Types of Magnolia Trees and Shrubs with Their Flowers and Leaves – Identification (Pictures)

Types of Magnolia Trees and Shrubs, with flowers and leaves

Magnolias are beautiful flowering trees or shrubs with stunning pink, purple, yellow, or white flowers. Magnolia trees and shrubs have thick leathery leaves and impressive flowers that appear early in the spring. Magnolias can be deciduous or evergreen depending on their growing zone. Some species of magnolia can be large trees while other types can be small trees or large bushes with a shrubby growth. Whatever variety of magnolia grows in your yard, their magnificent showy flowers add color and fragrance to garden landscapes.

This article is a complete guide to identifying the most common magnolia varieties. Descriptions of the thick glossy leaves and stunning flowers will help to identify types of magnolia. Also, pictures of magnolia trees and shrubs will help you choose the best magnolia for your backyard.

Magnolia Tree Facts

magnolia light requirements

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

Magnolia is a genus of large flowering shrubs or trees in the family Magnoliaceae. Magnolia grows as a multi-stemmed shrub or a single trunk tree. The beautiful landscape tree is characterized by its fragrant flowers, glossy, leathery leaves, and cone-like fruits.

magnolia seeds

Magnolia fruit and seeds

There are some 125 species of magnolia suitable for growing in most zones. There are eight species of magnolia native to the United States. The most popular magnolia types are the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), and Saucer magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana).

Most varieties of magnolia thrive in full sun or partial shade. Magnolia trees and shrubs adapt to various soil types and grow well as long as the soil is well-draining. To care for magnolia plants, water the ground to keep it moist and fertilize every spring.

Types of Magnolia Trees

Magnolia grows well in most climates, depending on the species of tree or shrub. Evergreen magnolias are suited to growing in warm climates where winter temperatures don’t dip below freezing. Deciduous magnolia trees grow better in colder climates and will survive frost.

Here are some popular types of evergreen and deciduous magnolia trees.

Evergreen Magnolia Trees

  • Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
  • White champaca (Magnolia x alba)
  • Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
  • Scented pearl magnolia (Magnolia laevifolia)

Deciduous Magnolia Trees

  • Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
  • Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana)
  • Loebner magnolia (Magnolia × loebneri)
  • Cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata)

Some of the evergreen magnolia varieties grow in colder climates as deciduous trees.

Magnolia Flowers

magnolia flowers

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

Magnolia flowers are either star-shaped or bowl-shaped, like tulips, and can grow up to 12” (30 cm) across. The most common color of magnolia flowers is white or pink. However, magnolia trees also produce flowers that are purple, green, or even yellow. Each magnolia variety has its own distinctive bloom that helps with tree identification.

Magnolia Leaves

magnolia leaves

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

Magnolia leaves are glossy, green, leathery leaves that are an ovate or lanceolate shape. The leaves on magnolia trees have a simple, alternate arrangement on woody stems. Magnolia leaves grow between 5” and 8” (12 – 20 cm) long and up to 5” (12 cm) wide. All varieties of magnolias have leaves with smooth margins.

Magnolia Tree Identification 

The best way to identify magnolia trees is by their large aromatic flowers. Individual magnolia varieties have their own distinctive flowers. You can also recognize magnolia trees by their long, elongated leaves with a smooth, shiny surface. Magnolia trees are also recognized by their fruit that looks like small cones containing red seeds.

Examining the bark can help with magnolia identification. Magnolia bark is thin and smooth and contains aromatic compounds.

magnolia grandiflora bark

Bark of Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Types of Magnolia Trees (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Let’s look at the identifying feature of the most popular magnolia trees.

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) leaves and white flower

Southern magnolia is a stunning ornamental tree that produces brilliant white fragrant flowers. This magnificent magnolia grows up to 80 ft. (24 m) tall with a rounded or pyramidal crown up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide. The evergreen leaves are glossy dark green, and grow up to 10” (25 cm) long.

