Magnolia vs Gardenia: They’re actually quite different


Magnolias and gardenias are just unique ornamental plants. And really, what could be more beautiful and fascinating than a tree that blooms with large flowers.

Many gardeners want to know the difference between gardenia and magnolia and who is the best. This is what we will talk about today.

Magnolia Gardenia
Hardiness zone 4-10 7-11
Mature height 8-70 ft 4-12 ft
Mature width 4-45 ft 4-12 ft
Growth rate fast medium, fast
Light exposure full sun, partial shade full sun, partial shade
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 5.0-6.0 5.0-6.0
Watering 1 time per week in a drought 1 time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects insects
Magnolia and Gardenia
Magnolia and Gardenia

Magnolia has much more varieties with a wide range of colors

The taxonomy of magnolias is much broader than gardenias. Because magnolias are cultivated in Europe and the United States, the number of magnolias is huge. Gardenia has about 140 species and 200 varieties.

As a result, you have a much broader range of magnolias to buy with different colors and sizes of flowers.

One of the most popular magnolias is Magnolia grandiflora, another name for southern magnolia. It grows in the United States in the wild and blooms with beautiful white flowers.

Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem has a compact size and dark green leaves that do not fall for the winter. The shape of the plant is columnar, has white flowers.

Another unique species of magnolias is Magnolia soulangeana. This is a hybrid species that was bred in France. The color of the flowers can be different depending on the variety.

The most popular is the Magnolia soulangeana Susan. The flowers are pink, their size is large, and they bloom at the beginning of the season. There is also a variety that blooms in red; its name is Magnolia Rustica Rubra.

Magnolias differ from gardenias not only in color but also in the shape of flowers. Magnolia stellata has long, thin petals, so the flowers look like little stars. The Jane Platt variety has light pink flowers that look fabulous!

Varieties of gardenias mostly have white flowers of different sizes (except for some varieties). However, this does not make them less attractive.

Gardenia jasminoides, also known as Cape jasmine, are the most popular among gardenias. The flowers of this species are usually white in shape, like the flowers of roses.

Golden Magic is an impressive variety; its flowers have a bright yellow color, although they are white and gradually turn yellow at the beginning of flowering. Flowers up to three inches across.

Gardenia taitensis is a unique species among all members of the genus. Its flowers have long, slightly twisted petals; the number of petals is not large (6-7). All this makes its flowers very beautiful.

Gardenia carinata is also unusual; it has an attractive shape of the petals and a white color that gradually turns orange.

Gardenia blooms in late spring or early summer; this feature distinguishes gardenias from magnolias (magnolias bloom in late winter or early spring).

Although, if you want, you can achieve that re-blooming magnolia.

Gardenias are smaller than magnolias

In general, gardenias are smaller than magnolias. Yes, there are species of gardenias that grow up to 48 feet (15 m), but on sale, you can usually find varieties whose height does not exceed 6 feet (1.8 m).

Most gardenias are shrubs with an average height of 4-6 (1.2-1.8 m) feet. Also, on the market, you can find gardenia growing up to 12 feet (3.6 m) tall in the shape of a small tree.

One of the smallest varieties of gardenia is Dwarf Radicans Gardenia. It grows up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall and up to 3-4 feet wide (1-1.2 m). This variety blooms with snow-white flowers.

Magnolias are larger; they easily reach 8-10 feet in height. Their maximum size 70-100 feet (20-30 m) high and about 45 feet wide (13 m).

One of the largest magnolias is Magnolia grandiflora, and it can reach 90 ft (27.5 m) in height. A tree of this size decorated with flowers looks just fantastic.

In contrast to large magnolias, there are dwarfs. Magnolia × soulangeana ‘Lilliputian’ is a dwarf magnolia not exceeding 4 feet (1.2 m) in height. Due to its light pink flowers and compact size, it is ideal for growing in small gardens.

In addition to differences in size, gardenia and magnolia differ in growth rate.

Because gardenias are mostly shrubs, they grow more slowly. On average, their annual growth is one foot. Less common are varieties that have a yearly growth of 1.5-2 feet.

On the other hand, magnolias grow an average of 2 feet per year or more. Exceptions may be young plants (2-3 years old); their annual growth may not exceed one foot for several years after planting.

