15 Varieties of Magnolia Trees With White Flowers

Are you looking to add some white flowering magnolia trees to your yard or garden, but aren't sure where to start? Magnolias can bloom in many different colors, but are most famous for their pillowy white flowers. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss takes a deeper look some of the top types of magnolia trees that bloom in different shades of white.

magnolia trees white flowers

Magnolia trees are a popular and diverse group of deciduous to fully evergreen trees and shrubs. With varieties hardy from as far south as zone 12 all the way north to zone 4. From their gorgeous, glossy, deep green foliage to their large, highly fragranced, creamy blossoms, it’s difficult to decide which aspect of these trees is most appealing,

While magnolias come in a variety of striking colors. Magnolias bloom in shades of purple, red and pink, and even one or two green varieties. But the the classic white magnolia is a symbol for several states in the southern U.S. and a mascot for not a small number of gardening organizations. And it’s no wonder, the beauty of this flowering tree is unrivaled.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular, and a few lesser-known, but very noteworthy specimens of these wonderful trees that have beautiful white blooms.

Anise Magnolia

Close-up of a blooming creamy white Magnolia Salicifolia flower against a blurred green background. The flower is large, creamy white, long thin petals surrounding the carpel with a pink tint and yellow stamens. The branch of the tree is bare, only a few small pale green leaves grow on it.
Anise Magnolia produces fragrant creamy white flowers that bloom in spring.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Salicifolia
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Plant Size: 30’-50’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone:  6-9
  • Light: Full Sun

Also known as Willow-leaf Magnolia, Anise is a mid-sized tree that hails from Japan. The name Anise comes from the scent of this magnolia’s flowers, which is reminiscent of lemons and licorice. This variety has a lovely pyramidal growth habit and gets quite tall over time.

The flowers are mid-sized (3”-6” wide), and creamy white, appearing before foliage in the spring. The blooms have a prominent, pink tinged carpel and stamens, which cast a pink glow on the petals. Anise is a very hardy variety, but because of its bloom time, can be susceptible to late frosts.

Bigleaf Magnolia

Close-up of a blooming white Magnolia Macrophylla flower surrounded by very large green leaves. The flower is open, consists of elongated, slightly rounded white petals with a slight pink tint, a carpel with green-pink stamens and a pink base. The leaves are large, brush-shaped, bright green.
This is a magnificent variety of magnolia with large brush-shaped leaves and large fragrant white flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Macrophylla
  • Bloom Time: Summer and Fall
  • Plant Size: 30’-40’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-8
  • Light: Full Sun

As its name implies, this species has very large (30”), paintbrush shaped leaves. Bigleaf is an imposing tree growing as large as 40’ tall and wide. This tree is intolerant to pollution, so it doesn’t do well in urban settings.

Rarely found growing in the wild, it takes a very particular landscape to accommodate this tree with its extra-large leaves. For the magnolia enthusiast, however, it’s a rare and quite desirable tree.

The blooms appear in May and are quite large, usually 8”-10”, but can grow as large as 12” in diameter, and are fragrant. The flowers generally grow quite high up on the tree, so they are not frequently enjoyed up close. These large flowers are white with just a suggestion of pink at the base of the petals.

Cucumber Tree

Close-up of a Magnolia Acumnata or Cucumber Tree flower in a green garden. The flower is open to only 2 inches in diameter, consisting of long, rounded, slightly incurved green-yellow petals surrounding a carpel with many yellow stamens.
Cucumber Tree is a hardy magnolia tree producing greenish-white flowers that open only about 2 inches in diameter.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Acumnata
  • Bloom Time: Summer
  • Plant Size: 60’-75’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 4-8
  • Light: Full Sun

This extra-large tree is the hardiest of all magnolias, however, in its native Canada, it is a threatened species. The cucumber magnolia derives its name from the fruit left behind after blooms fall, which is green and resembles the aforementioned vegetable.

Although the flowers are perhaps not as noteworthy as other varieties, this one is worth mentioning for its uniqueness. The blooms are a greenish white to yellow and open to only about 2” across in general.

