It’s no surprise that compact plants are gaining popularity among gardeners each year. The smaller the garden and its plants, the easier they are to care for. This trend has also influenced magnolias. While magnolias are typically large, plant breeders have worked hard to create many compact and beautiful varieties. Today, we’ll dive into these.
Ann is an ideal magnolia for compact gardens, boasting large, bright purple-pink flowers. This tree typically stays within a modest size of 10-12 ft (3-3.5 m) in height and 8-10 ft (2.4-3 m) in width, making it perfect for smaller yards.
It’s adaptable to various soil types, thriving best in neutral or slightly acidic conditions, and doesn’t require pruning.
Ann magnolia is hardy and suitable for growing in USDA hardiness zones 3-8, covering most areas of the U.S. However, it does have a few drawbacks. In northern states, there’s a risk of late frost damage. It’s also less fragrant compared to other magnolias and seldom reblooms, unlike its counterparts.
Read also: Growing Magnolias
This magnolia variety is great for small gardens, averaging 10 feet in height and 2 feet in width. Its flowers are one and a half times larger than those of the Ann magnolia, with a delightful count of 10 petals each.
The flower color is exceptionally rich and bright, ranking it among the best magnolias for color vibrancy. It often enjoys a second bloom in the latter part of summer.
However, it’s important to note its medium frost tolerance. This variety is best suited for areas no further north than USDA hardiness zone 5, although it can handle heat well, even up to zone 9.
One downside is that strong winds and rain can damage the flowers’ shape.
Susan is another compact variety of magnolia, growing up to 11 feet in both height and width. It showcases large flowers, each up to 5 inches wide, with a striking contrast: light pink centers and bright pink-purple exteriors.
This variety often enjoys a second bloom in summer, though with fewer flowers compared to spring. As a late bloomer, it’s less likely to suffer from spring frost damage.
In the northern USA, it’s best to plant Susan in a spot protected from cold winds. It’s occasionally prone to insect attacks.
An added bonus of the Susan magnolia is its beautiful leaves, which contribute to the overall appeal of this variety.
Magnolia sieboldii Colossus
Magnolia Colossus is an ornamental variety known for its stunning white flowers, each about 6 inches wide. A key benefit is its long blooming period, lasting from late spring to the second half of summer.
Its compact size makes it suitable for small yards, reaching no more than 7 feet in height and slightly less in width over 10 years. This variety doesn’t require yearly pruning and is adaptable to a wide range of soils and growing conditions.
However, it’s best grown in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9, which is a drawback since it’s not suitable for gardeners in zones 4-5.
Magnolia Black Tulip
Black Tulip magnolia is larger than the previously mentioned varieties, reaching about 20 feet in height. While this might seem large for a small garden, it’s still manageable to grow in a limited space, especially since it can spread up to 10 feet wide.
This magnolia is known for its exceptionally large flowers, each over 6 inches across, with petals that showcase a rich and vibrant color spectrum from pink-purple to burgundy. The tree is abundant in flowers and often enjoys a repeat bloom in August.
Magnolia Pinkie is a fantastic choice for those who love flowering trees, especially due to its modest size. After a decade of growth, it typically reaches no more than 10 feet in height and 8 feet in width.
What’s more, it might just set the record for flower size among magnolias, with blooms reaching up to eight inches in diameter! The flowers have a charming two-tone color scheme, with white insides and light pink exteriors.
As an early bloomer, flowering in April-May, Magnolia Pinkie does run the risk of late frost damage. However, it’s generally hardy and can be grown in most parts of the U.S.
This magnolia thrives equally well in full sun or partial shade and doesn’t require annual pruning, making it a low-maintenance option.
Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem
The Little Gem Dwarf Southern Magnolia is extremely popular, primarily for its snow-white, wide-petaled flowers, reminiscent of gardenias. The dark-green, waxy leaves provide a stunning contrast to the white blooms.
A notable benefit of this variety is that it retains its leaves in winter, allowing you to enjoy its greenery year-round.
Although Little Gem is not particularly small, reaching about 20 feet in height and 10 feet wide, many gardeners successfully cultivate it in smaller spaces through regular pruning.
However, there are some drawbacks. Its hardiness is somewhat limited, being recommended for USDA zones 7-9. This restricts its availability to nearly half of U.S. gardeners, limiting its use in colder regions.
