Magnolia trees, with their waxy, thick green leaves and large white blooms, are a beautiful staple of the south. Magnolias are named for Pierre Magnol, who was director of the botanical gardens in Montpellier, France, in the late 1600s. There are approximately 90 species of the magnolia tree.
Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia) is an early bloomer. Its flowers are star-like, white and around 4 inches wide. Star Magnolia will peak at 15 to 20 feet in height and 10 to 15 feet wide. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. These do best in partial shade areas of the lawn.
Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia) is usually the magnolia that people think of when they hear the name. Flowers on this species are large, up to 12 inches in width. It will peak at 60 to 90 feet in height. It is hardy in zones 7 to 9. It is a very fragrant tree that does best in full sun to partial shade.
Magnolia heptapeta (Yulan Magnolia) can be a "shrubby" tree, and its look will depend on its pruning. Flowers on this tree are 5 to 6 inches wide. It will peak at 40 feet in height. It is hardy in zones 6 to 9. The trunk has a gnarled look to it. These do best in full sun or partial shade.
Magnolia tripetala (Umbrella Magnolia) is a fast-growing tree. Its flowers are 6 to 10 inches wide and yellow or cream colored. It will peak at 30 to 40 feet in height and is hardy in zones 5 to 8. These do best in partial to full shade areas.
Magnolia liliflora (Lily Magnolia) is more bushy and shrublike than a tree. Flowers on this magnolia will be 3 inches in diameter and purple, rather than white. It will peak at approximately 13 feet in height. It is hardy in zones 6 to 9. These do best in full sun.