Also called bull bay, Southern magnolia trees are famous for their beautiful late spring flowers. The large white magnolia flowers are cup-shaped and are up to 12” (30 cm) across. When in bloom, Southern magnolia flowers give off a lemony aroma.

This magnolia is a fast-growing evergreen tree in USDA zones 6 through 10.

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

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

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

Southern magnolia ‘Little Gem’ is a dwarf, evergreen tree with white cup-shaped flowers and glossy pointed green leaves. ‘Little Gem’ magnolia has a narrow, columnar growth and grows between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall. This large shrubby magnolia bush-like tree is perfect for compact gardens.

‘Little Gem’ is a compact cultivar of the Southern magnolia. Because of this, the dwarf, bushy tree has the same characteristics as the larger species tree. The shiny evergreen foliage and white scented flowers give the ‘Little Gem’ plenty of year-long interest.

Teddy Bear Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Southern Charm’)

Teddy Bear Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Southern Charm’)

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

The ‘Teddy Bear’ magnolia is a dwarf magnolia evergreen bushy shrub with a conical shape, small shiny green leathery leaves, and showy white flowers. The ‘Southern Charm’ magnolia cultivar grows around 20 ft. (6 m) high and has a moderate growth rate. Like the Southern magnolia species tree, the ‘Teddy Bear’ magnolia has brilliant white flowers in a cup shape.

The ‘Southern Charm’ magnolia bush grows best as a specimen plant. You can also plant the dwarf trees in rows as an evergreen privacy screen. This cultivar also grows well in pots or containers.

The common name “Teddy Bear” comes from the brown fuzzy underside of the lanceolate leaves.

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

The star-shaped flowers of star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) can be white or pink, depending on the cultivar

The star magnolia is a small deciduous tree with small white, star-shaped flowers and ovate leaves. The Magnolia stellata grows up to 6 ft. (2 m) tall and has an oval crown. In the fall, when the leaves turn color, the glossy deep green leaves turn a golden yellow color.

The star magnolia is one of the first trees to bloom in spring. The individual showy flowers are made from long, delicate thin white petals. Compared to other magnolia varieties, the flowers are small, measuring only 4” (10 cm) across.

Magnolia stellata is also one of the hardiest of the magnolia bushes and grows well in zones 4 through 9.

Royal Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’)

Royal Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’)

Royal Star magnolia is a small tree with star-shaped double flowers

The spectacular ‘Royal Star’ is a large magnolia bush or small tree with showy double white flowers that give off a strong fragrance. The Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ dwarf, compact shrub growing between 10 and 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) tall. The hardy magnolia has glossy green, ovate leaves.

Ths ‘Royal Star’ magnolia looks stunning when it blooms in spring. The dwarf tree explodes into a mass of white, star-shaped double flowers. The flowers cover the bare branches before the leaves appear. In fall, the foliage turns yellow before the leaves drop.

Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ is suitable for growing in USDA zones 4 through 9.

Loebner Magnolia (Magnolia × loebneri)

Loebner magnolia (Magnolia × loebneri)

The star shaped flowers of Loebner magnolia have strap-like pink petals

The loebner magnolia is a small deciduous tree with pinkish-white flowers, narrowly elliptic leaves, and red cone-like fruits. This hardy magnolia species grows slowly and has a maximum height of 20 ft. (6 m). The multi-stemmed shrubby tree has a compact, rounded growth and grows best in shrub borders or as a specimen tree.

The outstanding feature of the Magnolia loebneri is its starry flowers. The flowers are made from long pink, lilac, or whitish-pink strap-like petals. The magnolia petals fan out from the center and are curved at the end.

Magnolia × loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’

Magnolia × loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’

‘Leonard Messel’ magnolia has pale pink star-shaped flowers with strappy petals

The ‘Leonard Messel’ magnolia is a compact hybrid cultivar with deciduous foliage and fragrant star-like pale pink flowers. This magnolia cultivar grows between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall. It is usually grown as a multi-stemmed tree or large shrub. ‘Leonard Messel’ cultivars are ideal for small gardens or growing as a specimen tree.