Magnolia Vulcan is a remarkable variety, known for its enormous flowers, each reaching up to 12 inches in size. It’s almost essential to have such a magnolia in your garden! The petals display a red hue with pink or crimson shades, deepening in richness and darkness over time.
With a height of 15 feet and a width of 10 feet, Magnolia Vulcan is well-suited for small gardens. As it matures, its shape naturally becomes oval, creating an attractive appearance without the need for pruning.
Like many plants, this variety is susceptible to spring frost damage.
Additionally, post-blooming, it tends to shed a lot of petals, covering the surrounding ground. However, this minor inconvenience is generally considered negligible compared to the beauty it adds to any garden.
Magnolia loebneri Encore
Magnolia Encore stands out as a unique variety, growing into a large, oval-shaped bush about 15 feet tall and wide. During its blooming period in early spring, this magnolia becomes a spectacular sight, completely enveloped in white flowers and resembling a cloud, as there are no green leaves visible at that time.
The flowering is profuse, with white flowers featuring a yellow center. Each flower boasts long petals, numbering more than 20, and they are arranged in small clusters, creating a mesmerizing effect.
One downside is its vulnerability to early spring frosts, which can cause frostbite. However, Magnolia Encore typically recovers quite quickly.
Magnolia Leonard Messel
Magnolia Leonard Messel shares some similarities with the previous variety, particularly in its long petals. However, it differs in having fewer petals, about 11-13 per flower, and these petals are bi-colored, showcasing both pink and white.
Over many years, this magnolia can grow up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, but with regular pruning, you can maintain a smaller size.
It’s quite adaptable, thriving well in various soil types and in conditions ranging from semi-shade to full sun. Leonard Messel is recommended for USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9.
Blooming in mid-spring, it can be susceptible to frost damage. However, its excellent frost tolerance enables the plant to recover quickly and repair any damage sustained.
Magnolia soulangeana Lennei
Saucer Magnolia Lennei features medium-sized flowers, each about 4 inches wide. This variety has a charming bicolor effect, with the outer side of the petals in pink and the inner side in creamy white, similar to the previously mentioned magnolia.
Its medium hardiness restricts its cultivation to a portion of the U.S., specifically USDA zones 6-9. Due to its early flowering, there’s also a risk of damage from low temperatures.
While Lennei is not a dwarf magnolia but rather a semi-dwarf, it still reaches a considerable height of 20 feet at maturity. However, this doesn’t necessarily limit its suitability for smaller spaces, as careful pruning can effectively manage its size.
Magnolia soulangeana Lilliputian
Lilliputian is among the smallest of the Saucer magnolias, reaching a height of ten feet and a width of eight feet. With time, it takes on an elongated spherical shape. Its slow growth rate makes it an ideal choice for small gardens.
The flowers of this variety are particularly notable. The petals have white tips, but towards the base and center, they feature pink veins, creating a unique pattern and a beautiful bicolor effect.
Another significant attribute of Lilliputian is its fragrance; it’s one of the most aromatic magnolias, producing a very strong scent from its flowers.
However, a drawback is its early blooming period, which increases the risk of flower damage due to frosty weather common in spring.
Magnolia liliiflora Nigra
Black Lily Magnolia offers several benefits, starting with its dwarf size. It typically doesn’t grow taller than 12 feet, while its width can range from 8-12 feet, allowing it to be shaped into an oval or a large sphere.
Another significant advantage is its flowers. The petals can grow up to 6 inches long, with a reddish-pink color. This hue can become more intense depending on the plant’s growing conditions and age.
However, one downside is the fragrance of the flowers. While Black Lily Magnolia does emit a pleasant scent, it’s somewhat weaker compared to other varieties.
Magnolia stellata Centennial
Star Magnolia Centennial, while not particularly small, is still a good fit for small gardens. By the age of 10 years, it can reach a height of 20 feet and spread out to about 15 feet in width.
The flowers are predominantly white, though they can sometimes take on a light pink hue. Featuring long, narrow petals with either rounded or slightly pointed tips, and with more than 20 petals per flower, these blooms appear quite lush. However, their scent is a bit weaker compared to other magnolias.
It’s important to note that Star Magnolia Centennial doesn’t thrive in alkaline soil and requires protection from cold northern winds. Despite these needs, it’s capable of growing in USDA hardiness zone 4.
