals that are pale pink at the base.  Zone 4-8.

Betty magnolia (Magnolia ‘Betty’):

Growing 10 to 15 feet high and 8-12 feet wide this upright cultivar has a shrubby form and blooms in mid-April. Can be grown as a large shrub to a small tree.  New leaf growth emerges copper-red changing to medium green with flowers of deep purple-red with white interior. Zone 4-8.

Butterflies magnolia (Magnolia ‘Butterflies’):

This cultivar grows 18 to 20 feet high and 12 to 18 feet wide. It grows in an upright, pyramidal form and blooms in late May. It is a small tree with deep yellow flowers that appear before the leaves.  Zone 5-7

Coral Lake magnolia (Magnolia ‘Coral Lake’):  

This cultivar has upright flowers with a mix of pink, peach, coral and cream and they are fragrant. It flowers later than some magnolias and grows 20 feet high.  Zone 4.

Daybreak magnolia (Magnolia ‘Daybreak’): 

A narrow cultivar with rosy pink flowers grows 20 to 25 feet high and 6 to 12 feet wide. Zone 5-8.

Elizabeth magnolia (Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’):

 Growing 30 to 50 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide, this upright cultivar has a pyramidal form. It blooms in mid-May and is a vigorous large tree with primrose yellow flowers. It blooms at an early age. Zone 4-8

Galaxy magnolia (Magnolia ‘Galaxy’):

Growing 20 to 25 feet high and 12 to 15 feet wide, this Cultivar can take a rounded to pyramidal form. It grows as a small tree with pink flowers that bloom in late April. Green leaves turn a coppery bronze in fall.  Zone 4-8.

Goldfinch magnolia (Magnolia ‘Goldfinch’):

 This cultivar grows 35 to 40 feet high and 30 to 40 feet wide. It has an upright, pyramidal form and blooms in early May. It is a mid-size tree with light yellow flowers that bloom before the leaves emerge. Zone 4-8

Gold Star magnolia (Magnolia ‘Gold Star’):

This cultivar grows 20 to 25 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide. It has a broad, pyramidal form and blooms early May. It is a small, multi-stemmed tree with star shaped, yellow flowers. New leaves emerge bronze-colored. Zone 4-8

Jane magnolia (Magnolia ‘Jane’):

Growing 8 to 10 feet high and wide, this cultivar takes an upright, shrubby form. It blooms in mid-May. Flowers are cup shaped and are reddish purple outside and white inside. It is one of the little girl series. Zone 4-8

Leonard Messel Loebner Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’):

 Growing 25 to 30 feet high and 30-35 feet wide, this cultivar has a rounded form. It blooms in early to mid-April.  Its dark purple flower buds open with a white interior. Zone 4-8

Merrill Loebner Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill):

Growing 25 to 30 feet high and 30 to 35 feet wide, this cultivar has a rounded form and blooms early to mid-April. It is a fast growing tree with many strap-like petaled white flowers. Zone 4-8

Ricki magnolia (Magnolia ‘Ricki’):

Growing 8 to 10 feet high and wide, this cultivar has an upright form. Its deep purple buds produce fragrant, strap-like white petals with fuchsia shading that opens before the leaves. It is one of the little girl series. Zone 4-8

Sunsation magnolia (Magnolia ‘Sunsation’):

Large (6 to 7 inches wide)  creamy-yellow flowers accented with a blush of pink bloom on this cultivar. It  grows 20 to 30 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide.  Zone 4.

Yellow Bird magnolia (Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’):

This cultivar has yellow, upright flowers that are produced later than some cultivars. The plant grows up to 40 feet high and 25 feet wide.  Zone 4-8.


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