The trees belonging to the Magnolia family in the United States have great diversity but are all attractive species. In particular, the flowers of the magnolia trees warrant special attention, as they are large and beautiful. Magnolia trees are prized landscaping plants that can enhance a yard or a campus. In addition to the showy blooms of the magnolia, many types have outstanding green foliage that adds to their value.
One kind of magnolia is among the tallest hardwood trees growing in the East in the United States. The yellow poplar, or tulip tree, is a magnolia capable of reaching 150 feet tall when mature. The southern magnolia averages between 60 and 80 feet tall, according to the University of Connecticut Plant Database website, and the cucumber tree may reach 90 feet. Smaller magnolia trees include the sweetbay, which is typically between 20 and 30 feet tall, and the umbrella magnolia, considered large at 35 feet tall.
Magnolia leaves are a prominent feature of the tree and wide variation exists between species, especially in terms of size. For example, sweetbay magnolia has leaves from 4 to 6 inches long and up to 3 inches wide, while bigleaf magnolia possesses leaves that can potentially be 30 inches long and 10 inches wide. Southern magnolia has evergreen leaves that remain on the tree through the year, but most other magnolias are deciduous and lose their leaves in the fall. Many magnolia leaves are oblong and somewhat pointed on the ends, but the yellow poplar has unique leaves shaped like a tulip flower's distinctive outline.
Magnolia flowers take a back seat in terms of size and attractiveness to very few species of trees. Those of the southern magnolia are a case in point, as the flowers can be a foot wide and own from six to a dozen white petals. These flowers emerge in the spring and then bloom periodically through the end of summer. The flowers on a cucumber tree are green-yellow and 2 inches long. Those on a star magnolia blossom before the foliage develops, creating a spectacle of white all over the branches.
Many kinds of magnolias tolerate shade well and do not require a dosage of full sun to flourish. Southern magnolia is one and the Ashe magnolia is another, although it will become taller if you place it in the sun. Well-draining soil mixed with amounts of organic matter is the best type of ground in which to plant a magnolia. After a magnolia becomes entrenched, it has some hardiness regarding drought conditions. The large leaves, flower remains and resulting fruit of a magnolia tree may give you a hefty amount of debris to clean up under the tree.
The function of a magnolia as a landscaping plant depends on the species. Some such as the umbrella magnolia make excellent border trees for woodlands on your acreage or can serve as a lawn tree. Others, like the southern magnolias, are versatile in that you can plant them as a shade tree, a street tree or by itself as a specimen tree where it can garner attention, especially when in bloom. The smaller magnolias like the saucer magnolia make excellent screen and buffer trees.