Types of Magnolia Trees For Florida (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Types of Magnolia Trees For Florida (With Pictures) - Identification Guide

Magnolia trees are prized in Florida gardens for their showy, fragrant white or pink flowers and leathery leaves. The most common magnolia tree species in Florida is the native southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). It’s an evergreen tree with extremely fragrant creamy-white flowers, smooth leathery evergreen leaves, and large rose-red conical seed pods. However, other magnolia varieties and cultivars thrive in North, Central, and South Florida.

Two species of magnolia trees—the southern magnolia and the sweet bay magnolia—thrive as far south as Miami on the southernmost tip of Florida’s peninsula. However, most other magnolias are suitable for Central and North Florida, where they perform best in USDA zones 8 and 9.

Do you want to grow a beautiful magnolia tree in your front or backyard? Are there any dwarf magnolia trees suitable for compact gardens in Florida? How can you identify the best magnolias to compliment your garden landscape? Please read on to find the answers to these questions and more.

This guide to magnolia trees for Florida explores the best varieties that thrive in the Sunshine State.

How To Identify a Magnolia Tree

magnolia tree

The beautiful flowers of magnolia trees can enhance the landscaping of any Florida garden

Identifying a magnolia tree can be done by looking at the tree’s size, the shape of the saucer-like leaves, the color of the bowl-shaped or star-like flowers, and the shape of the tree’s canopy. Other identifying features of magnolia trees are the smooth grayish-brown bark and distinctive conical red seed pods.

magnolia seeds

Magnolia seed pods

Magnolia Trees in Florida

Magnolia trees in Florida range in size from the impressive 60-foot (18 m) southern magnolia with its large, open, white flowers to dwarf magnolias like the ‘Little Gem’ cultivar growing 15 ft. (4.5 m) tall with snow-white flowers and leathery evergreen leaves.

magnolia leaves

Magnolia leaves are glossy green on the upper-side and have smooth edges

Although most people think of spectacular white flowers when thinking of magnolia trees, other varieties have different colors of flowers. For example, magnolia flowers can be rosy-pink, pale yellow, ruby red, or deep burgundy.

magnolia flowers

Magnolia has fragrant flowers that are most commonly white or various shades of pink color

Typically, there are two types of magnolia flowers in Florida landscapes. One type of flower is a goblet or cup-shaped with large rounded petals that look like tulip flowers. The other is star-shaped, with spindly petals fanning out around the flower’s center.

Growing Magnolia Trees in Florida

Many varieties of magnolias are well-suited to growing in the southeastern United States. Despite Florida’s diverse climate with constant sunshine and tropical or subtropical climates, magnolia trees withstand full sun and coastal sea spray and are relatively tolerant to drought. Most magnolias are hardy to zone 9, and several cultivars perform well in zones 10 and 11.

Related reading: How to care for magnolia trees and shrubs.

Types of Magnolia Trees for Florida — Identification Guide with Pictures

Several varieties of magnolia trees are native to Florida. Some examples are the southern magnolia, sweet bay magnolia, Ashe’s magnolia, and ‘Jon Jon’ magnolia. However, many other hybrids and magnolias imported from Asia perform well without becoming invasive.

Southern Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’)

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’

‘Little Gem’ is a dwarf cultivar of Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

The southern magnolia cultivar ‘Little Gem’ is a beautiful, small, evergreen tree identified by its scented white flowers and leathery lance-shaped leaves. The showy white flowers measure 4” (10 cm) across and have rounded white petals in a saucer shape. The glossy, oblong leaves measure 5” (13 cm) long.

The ‘Little Gem’ magnolia cultivar is ideal for a compact garden due to its narrowly columnar habit and low height. The magnolia tree grows 15 to 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall. Popular for small spaces, the ‘Little Gem’ is ideal as a specimen plant, lawn tree, or privacy screen in Florida backyards.

The southern magnolia ‘Little Gem’ is suitable for growing in areas of Florida north of Lake Okeechobee in USDA zones 7 to 9.

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern magnolia is an evergreen white flowering large tree that is suitable for all parts of Florida

The southern magnolia is a large evergreen flowering tree native to Florida. Identifying features of this magnificent landscape tree are its creamy white, fragrant flowers, dense foliage of glossy, leathery leaves, and conical seed pods. The magnolia leaves measure 5” to 10” (13 – 25 cm) long and grow densely on branches forming a rounded crown.

The white flowers on the southern magnolia tree have a heavenly scent. The cup-shaped flowers measure 8” (20 cm) across. The tree blooms in spring through summer and into fall. After flowering, cone-like seed pods emerge, containing many bright red seeds.

Southern magnolia trees grow 60 to 80 ft. (18 – 24 m) tall and up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide. Being native to Florida, the southern magnolia thrives throughout the Sunshine State—from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys.

Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweet bay magnolia has scented white cup-shaped flowers and is evergreen in south Florida

Sweet bay magnolia is a stunning tree for southern landscapes. The magnolia tree is identified by its glossy green leaves, fragrant, bowl-shaped white flowers, and showy conical seed pods with scarlet seeds. An unusual feature of the sweet bay magnolia is the heavy lemon scent the white flowers emit.

Sweet bay magnolia blossoms bloom from mid-spring throughout summer. The showy white flowers measure 3” (7.5 cm) across, and the tree’s glossy green, lanceolate leaves measure 3” to 5” (7.5 – 13 cm) long. Like most flowering magnolia trees, the flowers close at night and open in the morning.

The graceful, slender sweet bay magnolia in southern Florida is evergreen and grows 10 to 35 ft. (3 – 10 m) tall. Suitable for USDA zones 5 through 10.

Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei)

Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei)

The white flowering Ashe magnolia has distinctive leaves and is small enough to suit tight spaces in Florida

Ashe magnolia is a native Florida ornamental dwarf tree. It is famed for its glossy evergreen foliage and creamy white flowers that bloom in late spring. The tropical magnolia leaves measure 18 to 32” (45 – 81 cm) long with a distinctive violin shape. The tree’s showy flowers are white, cup-shaped, and measure 10” (25 cm) across.

An identifying feature of the Ashe magnolia is its flower shape. The large fragrant flowers have six to eight pointed petals, each 6” (15 cm) long.

Ashe Magnolias are typically small ornamental trees growing 10 to 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) tall, making the trees ideal for smaller yards or gardens. Compared to other magnolias in Florida, this variety blooms later in the season, giving gardens a tropical feel. It grows well in Central and North Florida.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana)

Saucer magnolia tree has large flowers that come in shades of pink, purple and white and is suitable for north and central Florida

Saucer magnolia is a deciduous flowering tree that produces showy pink, purple, and white fragrant blossoms in early spring. The large, tulip-like flowers measure up to 10” (25 cm) across and bloom before the tree’s leaves appear. The tree’s oval-shaped leaves are dark green and glossy and turn golden brown in the fall.

Saucer magnolia is a hardy hybrid magnolia that grows 20 to 25 ft. (6 – 8 m) tall and wide. This multi-trunked tree has smooth silvery bark and ornamental appeal in sunny southern landscapes. The saucer magnolia performs best as a specimen tree, or you can allow the suckering stems to grow an ornamental shrub.

Saucer magnolia is suitable for planting in USDA zones 5 through 9.

Southern Magnolia ‘Brittany’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Brittany’)

Southern Magnolia ‘Brittany’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Brittany’)

Southern magnolia ‘Brittany’ is a relatively small tree that is suitable for most parts of Florida

The southern magnolia cultivar ‘Brittany’ is a compact ornamental tree. It is identified by its waxy evergreen leaves, large fragrant, creamy-white flowers, and low height. This magnolia blooms in early spring, and its flowers persist through summer. Additionally, the leathery leaves have golden undersides that differentiate them from other dwarf magnolias.

The ‘Brittany’ magnolia cultivar grows 15 to 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall and up to 10 ft. (3 m) wide. Its dense foliage grows in a pyramidal shape, giving the ornamental evergreen tree landscaping appeal in subtropical and tropical gardens.

Southern magnolia ‘Brittany’ thrives in USDA zones 7 to 10. It’s suitable as a specimen tree, small shade tree, or flowering privacy screen.

Southern Magnolia ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’)

Southern Magnolia ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’)

Southern magnolia ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is a hardy cultivar that can tolerate light frosts in northern Florida

Southern magnolia ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is a showy evergreen tree growing 20 to 30 ft. (6 – 9 m) tall. The magnolia cultivar is identified by its narrow, pyramidal crown, 7” (18 cm) long glossy green leaves, and fragrant cup-shaped white flowers measuring 4” to 6” (10 – 15 cm) in diameter.

‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ magnolia is popular due to its heat and cold tolerance. The ornamental white-flowering tree thrives throughout the Sunshine State. It performs well in light frosts in northern regions of the state. This magnolia cultivar is ideal for planting in USDA zones 7 to 10.

Landscape uses of ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ southern magnolia are as a windbreak, dense hedge, privacy screen, specimen plant, or lawn tree.

Saucer Magnolia ‘Alexandrina’ (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Alexandrina’)

Magnolia soulangeana 'Alexandrina'

The beautiful flowers of saucer magnolia ‘Alexandrina’ are cup-shaped and deep pink

Saucer magnolia ‘Alexandrina’ is a stunning deciduous tree that produces large, fragrant, deep pink saucer-shaped flowers in early spring. The saucer magnolia cultivar has an identifiable vase shape with medium green leaves, creating a dense rounded canopy. It’s an upright, spreading tree that grows 20 to 25 ft. (6 – 7.6 m) tall and wide.