D.D.Blanchard

Close-up of a large white flower of Magnolia Grandiflora 'D.D.Blanchard' against garden soil. The flower is large, double, consists of petals rounded with a pointed end arranged in several rows, surrounding the middle, which is also covered with white petals. Brown leaves of magnolia lie on a blurred background.
This magnolia variety is one of the largest specimens producing large fragrant white flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Grandiflora ‘D.D.Blanchard’
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring
  • Plant Size: 75’-80’ tall and 35’-40’ wide – varies
  • Plant Zone: 7-9
  • Light: Full Sun

The size of D.D.Blanchard can vary greatly, but one thing is for certain, it is among the very largest specimens. Its lovely, large leaves are glossy green on top and velvety brown beneath, making them a favorite for holiday garlands. This variety has a pyramidal growth tendency.

The flowers are large (8”-10” in diameter) and wonderfully fragrant. These creamy, white, dinner plate sized blooms make wonderful cut flowers. One sweetly scented bloom floating in a crystal bowl of water makes quite a statement.

‘Encore’

Close-up of a large star-shaped Magnolia x Loebneri 'Encore' flower on a bare branch in a sunny garden. The flower is large, and white with the faintest tinge of blush on long, thin petals arranged in several rows around the carpel. The sun's rays illuminate the blossoming magnolia tree.
Encore blooms with extremely beautiful star-shaped white flowers with the faintest tinge of blush.
Scientific Name: Magnolia x Loebneri ‘Encore’
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Plant Size: 8’-15’ tall and 6’-15’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 4-8
  • Light: Full Sun

A smaller plant, Encore is more suitable as a shrub than a tree. A row of these shrubs would make a gloriously fragrant hedge in spring, followed up with attractive green foliage through summer and fall.

Encore is extremely floriferous with multiple buds forming at the ends of stems as well as along the lengths of the stems. A seedling of the Ballerina variety, Encore has the faintest tinge of blush to its otherwise, white, starlike blossoms. The name is thought to be derived from the idea that once this plant blooms, you will want to see more and more.

‘Fairy Cream’

Close-up of a Magnolia 'Fairy Cream' flower against a blurred background in a spring garden. The flower is small, star-shaped, snow-white with rounded oblong petals, not fully opened, surrounding the green carpel.
‘Fairy Cream’ is an evergreen magnolia that produces small, star-shaped, white flowers set against dark green foliage.
Scientific Name: Magnolia ‘Fairy Cream’
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Plant Size: 3’-9’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 8 and higher
  • Light: Full Sun

This delightful evergreen magnolia is one of the Fairy Magnolia Series which have a reputation for being fast growers that are easy to maintain. Fairy magnolias are small and shrubby, and generally make a very nice hedge, but can be pruned into a small tree with quite a large personality.

In spring, flowers appear at the end of every branch, set off sweetly against the deep green foliage. The flowers are small (2.5”), star shaped, and fragrant. The Fairy Series of magnolias are hardy and do well in most soil types.

‘Kay Parris’

Close-up of a cream-colored Magnolia Grandiflora 'Kay Parris' flower
surrounded by dark green, leathery leaves. The flower is large, creamy-white, fully opened, baring the carpel with stamens, which crumbled onto the petals. Blurred background of deep green, elliptical magnolia leaves.
It is a fast-growing tree that blooms with incredibly delicate creamy white flowers in late May.
Scientific Name:  Magnolia Grandiflora ‘Kay Parris’
  • Bloom Time: Summer and Fall
  • Plant Size: 20’ tall and 10’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 6-9
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade

Kay Parris makes a lovely small tree or a large shrub. This variety is drought tolerant with an erect carriage and flowers that are good for cutting. A rapid growth rate makes this a desirable tree, as it reaches maturity quickly. It grows in full sun conditions but this tree can also tolerate partial shade.

The flowers are highly fragranced and slightly smaller than the similar Southern Magnolia. Kay’s leaves are leathery, and shiny with a deep orange-brown velvet underside. Creamy white blooms appear in late May and continue into the fall.

‘Kobus’

Close-up of three white Magnolia Kobus flowers blooming on bare branches against a blue sky. Two flowers are glass-shaped, petals are white with a slight blush at the base, directed upwards. One of the flowers is fully opened, consists of 5 petals surrounding pale yellow stamens and a small carpel.
Magnolia Kobus produces five-petalled, fragrant, white flowers in early spring.
Scientific Name: Magnolia ‘Kobus
  • Bloom Time: Early Spring
  • Plant Size: 25’-30’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-8
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade

Kobus is a lovely, small tree that begins its life with a pyramidal shaped growing habit.  It is slow growing and matures to more of a rounded shape, so it should be placed in a spot that allows for a fair amount of spread. This variety is hardy and easy to grow. It prefers some shelter from cold winds in climates that freeze for long periods.

