Magnolia is a species of tree that is very versatile. Some are evergreen, others deciduous. Some grow very tall, others remain shrubs. Although there are over 80 different species, almost all of them produce attractive flowers and leaves that make them welcome additions to any garden.
The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is also known as the bull bay magnolia. It has large, leathery leaves that are dark green. It produces large, 10-inch-wide flowers in the summer. Depending on the cultivar, it can grow anywhere from 15 to 90 feet tall. It is an evergreen tree native to the southern United States.
The cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata) gets its name from the 3-inch-long, pinkish fruit that it produces in the summer. It does produce flowers in the late spring, but they are greenish yellow, not white, and not as showy as other magnolias. It is a deciduous tree native to the United States. It can grow up to 100 feet tall.
Sweet Bay Magnolia
The sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is a hardy tree that is incredibly versatile. In southern areas, this magnolia is an evergreen tree with a single trunk that can grow up to 60 feet tall. In northern areas, it becomes a multitrunked, deciduous bush that grows only 1 to 2 feet high. Sweet bays produce vanilla-scented white flowers that are about 3 inches wide. Its light-green leaves are also fragrant, but do not taste like traditional bay leaves.
Siebold's magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii), or Oyama magnolia, is a small tree that will only get about 12 feet tall. It produces 3-inch-wide white flowers in late May to July. According to Ketzel Levine, it is the easiest late-blooming magnolia to grow and the only one that can be planted in full sun. It is a deciduous tree native to eastern Asia.
Wilson's magnolia (Magnolia wilsonii) are easy to spot because its 4- to 6-inch-wide, white flowers hang upside down on its branches in the early summer. It also has very large leaves, up to 10 inches long. It can grow up to 25 feet tall.
The umbrella tree (Magnolia macrophylla) gets its name from its large---36 inches long---leaves. It grows about 40 feet tall. It produces fragrant 15-inch-wide white flowers in June and July. It is native to the United States.