An ornamental garden is incomplete without a fragrant magnolia tree filling the space with blooms from early spring through to summer. These unique flowers appear before the leaves and usually signal the start of the spring season. Follow this guide to learn about 20 magnolia varieties for your ornamental garden.
When choosing between the various species available, you’ll be confronted with another problem – which of the many gorgeous cultivars to choose from. Take a look at this list for a few of the most popular cultivars available today, as well as some rarer types that may be trickier to find. Here are 20 magnolia varieties for your ornamental garden.
1. Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’
A personal favorite, this cultivar of the famous Southern magnolia is much more compact than the 80-foot-tall original species. This makes it ideal for growing in smaller gardens or containers, giving you the same Southern magnolia look without the massive space required.
2. M. x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’
This award-winning cultivar grows to around 20 feet tall, featuring deep purple flower buds that open into white and pink star-shaped blooms. The shape of these blooms comes from one parent of this hybrid – Magnolia stellata – also known as the star magnolia. This particular cultivar is a descendant of Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’.
3. Magnolia ‘Galaxy’
This hybrid magnolia has won the Royal Horticultural Societies Award of Garden Merit, known for its deep pink, almost purple flowers. A cross between Magnolia liliiflora and Magnolia sprengeri ‘Diva’, it blooms prolifically with stunning upright flowers.
4. Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’
This star magnolia cultivar is slightly smaller than the original species, growing between 10 and 20 feet tall. Blush pink flower buds explode into stark white star flowers reaching 6 inches in size.
5. Magnolia grandiflora ‘Edith Bogue’
If you live in a cooler climate that makes it tricky to grow Southern magnolias, try the cold-hardy cultivar Edith Bogue. This late-flowering magnolia has large blooms with an interesting citrusy lemon scent that sets them apart from the rest.
6. Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’
Lily magnolias are most appreciated for their compact size, delivering everything there is to love about these trees in a much smaller and more manageable package. Nigra is the most popular cultivar of this species with deep pink-purple flowers appearing in late spring.
7. Magnolia sprengeri ‘Diva’
If blush pink blooms are what you’re after, look no further than this magnolia variety that delivers gorgeous delicate flowers from early to mid-spring. It can grow up to 50 feet in height when mature, towering over beds and turning your garden into a floral paradise.
8. M. x soulangeana ‘Black Tulip’
For those needing something a little more dramatic, you can’t go wrong choosing Black Tulip. Standing out from the rest of the varieties on this list, the blooms of this magnolia are much darker with rounded petals that gently turn inwards.
9. Magnolia stellata ‘Centennial’
This star magnolia has not only won the RHS Award of Garden Merit, but also a Gold Medal awarded by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The large blooms have masses of petals in a creamy white, often with a touch of pink at the ends.
10. M. x soulangeana ‘Speciosa’
Growing about 25 feet tall and just as wide, Speciosa is a great medium-sized magnolia suitable for many gardens. Blooming later in the spring and into summer, this cultivar is great for cooler climates prone to frost in early spring.
11. Magnolia virginiana ‘Santa Rosa’
Another hardy magnolia, this cultivar of the sweetbay magnolia species is able to grow in USDA Zones 5-9. It appreciates moist conditions and will produce carpets of cream-white flowers when given the right care and attention.
12. Magnolia ‘Genie’
The adorable Genie magnolia only grows to about 12 feet – not common in this large genus. Another dramatic hybrid, the flower buds start out a purple so deep it almost appears black, opening to reveal burgundy-colored blooms.
13. M. x soulangiana ‘Rustica Rubra’
Saucer magnolias are one of the most widely grown species across the United States, beloved for their large blooms. This cultivar has bright pink flowers with a touch of white on the inside, contributing to its delicate but powerful look.
14. Magnolia ‘Jane’
Jane is a cross between a star magnolia and lily magnolia, the most compact of all the magnolia species. Created at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., its shorter 15-foot height makes it ideal for smaller backyards or growing as a shrub when shaped correctly.
15. Magnolia salicifolia ‘Lufer’
This species is also known as the willow-leaf magnolia for its long and narrow foliage. Although less common in home gardens, the Lufer cultivar deserves a space for its bi-colored white and red flowers.
16. Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’
Evident in the name, this cultivar is also known as the pink star magnolia, or M. kobus var. stellata ‘Rosea’ if you follow the belief that star magnolias are varieties of kobus magnolia. As the flower opens, the outer petals are a dark pink, softening to blush white as they mature.
17. Magnolia ‘Dolly Horn’
A cross between M. lennei and M. campbellii, Dolly Horn has the classic magnolia look. The flowers are upright with wide petals in a soft white color. The base of the blooms has a touch of pink to add to this tree’s delicate appearance.
18. Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’
For something completely different in terms of color, try the award-winning hybrid Elizabeth. Rather than the usual white, pink or purple, the flowers of this magnolia are a sunny yellow and show up in early spring. Starting out bright, the blooms turn a creamy color as they fade.
19. Magnolia x loebneri ‘Encore’
Another compact magnolia, Encore is a prolific bloomer with impressive white star-shaped flowers. They appear so abundant as the tips of branches don’t feature one flower bud, but four at a time.
20. M. x soulangiana ‘Alba Supra’
Of all the saucer magnolia cultivars available on the market, Alba Supra is one of the most sought-after. In early to mid-spring, bare branches transform into a sea of large white blooms, dotted with a pinkish purple at their base.
This is the 20 magnolia varieties for your ornamental garden guide.
Where do magnolia trees grow best?
Magnolia trees typically grow best wherever there is full sun.
What makes magnolias unique?
Magnolias are know to be one of the earliest known flowering plants to be founded.
Where can I learn about magnolias?
Home for the Harvest is a great place to start! With many pages available, you can learn everything you need to know about magnolias.
- Oregon State University: Magnolia grandiflora
- Yale University: Southern Magnolia
- University of Utah: Saucer Magnolia