Magnolia Jane Platt
Magnolia Jane Platt is a striking variety, primarily celebrated for its exceptionally fluffy flowers. These blooms average 5 inches in size and boast more than 30 long petals each, giving them a unique appearance akin to cheerleader pom-poms. The petals are light pink, adding to their delicate charm.
Another key advantage of Jane Platt is its compact size. The plant reaches about 15 feet in height and 10 feet in width, and it doesn’t require regular pruning. It’s also adaptable to most soil types.
Jane Platt typically blooms in the first half of spring, before the leaves have fully developed. This early flowering does put it at risk of frostbite, a common issue for early bloomers. However, any frost damage it sustains is usually not critical.
Magnolia Royal Star
Royal Star Magnolia stands out for its widespread popularity across the country. It’s often chosen for yards due to its snowy white, delicate flowers, which are particularly appealing.
One of its key strengths lies in the flowers themselves, which, like the previous variety, have a large number of petals and present a very lush appearance. Additionally, these flowers are highly fragrant, a trait not all magnolias share.
This semi-dwarf variety reaches about 20 feet in height and spreads 10-15 feet wide. With regular annual pruning, it can be accommodated even in smaller spaces.
Magnolia Petit Chicon
Magnolia Petit Chicon is a wonderfully compact variety, perfect for small gardens. It typically grows to a maximum of 10 feet in height and 8 feet wide, and due to its slow growth rate, it doesn’t require frequent pruning.
The flowers are of medium size, with 6-8 spoon-shaped petals that lend an original look. An additional decorative feature is the prominent stem in the center of each flower, adorned with green-yellow pistils and stamens, enhancing its visual appeal.
King Rose Star Magnolia
This particular star magnolia is notable for its very small size, typically not exceeding 6 feet in both height and width. It’s an ideal plant for even the smallest of spaces, with a unique characteristic where it can sometimes be wider than it is tall. This variety doesn’t require pruning, further enhancing its suitability for compact areas.
The flowers are of medium size, about 4 inches, with a larger-than-average number of petals. As is common with star magnolias, the petals are long and narrow. They are primarily white, though the outer petals can sometimes exhibit a pink tinge.
Boasting high hardiness, this variety is capable of being cultivated throughout the country. However, it’s not as commonly found in gardens across the USA as some other magnolia varieties.
Magnolia Satisfaction is a relatively new variety that’s quickly gaining popularity due to its appealing characteristics.
Compact in size, it grows to less than 10 feet tall and slightly less in width, making it suitable for smaller spaces. The flowers are visually striking, with creamy-white interiors and pink exteriors. The petals, wide and oval, are distinguished by their brighter pink veins, though they are not very numerous.
This variety exhibits good tolerance to low temperatures. Magnolia Satisfaction can be successfully grown in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9, making it a versatile option for various climates.
Magnolia Gail’s Favourite
Magnolia Gail’s Favourite is indeed a modestly sized plant in several aspects. Firstly, it reaches a height of no more than 8 feet and spans about 6 feet or slightly more in width after a decade of growth.
Secondly, it features small white-yellow flowers. While they may not be as large as those of other magnolia varieties, their ball-shaped form and appearance are quite charming.
Thirdly, the leaves of this magnolia are also small and round, resembling mouse ears in shape. They boast a dark green color with a glossy surface, adding to the plant’s overall attractiveness.
Magnolia virginiana ‘Jim Wilson’ MOONGLOW
Magnolia virginiana ‘Jim Wilson’ MOONGLOW is a distinct cultivar of the sweetbay magnolia, renowned for its graceful and elegant appearance. This variety is particularly valued for its upright and pyramidal growth habit, making it an excellent choice for landscapes where a vertical accent is desired. MOONGLOW typically reaches a moderate height, making it suitable for various garden sizes.
One of the standout features of this magnolia is its glossy, dark green leaves, which provide a lush backdrop for its flowers. The blooms are creamy white, exuding a light, pleasant fragrance, and they appear in late spring to early summer, adding a touch of elegance to the garden.
Magnolia ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’
Magnolia ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is a well-regarded cultivar of the Southern Magnolia, famous for its robust and hardy nature. This evergreen tree is prized for its dense, pyramidal shape, making it an excellent choice for both landscaping and as a standalone specimen.
The leaves of ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ are a standout feature, with glossy, dark green tops and rich, velvety brown undersides, providing a striking contrast. The tree produces large, fragrant white flowers, typical of Southern Magnolias, which bloom in late spring or early summer, offering a captivating display.