Magnolias are large, elegant trees that produce showy flowers during the spring. They are a good garden ornamental, including in an Illinois garden. Illinois has hardiness zones that range between 4 and 6, so find the magnolia trees that thrive in those conditions.
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Saucer magnolia is suited for all but the coldest parts of Illinois, and it will grow to a mature height of between 20 and 30 feet. It can thrive in partial shade to full sun and requires slightly acidic soil that is moist and well drained. The Saucer magnolia has a gently rounded or pyramidal shape and it produces white, pink or purple cup-shaped flowers. Some popular varieties include the Verbanica, Lennei and Alexandrina.
The Loebner magnolia produces white, sweet-smelling flowers in the spring and is suited for the southern regions of Illinois. It can survive in full sun or partial shade and requires well-drained soil that is moist and slightly acidic. When it is mature, it has silver-gray bark, and it can grow to be between 20 and 30 feet in height. There are many popular cultivars of the Loebner magnolia, including the Merrill, the Leonard and the Ballerina, which has pink flowers.
The Star magnolia has a mature height between 15 and 20 feet tall and requires full sun and moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. This smaller tree produces white or pink flowers. There are many cultivars of the Star magnolia, including the Rosea, which has pink flowers fading to white, and the Centennial, which bears white flowers that are tinged with pink. It has an oval or rounded shape and can be grown in all but the coldest regions of Illinois.
The Cucumbertree magnolia can be grown anywhere in Illinois, and it reaches a height of between 50 and 75 feet when it is mature. It produces yellow-green flowers that turn into pinkish-red, cucumber-shaped fruit in the autumn. It does well in full sun to partial shade and while it prefers soil that is slightly acidic, it can tolerate soils that are alkaline. The Cucumbertree magnolia tends to be pyramidal to oval in shape and is often crossed with other magnolias to produce smaller trees with yellower flowers. Some cultivars include the Elizabeth, which is small and has ivory-yellow flowers, and the Yellow Lantern, which has creamy yellow flowers.