9 Different Types of Purple Flowering Magnolia Tree Varieties

Are you looking for a magnolia that blooms in beautiful shades of purple? There are plenty of different magnolias that bloom in all shades of purple, from light lavender to deep purple. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss looks at her favorite magnolias with purple blooms.

purple magnolia trees

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Upon hearing the name Magnolia, many people picture the classic Southern Magnolia (M. grandiflora) with its grand size, leathery evergreen leaves, and large, creamy white blooms. The Southern Magnolia is a beautiful tree, no doubt about it, but have you ever seen a purple deciduous magnolia in March?

Deciduous magnolias are in a class all their own where flowering trees are concerned. These wonderful trees bloom in shades of purple, pink, white, and red, and in such profusion, they rival the most beautiful trees of spring. These trees are typically smaller and shrubbier than their evergreen cousins, which means that they are a great choice for smaller garden spaces.

Quite a number of these trees produce purple flowers including a pair of varieties that are hardy all the way to zone 3. These beautiful, sweet smelling, elegant trees are some of my favorite spring bloomers. Here are 9 varieties of magnolias that produce purple hued blooms.

‘Ann’

Close-up of a densely blooming Magnolia Liliiflora 'Ann' on bare branches in a garden. The flowers are medium-sized, pink-purple, cup-shaped. Lots of unopened buds on the branches.
Magnolia ‘Ann’ produces delightful pink-purple flowers with a slight fragrance.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Liliiflora ‘Ann’
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring
  • Plant Size: 10’-12’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 4-8
  • Light: Full to Part Sun

‘Ann’ is a hybrid cross between M. lillifora ‘Nigra’ and M. stellata ‘Rosea’ and is part of the National Arboretum’s Little Girl series. The variety was bred specifically for later blooming, making it more cold tolerant than its parent varieties. To increase the hardiness of the blooms, ‘Ann’ likes to be planted with some shelter from both Southern exposure, and cold winds.

This slow growing variety doesn’t take very long to get to its mature height of around 10’. Within 10 years ‘Ann’ should reach her full height and will spread for a few years afterward. The blooms appear in mid to late march on the bare branches of this deciduous tree.

Ann’s flowers are medium sized (4”), rosy purple, and chalice shaped with a light fragrance. They make wonderful cut flowers, and the leaves will turn golden in the fall.

Black Tulip

Close-up of a blooming Magnolia x soulangeana 'Jurmag1' flower against a green blurred background. A deep pink-purple tulip-shaped flower on a bare branch.
‘Jurmag1’ blooms with pink or purple, tulip-shaped flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Jurmag1’
  • Bloom Time: Early Spring
  • Plant Size: 15’-20’ tall and 6’-10’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-9
  • Light: Full Sun

I can never decide whether to group this variety with pink blooming trees or purples, as the color is very deep, but has a reddish tinge. So, I will call it a bit of both and add it to this list because it is absolutely worth mentioning.

Black Tulip has 6” wide, deep burgundy, tulip shaped flowers. Because of its strong opaqueness, it is the darkest of all magnolia flowers. With no light able to pass through, the flowers appear darker than other varieties in similar colors.

Black tulip has a moderate growth rate with flowers that are great for floral arrangements. The variety was bred in New Zealand by Mark Jury for its exceptional appearance. The tree itself is quite elegant in form and tolerant of urban conditions. This gorgeous magnolia is very versatile.

‘Cameo’

Close-up of a blooming magnolia 'Cameo' flower on a bare branch against a dark green blurred background. The flower is half open, cup-shaped, the petals are purple on the outside and white on the inside. Stamens are visible in the middle of the flower.
Magnolia ‘Cameo’ flowers have reddish-purple petals on the outside and white on the inside.
Scientific Name: Magnolia ‘Cameo’
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Plant Size: 10’-15’ tall and 4’-6’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-9
  • Light: Full Sun

This stunning variety gets its name from the likeness of its blooms to a sculpted cameo. Its flowers are reddish purple on the outside and clean and white inside and are rather large compared to the small stature of this tree. ‘Cameo’ fits well even in the smallest of spaces and has an upright growth habit.

