How To Identify 11 Types of Magnolia Flowers
Think you know magnolias? Think again. There are countless magnolia species, each with their own beautiful, distinctive blooms, and we love them all. From the bigleaf magnolia to the saucer magnolia and every variety in between, we find ourselves yearning to see their blooms and enjoy their sweet fragrance in our gardens. Do you know how to identify all the different magnolia blooms you see? Most of us can pick out a classic Southern magnolia, as their creamy blooms are ubiquitous across the region. Others are more rare. Can you distinguish between a lily magnolia and a saucer magnolia? How about a star magnolia and a Loebner magnolia? Some are trickier than others, but with a little practice, you’ll be a magnolia expert in no time. Browse these magnolia blooms, and see how many you recognize from the gardens in your area. Also be sure to check out Southern Living’s Complete Guide to Magnolia Trees for more information on magnolia planting and care.
The blooms of bigleaf magnolia are white, with long flower segments that are often spotted with red. In some instances, subtle pinkish-purple hues are present throughout the petals, while in other cases, smudges of deep purplish-red can be found near the base of the flower, where the petals meet the stamen.
This magnolia species can grow to heights of 60 to 80 feet tall, and in the summer months, it produces flowers in shades of yellow and yellow-green. ‘Brenas’ has deep yellow flowers, ‘Koban Dori’ is canary yellow, and M. acuminata subcordata has big flowers with a lemony fragrance.
This magnolia’s common name—as well as its scientific name, Magnolia lilliflora—speak to the tree’s graceful, tulip-shaped, lily-like blooms, which have elongated petals that are purplish on the exterior and creamy white on the interior. ‘Gracilis’ and ‘O’Neill’ have purple-and-pink blooms.
Magnolia x loebneri
The flowers of the Loebner magnolia resemble those of the star magnolia. These blooms, though, are spaced farther apart on the tree, and their flower segments, which are shaped like straps, are even longer and wider than those of M. stellata. ‘Ballerina’ is blush pink and fragrant, while ‘Merrill’ has white blossoms.
A compact deciduous magnolia species, M. sieboldii bears white, fragrant, cup-shaped flowers, inside of which are striking crimson-and-gold or crimson-and-green stamens. ‘Harold Epstein’ and ‘Michiko Regne’ produce semi-double blooms.
Magnolia x soulangiana
Also known as “tulip trees” and "Chinese magnolias," these magnolia trees produce fragrant, rounded, cup-shaped blooms in shades of white, pink, and purple. They bloom from late winter to spring, oftentimes before the deciduous foliage emerges. ‘Alexandrina’ produces blooms that have white centers and purple exteriors, ‘Lilliputian’ has pink and white flowers, and ‘Rustica Rubra’ has huge reddish-purple blossoms.
This evergreen magnolia, also known as Southern magnolia, can be identified by its thick, glossy leaves and big, fragrant white blossoms. It blooms in summer and is the state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana.
This magnolia species produces distinctive blooms with clusters of long petals. ‘Centennial’ has white blossoms, ‘Jane Platt’ blooms rosy pink, and ‘Water Lily’ produces pink buds and fragrant white flowers.
Another magnolia that’s native to the South, sweet bay is a smaller and more cold-hardy look-alike of its close relative M. grandiflora. This tree is evergreen in mild coastal climates and deciduous in places with colder winters.
The flowers of umbrella magnolias have red seedpods, purple stamens, and distinctive flower segments tinged with a greenish-yellow hue. They grow large—up to 10 inches across—and are deeply fragrant.
This magnolia species bears fragrant white blooms that have an upright form and are shaped like tulips. The flowers are often found with a purplish tint where the bloom meets its stem. ‘Double Diamond’ is a selection with a heavier overall bloom than the rest, making it a beautiful and dramatic planting choice.