 This lovely tree produces Small to medium (4”) five petaled flowers with a neat cluster of pale-yellow stamens and a small carpel. The fragrant blooms appear on bare wood in early spring. Southern exposure will encourage buds to form too early and be frost damaged, so plant with some shelter from Southern exposure.

‘Little Gem’

Close-up of blooming Magnolia Grandiflora 'Little Gem' surrounded by dark green glossy foliage against blurred mulch. The flower is large, has large rounded creamy white petals that surround a large yellow carpel and numerous stamens. The leaves are oval, leathery, glossy, dark green.
Little Gem is a compact, early-blooming magnolia variety that produces fragrant flowers with rounded creamy white petals.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Grandiflora ‘Little Gem’
  • Bloom Time: Spring and Summer
  • Plant Size: 15’-20’ tall and 7’-10’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 6-10
  • Light: Full Sun

Little Gem has all the appeal of a stately Southern Magnolia, in a neat little package. Gardeners with more limited space will appreciate the compact form of this tree. This small evergreen makes a great large container plant. Little Gem is tolerant of most soil and watering conditions to a moderate degree.

This variety has the advantage of blooming early in maturation and produces a great number of blooms in those early years. The flowers are mid-sized (4”) and quite fragrant, with rounded creamy white petals, a large yellow carpel, and plentiful stamens.

These lovely blooms appear in Spring and summer on evergreen foliage. Little Gem is slow growing, with an upright growth habit.

‘Merrill’

Close-up of a Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill' flower blooming on a bare branch against a blurry brown background. The flower is large, open, consists of elongated, rounded double petals that frame the pale pink carpel and stamens, giving the inside of the flowers a pink glow. Some petals have small brown spots.
Merrill Loebner is a hardy variety that produces large bright white flowers and needs wind protection.
Scientific Name: Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Plant Size: 20’-60’ tall and 20’-45’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-9
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade

Named for Dr. Elmer Merrill, administrator of Harvard University’s botanical collections in the mid 20th century, this variety has good winter hardiness but is intolerant of extreme soil or moisture variations.

It needs some protection from cold winds that could damage spring flowers. A fast-growing specimen, this tree generally tops out around 35’ but can grow taller.

Stunning blooms are medium to large (4”-6”) and bright white. The bloom’s double petals frame a delicate pink carpel and stamens, giving the interior of the flowers a soft rosy glow. The generally multi trunked tree shows off in Spring with a bounty of these gorgeous, fragrant blooms.

Michelia Alba

Close-up of a blooming Magnolia x Alba flower surrounded by bright green glossy foliage. A well-shaped, snow-white flower with long, thin petals resembling a spider, which surround a green carpel and pink-orange stamens. The leaves on the background are large, oval, bright green with veins.
Michelia Alba produces beautiful white flowers with thin petals and heavily glossy foliage.
Scientific Name: Magnolia x Alba
  • Bloom Time: Winter and Spring
  • Plant Size: 25’-30’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 8-12
  • Light: Full Sun

This unique variety of magnolia has some very singular characteristics uncommon to the genus. Evergreen to zone 10 with highly glossed foliage, this magnolia prefers warmer climates, and is only hardy to zone 8. Michelia is slow growing, but early to bloom.

The flowers are distinctly shaped with long thin petals and have a spider like appearance. The heavily fragranced blooms are commonly used in Indonesian bridal garlands. Flowers retain their scent for a long time after cutting. This variety goes by many aliases mainly referencing its remarkably fragrant flowers.

Moonglow

Close-up of a large creamy white flower surrounded by dark green glossy leathery leaves. The flower has large rounded petals arranged in several rows, in the center of the flower is a carpel and yellow stamens. An insect sits on one of the petals. The flower is illuminated by soft sunlight.
Moonglow blooms in late spring with large cream flowers with an incredible lemon scent.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Virginiana ‘Jim Wilson’
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring
  • Plant Size: 30’ tall and 20’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-10
  • Light: Full Sun

Moonglow, also called Sweet Bay Magnolia, is evergreen even to zone 5. It’s large Leaves, trunk and roots are perfumed with a rich vanilla fragrance. This variety likes a lot of water, and even does well in boggy soil. The shiny green foliage has a silver tint to the underside of the leaves.