Bred in New Zealand, ‘Cameo’ is extremely free flowering. Blooms begin in spring and can continue more sporadically into the summer months. This compact magnolia tree makes a great container plant, and the stunning blooms make wonderful cut flowers.

‘Judy’

Close-up of a blooming branch of Magnolia Liliiflora 'Judy' against a blurred background of a blooming magnolia in a garden. The flowers are cup-shaped, round purple petals with a paler color on the inside. Small pointed dark green leaves grow on the branches.
This is a late-flowering magnolia variety with delightful reddish-purple flowers with an incredibly delicate aroma.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Liliiflora ‘Judy’
  • Bloom Time: Mid Spring
  • Plant Size: 8’-15’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-9
  • Light: Full to Part Sun

‘Judy’ is another member of the Little Girls series which were bred to be later blooming for better flower hardiness. This deciduous variety has larger, pointed, dark green leaves that turn a coppery-bronze color in the fall. ‘Judy’ takes on a rounded form as she matures and makes a great shrub or small tree. This variety fits neatly into smaller garden spaces.

Because this variety blooms a bit later in the spring, it generally flowers at the same time foliage appears, setting it apart from other similar cultivars. Flowers are reddish purple outside with a pale pink inside, giving a bicolor interest to the appearance of the tree. ‘Judy’ blooms heavily in the spring and the fragrance is captivating.

‘Nigra’

Close-up of a blooming Magnolia Liliiflora 'Nigra' flower surrounded by green leaves against a blurred green tree. The flower is large, lilac-shaped, consists of dark purple elongated petals with a pale purple inside.
‘Nigra’ blooms in late spring with large purple flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia Liliiflora ‘Nigra’
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring into Summer
  • Plant Size: 8’-12’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 5-8
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade

Also called Black Lily Magnolia, ‘Nigra’ is a lovely small tree with flowers that are slightly larger than usual for its species. A winner of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, this is a wonderful variety to grow as a hedge or small, multi-stemmed tree, however, it is intolerant of poor soil types.

The blooms are medium to large (4”-5” long) and have long, narrow purple petals that are pale purple inside. ‘Nigra’ is part of the liliiflora species which have a signature lily-like appearance to their blooms. ‘Nigra’ blooms in the late spring, making it a great variety for cooler climates, as the flowers are less likely to be damaged by a late frost.

‘O’Neil’

Close-up of a blooming Magnolia lilliflora 'O'Neil' flower surrounded by dark green, oval leaves. Flower of medium size, dark purple color, goblet shape. The petals are dark purple, half open, pale purple inside with a light edge around the inner petals.
This magnolia variety is more of a large shrub, producing purple, goblet-shaped flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia lilliflora ‘O’Neil’
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Plant Size: 12’-15’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 6-9
  • Light: Full Sun

‘O’Neil’ is another variety of liliiflora with purple blooms. It is more of a large shrub in growth habit than a tree. This variety is not tolerant of urban pollution, and it doesn’t like constantly wet roots. Otherwise, it is a lovely and low maintenance cultivar.

‘O’Neil’ is very showy in bloom, and it flowers at an early age. The blooms appear around April and can continue sporadically through summer in cooler climates. Medium sized (3”-4”) flowers are dark purple and goblet-shaped. O’Neil’s buds are very dark, opening to paler purple with a lighter edge around the inner petals.