‘Leonard Messel’ magnolias are identified by their two-tone showy flowers. The narrow strappy petals are in pink and white hues. The flowers bloom in abundance throughout spring to add color and sweet scents to backyards.

Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) has scented white cup-shaped flowers

The sweetbay magnolia is a native magnolia tree with cup-shaped creamy-white flowers and large glossy lanceolate or elliptical leaves. This semi-evergreen magnolia grows between 10 and 35 ft. (3 – 10 m.) Depending on the climate, the magnolia has a rounded to pyramidal crown. The cup flowers are 2” to 3” (5 – 7.5 cm) across and give off a fragrant scent.

The Magnolia virginiana is also called swamp magnolia, laurel magnolia, or beaver tree.

Sweetbay magnolia grows as an evergreen tree in southern states and a deciduous magnolia bush in colder climates. The fast-growing tree is prized for its ornamental beauty, and it adds color to garden landscapes.

With the proper care, sweetbay magnolia bushes are ideal for foundation plantings, shrub borders, or growing in pots. In warmer climates, this magnolia is popular as a specimen lawn tree.

Cucumber Magnolia Tree (Magnolia acuminata)

Cucumber Tree Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)

Cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) has pointed tip leaves and yellow-greenish flowers

The cucumber tree is a hardy native tree with tulip-like fragrant flowers and shiny green, ovate shaped leaves. The cucumber magnolia grows between 40 and 70 ft. (12 – 21 m) tall, and the deciduous foliage grows in a pyramidal shape. The magnolia leaves are oblong to oval shape and grow up to 10” (25 cm) long, and feature a smooth margin with pointed tip.

Unlike other magnolias, the cucumber tree doesn’t produce showy flowers. The small flowers grow in a tulip shape and are green or yellow. Due to the dense foliage, it isn’t easy to spot the flowers on this tall magnolia.

Magnolias aren’t typically recognized for outstanding fall color. However, the Magnolia acuminata is an exception as it turns an attractive golden yellow before the leaves drop.

The cucumber magnolia tree gets its common name from the cucumber-shaped fruits that appear in the fall.

Cucumber tree is hardy in zones 4 through 8, where they are common in parks and open public spaces.

Jane Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora x Magnolia stellata)

Manolia Jane

The purple buds of Jane magnolia open and fade to pink petals on the outside and white on the inside

The Jane magnolia is a slow-growing magnolia shrub or small tree that produces showy, cup-shaped fragrant flowers that are pink-purple and white. The large tulip flowers grow up to 8” (20 cm) across. The tree’s foliage is made up of 6-inch (15-cm) long, ovate shiny green leaves. The compact Jane magnolia bush grows between 10 and 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) tall.

The Jane magnolia has outstanding pink-purple tulip-like flowers. The large flowers have purple-pink colors on the outside and are white on the inside.

The Jane magnolia is part of a series of hybrids of the Magnolia liliiflora and Magnolia stellata called “The Little Girl Series.” Some of the other magnolias in the series are ‘Susan’ magnolia with purplish-red blooms and the ‘Ann’ magnolia with deep-purple, pink flowers.

Susan and Ann magnolia

Flowers of Susan magnolia (left) and Ann Magnolia (right)

Black Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’)

Black Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra')

Black Lily magnolia have deep pink tulip-shaped flowers

The black lily magnolia is a large deciduous multi-stemmed shrub or small tree. The magnolia bush is identified by its rounded growth, lush, glossy green leaves, and deep pink-purple flowers. The pink showy magnolia flowers look like open tulip flowers standing erect on woody branches.

Black lily magnolia starts flowering in early spring. Under the right conditions, the shrub will flower throughout the summer, creating beautiful pink and mauve colors in your garden.

The Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ cultivar grows between 8 and 12 ft. (2.4 – 3.6 m). Grow this dwarf tree in backyards as a specimen plant for spring blooms. This magnolia thrives in USDA zones 5 through 9.