Not all magnolias evergreen

All gardenias are evergreen, which means that they do not drop leaves in autumn. Part of the leaves still fall off (2-3 years old leaves), but most foliage remains.

Not all magnolias are evergreen; some lose their leaves at the end of the season. On deciduous magnolias, new leaves begin to form in the spring from the buds.

Evergreen magnolias include:

  • Magnolia grandiflora
  • Magnolia amazonica
  • Magnolia hodgsonii
  • Magnolia nana
  • Magnolia delavayi
  • and others

This type of magnolia has beautiful waxy leaves of green or dark green color. Some of them have brown leaves on the backside, which creates a beautiful contrast of green and brown.

Deciduous magnolias:

  • Saucer magnolia
  • Magnolia stellata
  • Magnolia denudata
  • Purple Lily Magnolia
  • Magnolia loebneri Leonard Messell
  • and others.

The advantage of deciduous magnolias is that they begin to bloom before the leaves open. As a result, flowers bloom on the tree branches, and there are no leaves; this is a truly stunning view.

There are also semi-evergreen magnolias, such as Magnolia virginiana. This type of magnolia sheds its leaves in cold climates (hardiness zone 6 and above). In warmer states, the leaves remain for the winter.

Magnolias are hardier

Magnolias are generally more hardy than gardenia. Yes, some gardenias can withstand frost, and some magnolias cannot do so, but in general, most magnolias are more resistant to low temperatures.

Gardenia can grow in climatic zones from 8 to 11. The lowest temperature that some species can withstand is 15 ° F (-9 ° C). The most resistant to cold is a variety called Kleim’s Hardy; it can be grown in the 7 hardiness zone.

However, not all gardenias can tolerate frost. Some of them can grow only in warm 10 and 11 zones.

Magnolias can be grown from 4 to 10 climatic zones. But not all of them are equally able to tolerate frost.

The most resistant are Magnolia stellata and Magnolia x soulangiana, some varieties can be grown in zone 4, but most prefer climate zone 5.

Native to North America, Magnolia grandiflora feels good in 7-9 zones.

One of the most heat-loving is Magnolia champaca; it can be grown north of 10 zones. It does not shed leaves for the winter and remains beautiful all year round.

So we can conclude that magnolias can tolerate more extreme temperatures than gardenias. Due to this, magnolias are cultivated much more widely; thus, the number of varieties on the market is also higher.

Magnolias more expensive

Magnolias are more expensive than gardenias; their prices range from $ 30 to $ 100. Varieties with unusual color flowers (such as Blue Opal) are usually more costly and can reach $ 200.

Prices for gardenia start at $ 19 and can reach $ 50. Of course, these are average values. Prices fluctuate, but in general, the trend is that gardenias are a little cheaper.

Some factors can explain the difference in cost.

First of all, it’s many varieties. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, gardenia almost all have white flowers; on the other hand, magnolias come in pink, yellow, burgundy, and even blue flowers.

Hybridizing unusual varieties is hard work that requires a lot of resources.

The second reason is the method of propagating. Gardenia is propagated by cuttings, and it is quite an easy process. Magnolias are mainly propagated by grafting, which requires much more effort, resources, and time.

Finally, growing a magnolia for sale is longer and more expensive than a gardenia.

Gardenia can be a groundcover

Both gardenia and magnolia can grow in the form of a bush or a small tree. Magnolias also grow into full-size trees.

However, gardenias’ peculiarity is that there are creeping varieties among them, one of which is Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’.

This variety can be used to cover the soil around the house. It differs from other plants of this type by beautiful white flowers.

The height of Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’ does not exceed 2-3 feet. It grows 3-4 feet or more in width and tolerates pruning.

This is a fairly hardy plant that can be grown in 7-10 zones.

From everything written in this article, we can conclude that Gardenias are suitable for small areas near the house. You can grow them as shrubs in combination with other plants or even create a low hedge.

Magnolias look better as specimen plants due to their size and flowers, which can be different colors depending on the variety. For a magnolia to reveal its beauty to the fullest, you need to allocate a lot of space to it.

Igor Viznyy

Hi friends, I have been growing plants for many years and love doing it. You can find more information on the page About Author.

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