This upright, vigorous growing tree blooms in late spring. The large cream-colored blooms have a fresh, lemony scent, giving the entire tree a wonderful confectionary quality. Cup shaped flowers with a large showy, yellow-green carpel are great nectar producers that attract butterflies.

Royal Star

Close-up of a flowering branch of Magnolia Stellata 'Royal Star' in a sunlit garden. The flowers are large, white, consist of many thin, long petals that frame the green carpel and yellow stamens. Some flowers are slightly wilted and have brown petals.
Royal Star is an early flowering magnolia variety that produces delicate white star-shaped flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Stellata ‘Royal Star’
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Plant Size: 10’-15’ tall and 10’-12’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 4-9
  • Light: Full Sun

Royal Star gets its name from the appearance of its blooms. The variety is early blooming, with mid-sized (4”), but dainty, white double petaled blooms that look like twinkling stars. This variety is deciduous, so blooms appear abundantly on bare branches.

The variety has very good cold and heat tolerance. It is low growing and makes a beautiful shrub or small tree with its rounded growth pattern.

Native to Japan, Royal Star likes rich, loamy soil and moderate watering. It is quite popular for its showy flowering nature. This variety makes a wonderful, springtime focal point.

Southern Magnolia

A close-up of a Magnolia Grandiflora flower surrounded by dark green glossy dew-covered foliage. The flower is open, 12 inches in diameter, and is composed of creamy white large, rounded petals that flank a large, pale yellow carpel and stamens. The leaves are leathery, elongated with a slightly pointed tip and a bronze outer side.
Southern Magnolia is an evergreen with showy creamy white flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Grandiflora
  • Bloom Time: Summer and Fall
  • Plant Size: 50’ tall and wide, can grow taller
  • Plant Zone: 6-10
  • Light: Part Shade

This magnificent tree is the gold standard in magnolia species. Growing as tall as 80’ with nearly as great a spread, this is a spectacular specimen when it reaches maturity.

Don’t expect to see it reach these soaring heights for some time though, as this tree is slow to mature, gaining only 1’-2’ yearly. It is evergreen and features the leathery green leaves with velvety brown undersides that are so popular for use in holiday garlands.

The white flowers of this tree bloom in early summer and are some of the most spectacular blooms around. Up to 12” in diameter, the blooms are creamy-white with large, rounded petals. The center bears a large, pale-yellow carpel wrapped in pollen rich stamens. In addition to the striking appearance of the flowers, they are heavily fragranced as well!

Teddy Bear

Close-up of bees gathering nectar from a blooming white Magnolia Grandiflora 'Southern Charm' flower surrounded by dark green leaves. The flower is large, open, and has round creamy-white petals and a rich yellow shade to the central carpel and stamens. The leaves are leathery, and deep green with a fluffy bronze underside.
Teddy Bear produces signature leathery dark green leaves and large creamy white flowers with a lingering fragrance.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Grandiflora ‘Southern Charm’
  • Bloom Time: Summer and Fall
  • Plant Size: 16’-20’ tall and 10’-12’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 7-9
  • Light: Full Sun

Compact for a Southern Magnolia hybrid, Teddy Bear is a medium sized tree with an upright growth habit. It has the signature, leathery, deep green leaves with a fuzzy, bronze underside. Considered a dwarf magnolia tree, Teddy Bear can still reach heights up to 20’ and is better suited to a small tree than a shrub. It also adapts well to a large container.

The long-lasting blooms appear in summer. They are large (6”-8”) and last into the fall. The flowers resemble the larger Southern Magnolia blooms, but with a delicately tapered interior and a rich yellow shade to the central carpel and stamens. The fragrance is lingering and very pleasant.

Final Thoughts

With their heavenly fragranced, creamy white flowers, and variety of growth habits, white magnolias are a favorite in many landscapes. They are versatile and nuanced genera of plants, with a large variety of species and hybrids to choose from.

From the stately Southern to the exotic and redolent Michelia Alba, there is a magnolia for every landscape. I highly recommend adding one of these wonderful trees to your garden. They are a positively captivating genus.

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