Magnolia ‘Butterflies’

Magnolia 'Butterflies'

Butterflies magnolia has attractive yellow cup-shaped flowers

Butterflies magnolia is a deciduous compact hybrid plant producing yellow cup-shaped flowers and oblong-elliptic dark green leaves with pointed tips. The showy canary-yellow magnolia flowers give off a distinct lemon scent. The magnolia tree looks like a yellow mass of showy blooms due to the massive number of flowers when in bloom.

Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ is a cross between the cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) and Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata). The magnolia tree has pyramidal growth and grows between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m). Like most deciduous magnolias, the yellow butterfly magnolia tree thrives in zones 5 through 9.

Many people regard the magnolia ‘Butterflies’ as the finest example of a yellow-flowering tree.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana)

Saucer magnolia or Japanese magnolia has large flowers that come in shades of pink, purple and white

The saucer magnolia or Japanese magnolia is one of the most popular deciduous flowering trees. The saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana) produces stunning purple, white, and pink flowers. As the buds open, the flowers grow into fragrant globular blooms that are usually two-toned. In fall, the glossy green leaves turn golden brown before dropping. This magnolia species is prized for its huge bicolored flowers.

Saucer magnolia is a large shrub or small tree that grows between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall and has a rounded, spreading crown.

Saucer magnolias are also called the Chinese magnolia and tulip magnolia.

From all the deciduous magnolias, the saucer magnolia is one of the easiest to grow. Cultivars of saucer magnolias are resistant to wind and alkaline soils. Grow these magnolia plants as a specimen tree or multi-trunked large shrub.

Some outstanding Magnolia soulangeana cultivars are ‘Grace McDade’ with huge cup-shaped flowers 14” (35 cm) in diameter and ‘Jurmag1’ with dark magnolia flowers.

The Magnolia soulangeana ‘Lilliputian’ is the smallest of the saucer magnolias suitable for compact gardens.

The Magnolia soulangeana ‘Alexandrina’ cultivar is a multi-stemmed deciduous tree with large fragrant cup-shaped deep pink flowers and can reach to about 30 feet tall (9 m).

Magnolia soulangeana 'Alexandrina'

Flowers of magnolia soulangeana ‘Alexandrina’

Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’ (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘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’ saucer magnolia cultivar has some of the darkest flowers on any magnolia species. The goblet-shaped magnolia flowers are in dark purple or deep burgundy colors. The large magnolia tulip-like flowers grow up to 6” (15 cm) across. The magnolia leaves are obovate-shaped and are up to 8” (20 cm) long.

Under the right conditions, ‘Black Tulip’ magnolias bloom from spring until summer. If the summer is cool and damp, the trees may burst into bloom again in mid-summer.

‘Black Tulip’ magnolias are large shrubs or trees that grow between 15 and 20 ft. (4.5 – 6m). This magnolia species features upright growth and a rounded crown with a spread up to 10 ft. (3 m) wide.

You can grow ‘Black Tulip’ magnolias as a single trunk specimen tree or prune them to form a flowering hedge plant.

Magnolia Betty (Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ x Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’)

Magnolia Betty

‘Betty’ magnolia has pink-purple flowers with white interiors

The ‘Betty’ magnolia is a small deciduous magnolia shrub ideal for small, compact backyards. The shrubby magnolia is a late spring bloomer that produces large pink-purple flowers. Inside the cup-shaped flowers, the petals are white, which contrasts with the dark exteriors.  Magnolia ‘Betty’ grows between 10 and 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) and is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8.

Magnolia champaca 

Magnolia champaca 

Magnolia champaca has fragrant creamy-yellow flowers

The Magnolia champaca is a tall tree with intensely fragrant yellow or cream-colored flowers and long, lanceolate leaves with smooth edges. This magnolia species grows up to 50 ft. (15 m) tall with a narrow crown. Common names for Magnolia champaca include the yellow jade orchid tree, joy perfume tree, and Himalayan champaca. The champaca magnolia tree blooms in summer and early fall.

Find out how to care for magnolia trees and shrubs.

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