Magnolias are the epitome of elegance in the garden. Native to both North America and East Asia, magnolias have been cultivated in different parts of the world for centuries. Magnolia trees are as synonymous with the American South as they are with Asia. If Magnolias are not suitable for your climate, here are 6 Magnolia alternatives.
Magnolias are some of the most beautiful and sought-after ornamental trees. Their voluptuous pink or white blooms that appear in spring are gorgeously scented. The leaves are large, ovate, and glossy green. They are multi-stemmed plants that spread outward.
There are so many different species of magnolia. Some are evergreen, some semi-evergreen, and others are deciduous. The most popular ones in gardens are M. stellata (star magnolia), M. × soulangeana (saucer magnolia), M. virginiana (sweetbay magnolia), and M. grandiflora (southern magnolia).
Their size depends on the species. Magnolias vary from shrubs to large trees. The largest magnolias can grow 60 to 80 feet tall. Mid-sized species grow to 20 to 30 feet tall, and small species only grow to between 15 and 20 feet tall.
Most magnolias are hardy in zones 7 to 9. They are cold-sensitive, so if you live in a region with very cold winters, it may be better to grow an ornamental tree that looks very similar to magnolia. Luckily, there are many to choose from! Here, we look at trees that are most similar to magnolia.
Also read: When are Magnolias in season?
Camelia japonica, or Japanese camellia, is another popular ornamental tree. They are often planted alongside magnolias because their similar flowers and foliage are complimentary. There are thousands of different camellia cultivars. In Asia, camellias have been cultivated for centuries.
With glossy evergreen foliage and stunning flowers that look like a combination of roses and magnolias, these trees add flair to the garden all year round.
Large camellias grow up to 25 feet tall, but more often, they reach around 6 to 12 feet tall. They are the same size as a small magnolia tree. Camellias can grow very old. In Japan, there are specimens that are over 500 years old!
The downside to camellias is that they are not at all cold tolerant. They are only hardy in zones 6 through 10.
2. Chinese Sweetshrub
Chinese sweetshrub, Calycanthus chinensis, is a small tree-like shrub that closely resembles magnolia when it is in flower. The white flowers with hints of pink look very similar to magnolia blooms and appear at roughly the same time of year.
These deciduous shrubs have bright green, glossy leaves and multiple branching stems that resemble the structure of magnolias. They grow to around 6 to 9 feet in height.
Chinese sweetshrub is native to China, as its name suggests. Like magnolias, they are not very cold tolerant and are only hardy in zones 6 or 7 through 8.
3. Japanese Flowering Cherry
The Japanese flowering cherry, Prunus ‘Kanzan’, is one of the most popular ornamental trees in the world. They are famous for producing masses of pink and white blooms in the spring. Every year people from every corner of the globe travel to Japan to see the magnificent display of cherry blossoms.
From a distance, Japanese cherry trees look very much like magnolias, especially when they are in flower. They have the same branching growth form and have large, ovate leaves that are dark green.
Japanese cherries generally reach around 25 to 30 feet in height – the same as a medium-sized magnolia. They are not very long-lived trees, usually only growing for 15 to 25 years.
These beautiful deciduous trees are hardy in zones 5 to 9, so they can grow in some regions where magnolias cannot.
Cornus florida, or pink flowering dogwood, has a lot in common with magnolias. When they are in flower, they look a lot like pink magnolias. They are also about the same size as small to medium magnolia trees, reaching about 15 to 30 feet tall.
Pink dogwoods are popular ornamental landscape trees. During spring, they produce masses of pink blooms for weeks on end. During the rest of the year, the foliage adds color and interest to the garden.
They have lush green leaves that are ovate, like magnolias. These turn a purple color in the fall. During the fall, these trees grow bright red berries that attract wildlife and birds to the garden.
Dogwoods originate from North America and are hardy in zones 5 through 9. They can grow in some regions where magnolias cannot, so they are a great alternative.
5. Eastern Redbud
Cercis canadensis, the eastern redbud tree, is another fabulous ornamental tree. When they are in flower, covered in pink blossoms, they look a lot like pink magnolias from a distance. Upon closer inspection, the flowers look very different because redbuds belong to the Legumeaceae family.
Eastern redbuds are considered large shrubs or small ornamental trees. They generally reach a height of about 20 and 30 feet. Like magnolias, they have multiple branching trunks.
This North American species is hardy in zones 4 through 8, so if you are looking for an ornamental tree that is an alternative to magnolia and wind-resistant, this is a good option.
6. Flowering Almond
Flowering almond, Prunus triloba, is a popular ornamental shrub or small tree. They resemble magnolias in a few different ways. When they are flowering, they look very much like magnolias from afar. Their large, green, ovate leaves are also similar to magnolias.
Flowering almonds produce masses of light pink flowers early in the spring. The flowers look a lot like cherry or apple blossoms. They turn into small red berries that attract birds and squirrels. Normally growing to a height of 10 to 15 feet, these little trees are perfect for smaller gardens.
Flowering almonds were once native to China, but today hardly any of these trees can be found in the wild. They have been cultivated as ornamental trees for hundreds of years. Hardy to zones 3 to 7, these trees are the ideal alternative to magnolias.