Saucer magnolia ‘Alexandrina’ thrives in full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil. The tree is a beautiful addition to a garden landscape in North or Central Florida. You can plant the tree as a focal point in a large lawn or grow it as a pink-flowering ornamental shrub.

Saucer magnolia ‘Alexandrina’ is suitable for growing in USDA zones 4 to 9.

Magnolia Dwarf Hybrid ‘Genie’ (Magnolia soulangeana x liliiflora ‘Genie’)

Magnolia Dwarf Hybrid ‘Genie’ (Magnolia soulangeana x liliiflora ‘Genie’)

Magnolia dwarf hybrid ‘Genie’ is a small deciduous tree with stunning deep pink flowers

The magnolia hybrid ‘Genie’ is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a smaller, compact magnolia tree for your Florida garden. This small deciduous magnolia has stunning maroon-purple or deep pink tulip-shaped blossoms measuring 6” (15 cm) across. These fragrant flowers appear in early spring on bare branches.

The magnolia dwarf ‘Genie’ hybrid grows 10 to 13 ft. (3 – 4 m) tall and only 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide, making it ideal for adding a tropical flair to Florida gardens with limited space. In addition, the elegant magnolia has an upright, conical habit, creating a focal point in a lawn or garden landscape.

The magnolia hybrid ‘Genie’ is suitable for growing in USDA zones 5 to 9.

Merrill Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’)

Merrill Magnolia ‘Dr. Merrill’ (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’)

Merrill magnolia has attractive fragrant white flowers and is suitable for north and central Florida

Magnolia hybrid ‘Merrill’ is a stunning small magnolia tree with brilliant white blossoms and large oblong leaves. The eye-catching feature of this magnolia cultivar is masses of white spring flowers appearing on bare branches. Each showy flower measures 4” (10 cm) across and has 15 broad petals with hints of pink.

‘Merrill’ magnolia grows 20 to 30 ft. (6 – 9 m) tall and wide. The small deciduous magnolia thrives in full sun or partial shade and blooms at a young age. Its oval, upright, dense branching habit and dramatic blooms create visual appeal in Florida gardens in USDA zones 7 to 9.

Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala)

Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala)

Umbrella magnolia thrives in both sun and shade and its white flowers emit an unpleasant smell

Umbrella magnolia is an eye-catching deciduous flowering tree identified by its huge leaves, pinkish-white flowers with slender petals, and smooth, gray bark. The magnolia tree leaves are ovate and measure 24” (60 cm) long and 10” (25 cm) wide. The large bowl-shaped white flowers have wiry petals and measure 8” (20 cm) across.

Unlike other magnolias, this multi-trunked tree performs just as well in full shade as in full sunshine. Another feature of this magnolia variety differentiating it from other decorative magnolias is the unpleasant fragrance the flowers emit.

Umbrella magnolia grows up to 15 to 30 ft. (4.5 – 9 m) tall and wide. It’s an ideal flowering magnolia for partial to full shade, making it ideal as an understory tree. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9.

Sweet Bay Magnolia ‘Green Shadow’ (Magnolia virginiana ‘Green Shadow’)

Sweet Bay Magnolia ‘Green Shadow’ (Magnolia virginiana ‘Green Shadow’)

The white flowering sweet bay magnolia ‘Green Shadow’ is suitable for Florida coastal regions

The sweet bay magnolia cultivar ‘Green Shadow’ is a sun-loving flowering tree that produces fragrant, creamy white bowl-shaped flowers. Identifying features of this magnolia tree are its white spring flowers that bloom for four months, rich vanilla fragrances, and leathery green leaves with silvery undersides.

‘Green Shadow’ magnolia grows up to 35 ft. (10 m) tall and 18 ft. (5.5 m) wide. Its tolerance to heat, sandy soil, and salty spray make it ideal for growing in Florida’s coastal regions throughout the peninsula and Panhandle.

Southern Magnolia ‘Kay Parris’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Kay Parris’)

Southern Magnolia ‘Kay Parris’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Kay Parris’)

Southern magnolia ‘Kay Parris’ is a small ornamental evergreen tree with fragrant white flowers

The ‘Kay Parris’ magnolia is a magnificent evergreen tree for Central and North Florida. The magnolia is famed for its large, fragrant, creamy-white flowers, leathery leaves, and large conical seed pods with brightly colored rose-red seeds. The unusual magnolia leaves have fuzzy, dark orange-brown undersides.

