Magnolia Tree Varieties

The mention of magnolia trees evokes images of languid Southern summer afternoons spent relaxing over pitchers of mint juleps. Some magnolia tree varieties, however, are as happy in the snowy streets of New York as they would be basking in the Georgia sun. Adaptability is only one of these lovely trees' many charms.

Magnolia 'Yellow Bird'

A Brooklyn Botanical Garden hybrid hardy to minus 40 degrees F, magnolia ‘Yellow Bird' (M. brooklynensis x cordata) entered the commercial market in 1981. Growing up to 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide, it has an erect trunk and pyramidal crown. Its smooth-edged, elliptical, deep-green leaves emerge as its yellow, goblet-like April flowers open. Yellow Bird performs best in fertile, mildly acidic, consistently moist loam, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It handles full sun or partial shade and benefits from root mulch and wind protection.

Large-Flowered Magnolia

The magnolia most closely identified with the American South, large-flowered, or Southern, magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) suffers in temperatures below zero degrees F. This graceful, spreading tree can grow 80 feet tall and 50 feet wide. It has large, elliptical evergreen foliage. The leaves' deep-green, glossy surfaces conceal lighter green to brown undersides. In May and June, its large white flowers perfume the air. Fall-ripening cones produce string-suspended, brilliant red seeds. Large-flowered magnolia likes full sun to partial shade and fertile, moist well-drained loam, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Sweet Bay Magnolia 'Jim Wilson'

Sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) trees grow wild along the Atlantic seaboard. ‘Jim Wilson' is a sweet bay magnolia cultivar hardy to minus 20 degrees F. Standing between 15 and 35 feet tall, Jim Wilson produces cuplike, lemon-scented white flowers between May and June. Its glossy, deep green elliptical leaves have silvery undersides. It also has red-seeded cones. Although happiest in moist, fertile soils, this tree is a good choice for wet soils along ponds and streams. It also tolerates clay, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Kobus Magnolia

Native to the forests of Japan, kobus magnolia (Magnolia kobus) is an early-blooming tree that grows slowly to 30 feet tall and wide. Flowering as early as March and into April, kobus magnolia handles temperatures to minus 20 F. It has typical, goblet-shaped magnolia blooms. The white, occasionally shaded with pink, flowers appear before the tree's leaves. Both the blooms and the tree's dark green foliage are fragrant, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Birds flock to the red seeds in kobus’ autumn cones. Kobus magnolias like sunny or partly shady locations and well-drained, fertile loam. They need protection from strong winds and suffer from city pollution. Growing this magnolia tree requires patience, because trees younger than 25 years don't achieve maximum bloom.

Keywords: magnolia tree varieties, magnolia tree types, southern magnolia tree, sweet bay magnolia

About this Author

A freelance writer, Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. She's been an inveterate traveler since 1961 and draws on her travel experiences to provide articles for such websites as Chincoteague Island Vacations and Berlin Dude. Wolfe holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State University at Pomona.