The Best Magnolia for Cold Climates

The Best Magnolia for Cold Climates

Magnolia Tree Header

Magnolia conjures images of iced tea and hot, humid summers. But there’s a select group of these romantic flowering trees that are hardy for cold, even frigid, northern winters and cold too! 

Most northern gardeners know them also as Tulip Trees, but these early spring-flowering shrubs and trees are in the Magnolia family and not related to actual Tulips or true Tulip Poplar Trees. Rather they do have fragrant blossoms that resemble the flowering bulbs, but on a whole other level!

Here are the top 5 Magnolias for colder growing zones and some care tips to keep them looking their best!

Magnolia Tree Care Basic Magnolia tree care infographic

Magnolia care is not too much different than other flowering shrubs and trees! Give them a sunny or mostly sunny, well-drained site soil and they will be happy! Anything not soggy is the goal and they all love a thick bed of mulch over their roots to keep them insulated and regulate moisture levels in the soil, and you can underplant with a wide variety of shade plants such as Hosta, Ferns and some Azalea varieties.

Generally pest and disease-free, even deer seem to leave these plants well enough alone! Prune immediately after flowering if needed, but waiting too long will remove next year's blooms. 

The Top Magnolias

#5 Merrill Magnolia Merrill Magnolia #5

Starting our list is the largest of the cold-hardy selections, the double petaled Merrill Magnolia Tree (Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill') is a vision in white! This single trunk tree-form has fragrant blossoms that have 15 petals per flower directly on the branches before the leaves emerge each spring. But not too early - they emerge later, expertly avoiding late frosts.

  • Single Stem Tree Form
  • White Double Blooms 
  • Accented with Pink-Blushed Base & Yellow Eye
  • Fragrant & Great Cut Flowers
  • 20 - 30 Feet Tall & 20 - 25 Feet Wide
  • Full Sun

#4 Leonard Messel Magnolia Leonard Messel Magnolia #4

The long drooping petals of Leonard Messel Magnolia tree (Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel') make these flowers look more like pink pompoms! Pinkish-purple blooms are lighter inside and fade to a lavender-pink and feature narrower leaves than other varieties. It’s no wonder it’s #4 on our list of fan favorites!

  • Single Stem Tree-Form
  • Fragrant Pinkish-Purple Longer Petals
  • 15-20 Feet Tall & 12-18 Feet Wide
  • Blooms Later to Avoid Frost
  • Adaptable & Hardy in Full & Part Sun

#3 Jane Magnolia Jane Magnolia #3

Featuring soft pinkish-purplish blossoms with lighter interiors and darker at the bases, you’ll love the two-tone effect these upright flowers have! Fragrant as any but longer blooming, Jane Magnolia shrub-form, (Magnolia x 'Jane') this Little Girl Series Magnolia is dense and compact enough to use as a hedge for privacy.

  • Reddish-Purple, Pink & Light Pink Blossoms
  • Fragrant & Long Lasting
  • Easy-Care, Hardy & Adaptable
  • 10 - 15 Feet in Height & 8 - 10 Feet Wide
  • Full Sun & Part Sun

#2 Ann Magnolia Ann Magnolia #2

Another Little Girl Series, the petite Ann Magnolia shrub (Magnolia x 'Ann') sits at #2 on our list and is the smallest of the Magnolia here! It becomes festooned in fragrant purplish-red upright blooms with lighter, near-white, interiors. Blooming weeks later than others to avoid late frosts, the butterflies will adore these blossoms! You’ll enjoy sporadic rebloom throughout the growing season on this compact, small-sized shrub or tree!

  • Multi-Trunk
  • Reddish-Purple Fragrant Blooms
  • Compact Bushy Growth 8 - 10 Feet Wide & Tall
  • Full Sun & Part Sun
  • Occasional Rebloom 
  • Faster Growing

Honorable Mention Magnolia Butterfly Honorable Mention

The unique color of the Magnolia Butterflies (Magnolia x 'Butterflies') and its cold hardiness down to zone 4, make this pale, soft-yellow tree or shrub deserve to be mentioned. Pollinators flock to these blooms and they feature a double row of petals that flutter in the breeze, making them look like butterflies themselves!

    • Fragrant
    • Urban Condition-Tolerant
    • Full Sun & Part Shade
    • 20 - 30 Feet Tall & 15 - 20 Feet Wide
    • Multi-Trunk With Pruning

#1 Betty Magnolia Betty Magnolia #1

The number one favorite, the gorgeous Betty Magnolia shrub (Magnolia 'Betty') is a fantastic rosy pinkish-purple blossom that’s lighter inside than out. Sporting long buds protected by fuzzy covers and blooms that open before the leaves emerge. This classic Little Girl Series tree or shrub becomes a vivid pinkish-purple explosion each spring! 

  • Pinkish-Purple Fragrant Blooms
  • Mature Height: 12 - 15 feet
  • Mature Spread:10 - 12 feet
  • Full Sun
  • Occasional Rebloom 

Is it a Tree or a Shrub?

Guess what, the choice is yours! Grow most of these selections as either single-trunked trees or as large shrubs with some pruning. When used as a large shrub, you’ll get multiple stems for more privacy, great screening and an informal look to the landscape. Simply don’t prune off the lower limbs and enjoy these as gorgeous living walls!

When trained as a tree-form, either multi-stemmed or single, you’ll have a knock-out specimen and focal point plant that brings a formal and structured effect to the garden! Merrill and Leonard Messel are already in single-trunked tree forms, so choose those for a spectacular accent tree that’s ready to lend some major curb appeal to your home!

Other Perks of Magnolia Magnolia Tree Classic

The long, glossy, dark green leaves and the lovely branch structure of this ancient tree variety are quite ornamental. The fragrant and romantic blossoms are a boon to early emerging pollinators and many Magnolia varieties are host plants for Swallowtail butterfly and some Silkmoth caterpillars!

You'll love seeing the cute orange seedpods develop, which give the Magnolia tree its nickname of cucumber tree. Now, don't try to eat these so-called cucumbers - leave them for your local songbirds to enjoy! has several Magnolias that are perfect for your cold-climate needs, so head over to our site or call our experts for help selecting the best tree for you today!

Check out our Video on these great trees for more info, or head over to our website for more! Do you have a favorite Magnolia Tree in your landscape? Or have we convinced you to add one? Let us know down in the comments!

Leave a like and subscribe to’s YouTube channel for more Top Fives and #ProPlantTips! Thanks for watching and until next time, happy planting!

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