The many varieties of magnolia trees, with their sweet scents and bright foliage, are among the most popular trees in the American South. There are over 80 different types of magnolia trees, or magnolioceae, but several are in wide use and are easily recognizable. Most garden centers house only a few types of magnolia. These are the evergreen, the saucer group, the star group, and the cucumber and yellow cucumber.
The evergreen magnolia includes the Magnolia grandiflora, the classic Southern variety with large, shiny leaves and large white flowers—the state flowers of both Mississippi and Louisiana. This magnolia is known for its year-round beauty. The downside of this tree is that it takes at least ten years for it to bloom fully. Its shallow roots also means this tree takes up a lot of groundspace. The sweet bay magnolia is a close cousin of the classic, and is a smaller tree to fit into smaller gardens. It is deciduous in the Upper and Middle South and evergreen in the Lower and Coastal South.
The saucer magnolia, M. x soulangeana, is a deciduous magnolia often called the tulip tree because of their flower’s shape. They flourish in well-drained, acidic and fertile soil. Their early blooms tend to be prone to frost damage. Variations of the saucer include the Sargent magnolia, M. sargentiana; and Sprenger magnolia, M. sprengeri, from China and the Himalayas. However, both of these variations are less durable than the saucer.
The star group includes the Kobus magnolia, M. kobus; Loebner magnolia, M. x loebneri; and star magnolia, M. stellata. All of these varieties are very resistant to cold and heat and are highly adaptable. These shrub type magnolias are usually planted in public gardens.
The cucumber and yellow cucumber, (M. acuminata and M. a subcordata, respectively) sport yellow blossoms and are sometimes used to create hybrids. These are less widely planted and are generally used as accents or shade trees. Nevertheless, these varieties are as beautiful as their more popular cousins.
Any of the above varieties of magnolia will certainly make a glorious addition to your garden. Remember, though to make plenty of room on your lawn as these magnificent marvels grow to be quite large!