The ‘Kay Parris’ magnolia specimen tree is regarded as one of the best magnolias for Florida. The small evergreen tree grows 15 to 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall and 10 ft. (3 m) wide. The ‘Kay Parris’ magnolia is popular as a screening hedge, specimen plant, or shade tree in garden landscapes in the southeastern US.

This ‘Kay Parris’ southern magnolia cultivar is suitable for planting in USDA zones 6 to 9.

Anise Magnolia (Magnolia salicifolia)

Anise Magnolia (Magnolia salicifolia)

Anise magnolia is a deciduous tree that can be identified by its narrow leaves and unique fragrance

Anise magnolia is an Asian magnolia tree with fragrant white, pink-tinged flowers, willow-like leaves, and smooth gray bark. Also called the willow-leafed magnolia, this small deciduous tree has a distinctive anise or lemon fragrance from its flowers, leaves, or bark when crushed. The small tree grows around 25 ft. (7.5 m) tall.

The tree’s common names come from its fragrance and leaf shape. The slender leaves are narrower than typical magnolias and have silvery-white undersides, similar to willow trees. This deciduous magnolia has eye-catching yellow fall colors.

Anise magnolia is suitable for growing in USDA zones 6 to 9.

Banana Magnolia (Magnolia figo)

Banana Magnolia (Magnolia figo)

Banana magnolia is a multi-stemmed shrub with white or purple-pink flowers, depending on the cultivar

The banana magnolia is a small multi-stemmed shrubby plant suitable for growing in compact gardens throughout the Sunshine State. The large shrub is known for its fragrant flowers with an aroma of bananas or ripe cantaloupes. The rounded shrub produces cup-shaped ivory or purple and pink flowers and small glossy, dark green leaves.

Thriving in USDA zones 8 to 10, the banana magnolia shrub grows 6 to 10 ft. (1.8 – 3 m) tall and wide. The shrub thrives in full sun or partial shade. In gardens throughout Florida, the shrub makes it an excellent choice for a privacy screen or foundation planting, where it’s impractical to plant a large magnolias tree.

A stunning cultivar of the Magnolia figo is the ‘Stellar Ruby. This eye-catching evergreen plant has wine-colored magnolia flowers with banana scents.

Southern Magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Southern Charm’)

Southern Magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Southern Charm’)

Southern magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Southern Charm’) has conical dwarf growth habit

The southern magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ cultivar is a compact evergreen tree ideal for central and northern Florida garden landscapes. This beautiful sun-loving evergreen tree is identified by its conical habit with dense foliage and fragrant, creamy white flowers. Compared to the specimen plant, ‘Teddy Bear’ has smaller leaves and a more compact form.

The magnolia’s cup-shaped white flowers measure 6” to 8” (15 – 20 cm) wide and bloom from spring through summer. Due to its pyramidal shape and glossy green pointed leaves with coppery undersides, the ‘Teddy Bear’ cultivar is an excellent accent tree.

The southern magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ cultivar is ideal for growing in USDA zones 7 through 9. It thrives in full sun, reaching heights of 16 to 20 ft. (4.8 – 6 m) tall and 10 to 12 ft. (3 – 3.6 m) wide.

Black Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’)

Black Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra')

Black lily magnolia is a small tree for Florida landscapes with deep pink tulip-shaped flowers

The black lily magnolia is one of the smallest ornamental magnolias for Florida landscapes. The eye-catching feature of this small tree is its 5” (12 cm) dark pink-purple or reddish-pink blooms with pale purple insides. The flowers appear in spring before the lustrous green leaves appear.

Ideal for compact front or backyards, the magnolia grows 8 to 12 ft. (2.4 – 3.6 m) tall and wide. This magnificent ornamental tree thrives in full sun to partial shade. And its deep purple, tulip-like flowers add vibrant colors to spring garden landscapes.

Black lily magnolia is suitable for planting in USDA zones 5 through 9.

Black Tulip Magnolia (Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’)

Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’ (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Black Tulip’)

‘Black Tulip’ magnolia has cup-shaped dark flowers that come in shades of deep purple-burgundy

The black tulip magnolia is a stunning tree, perfect for Florida landscapes north of Fort Myers and West Palm Beach. This magnolia has the darkest flowers of the species—tulip-shaped flowers in a deep burgundy color. The cup-shaped flowers emerge in early spring and bloom throughout the summer.

The dark pink magnolia flowers measure 6” (15 cm) across, and the ‘Black Tulip’ obovate, dark green leaves are 8” (20 cm) long.

The small magnolia tree thrives in USDA zones 5 through 9 in full sun or partial shade. It grows 15 to 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall and up to 10 ft. (3 m) wide. You can grow this small fragrant flowering tree as a privacy screen, hedge, or small specimen tree.

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