‘Randy’

Close-up of two Magnolia 'Randy' flowers on a branch in a spring sunny garden. The flowers are star-shaped, with thin purple petals that have lighter purple interiors. The magnolia tree is lit by the sun.
Magnolia ‘Randy’ is a cold hardy cultivar with showy reddish-purple flowers.
Scientific Name: Magnolia ‘Randy’
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring
  • Plant Size: 10’-15’ tall and 8’-12’ wide
  • Plant Zone: 4-8
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade

‘Randy’ is another of the Little Girl series, and one of those with the best cold tolerance. This variety was bred specifically for cold hardiness, and that mission was accomplished.

‘Randy’ does well as far north as zone 4, and with some protection, it can survive the winters of zone 3 as well. Whatever zone you plant in, avoid warm southern exposure in spring to keep buds from blooming too early and experiencing frost damage.

Randy’s blooms are cup-shaped and very showy with long thin reddish-purple petals that have lighter purple interiors. The blooms have a starlike characteristic, another standout feature of this Little Girl. The blooms appear later in the spring around the same time that the bright green foliage appears, making this a strikingly colorful magnolia.

‘Ricki’

A densely flowering Magnolia ‘Ricki’ tree against a blue sky. The flowers are medium in size, cup-shaped, with pale pink rounded petals. Light green small oval leaves grow on branches surrounded by flowers.
‘Ricki’ blooms gorgeous purple buds that open to reveal pale pink inside.
Scientific Name: Magnolia ‘Ricki’
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring
  • Plant Size: 8’-12’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 4-8
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade

You will probably see a pattern developing here, as Ricki is yet another of the Little Girl series. This lovely series of hybrids were bred in the 1950’s for the express purpose of avoiding the late season frost that can entirely ruin the blooming season of other deciduous magnolias.

Since all purple magnolias are deciduous, we have several of the series of 8 hybrid varieties on this list.

‘Ricki’ is similar to her sisters in stature, a rather petite plant which can be trained into a small tree or left to grow as a large shrub. The pointy leaves turn a coppery bronze color in fall and the blooms are very similar to those of the Randy variety. Purple buds open to reveal pale pink inside.

‘Susan’

Close-up of a blooming branch of Magnolia 'Susan' in a spring garden against a blurred background. The flowers are large, cup-shaped, with long, narrow twisted, reddish-purple petals. Small oval green leaves grow on branches.
Magnolia ‘Susan’ flowers stand out for their rich reddish-purple hue.
Scientific Name: Magnolia ‘Susan’
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring
  • Plant Size: 8’-12’ tall and wide
  • Plant Zone: 3-8
  • Light: Full Sun

Our last sampling from the Little Girl series, ‘Susan’ is remarkably cold-tolerant, and considered hardy all the way to zone 3. This girl is a winner of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Susan is a very dramatic bloomer in spring and the foliage turns a lovely golden yellow in the fall.

Susan’s blooms standout in the crowd as well. They are a similar reddish-purple shade as the others, but her petals are long, narrow, and twisted.

This twisting habit lend ‘Susan’ a lightheartedness and joviality that is all her own. Lots of these delightful flowers bloom at the same time leaves appear. ‘Susan’ is a lovely large shrub, but can also be trained into a small, multi-stemmed tree.

Final thoughts

It’s always a good practice to plant your deciduous magnolias away from southern exposure. This will help hold off their blooms for a few weeks, giving time for the weather to warm a bit, and prevent flowers being destroyed by a late frost. The later the blooms appear, the better their chance of blooming for an extended period, and not being extinguished by a late freeze.

Deciduous magnolias are absolutely stunning in bloom, have a wonderful fragrance, and make beautiful cut flowers as well. These slow growing lovelies fit well into large and small gardens and are very low maintenance and hardy.

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Close up of two bunches of flowers. The ones on the left have five petals that are light pink on the edges and white with a splash of pale yellow on one petal. The leaves are green. Each flower has five thin light pink stamen. The flowers on the right grow in a ball shape, or truss, and are also white with light pink edges but they have a splash of dark pink freckles on one of the five petals. The leaves are dark green and long, hanging down away from the flower truss. Each flower has 10 stamen with dark tips.

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