There are around 80 species of magnolia trees and shrubs, according to the University of Florida, and many of those have several cultivars. Magnolias vary widely in appearance and hardiness. Some are deciduous, while others are evergreen. Some are tropical, while others are cold-hardy. One thing they all have in common is distinctive, showy, tulip-shaped flowers. The flowers, which are also fragrant, make magnolias a highly desirable landscape plant.
Magnolia acuminata, or the cucumber magnolia, is so named for its green, cucumber-shaped fruit. This tree is desirable for its true yellow flowers, which are unusual among magnolias. "Butterflies" is the cultivar of this species that has the deepest yellow flowers, according to the University of Florida. "Evamaria" is a cultivar that has tricolored flowers. The buds are green, purple and yellow, and upon blossoming, become pink, orange and yellow. "Yellow Bird" has delicate, light-yellow flowers.
Magnolia stellata, or the star magnolia, is the most widely known magnolia, according to the University of Florida. This species, which features white or pink flowers, blooms well even when young, making it very attractive to home gardeners who want a specimen tree. "Rosea Jane Platt" is a cultivar of M. stellata that has pink flowers that are known to hold their color even in humid, hot conditions. The "little girl" hybrids ("Ann," "Betty" and others) feature dark pink and purple flowers respectively. "Leonard Messel" has deep purple buds that become pink when opened.
The southern magnolia (M. grandiflora) is practically a staple of the South, according to Clemson University. This towering, stately magnolia species features very large, creamy white flowers that can be up to a foot in diameter. The flowers are very fragrant. The cultivars do not vary in flower color, but only in size and leaf color. "Brozzonii" is a cultivar of the saucer magnolia (M. x soulangiana) that features pink buds that become white with a pink base when opened. "Lennei" is another stunning saucer magnolia cultivar with flowers that are bright white on the inside, but deep purple on the outside.
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