Saucer Magnolia Tree Profile

Magnolia soulangeana (saucer magnolia) tree
johnandersonphoto / Getty Images

This Calvary officer was Etienne Soulange-Bodin, who returned to France and founded the Royal Institute of Horticulture at Fromont. His greatest legacy was not actions he took in battle, but the cross breeding of Magnolia liliflora and Magnolia denudata to create the beautiful tree we now know today as the saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulageana). Bred by Soulange-Bodin in the 1820s, by 1840 the saucer magnolia was coveted by gardeners around the world and sold for about $8 per seedling, which was a very expensive price for a tree in those days. Today, the saucer magnolia is still one of the most popular trees in the U.S. and Europe.

The saucer magnolia blooms saucer-shaped pinkish-white flowers in the springtime. The tree often blooms in April, but it can vary based on geographic location.

Botanical Name Magnolia x soulangiana
Common Name Saucer magnolia
Plant Type Flowering tree
Mature Size 20 to 30 feet tall and wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Acidic, moist, well-draining, loamy
Soil pH 4.5 to 6.0
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pinkish-white
Hardiness Zones 5 to 9
Native Area  
Verbanica saucer magnolia flowers
Magnolia Verbanica. nickkurzenko / Getty Images
Magnolia Rustica rubra
Magnolia Rustica rubra.  Ernie Janes/Nature Picture Library / Getty Images
Magnolia x soulangeana 'Lennei Alba'
Magnolia Lennei Alba. Gratysanna / Getty Images
Magnolia x soulangeana 'Alexandrina'
Magnolia Alexandrina. Gratysanna / Getty Images

How to Grow Saucer Magnolia Trees

Saucer magnolia trees are quick-growing, adding 1 to 2 feet per year until they reach between 20 and 30 feet tall and wide. Plant the trees in a location that's protected from strong winds.

Avoid southern exposures closes to houses, as the flowers may open too early in the spring. Saucer magnolia's tendency to lose flowers in early spring frosts can also be a problem. Sometimes, the flower buds never open, due to frost damage. But if you avoid giving these magnolia trees a southern exposure, you may delay blooming long enough to get past the period of frost danger. To avoid southern exposure, plant on the North side of your house or to the North of established pines, for example. As a bonus, the blooms look great against a green background of Eastern white pines.

Light

Saucer magnolia trees need full sun, but can tolerate partly shady locations.

Soil

Saucer magnolia trees do best in moist, acidic, organically rich and well-drained loamy soil, though it will tolerant clay soils.

Water

During the first year of planting, water the tree deeply and frequently. Afterward, saucer magnolias only need watering when in drought conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

Fertilizer

Propagating Saucer Magnolia Trees

Varieties of Saucer Magnolia Trees

Popular cultivars of this plant are:

  • 'Alexandrina:' Also called "Alexander's Magnolia," grows to be 15 to 20 feet tall, with dark pink-purple flowers with a white interior
  • 'Bronzzonii:' Grows to be 20 to 30 feet, with white flowers

‘Alexandrina’ (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Alexandrina'): Grows 15 to 20 feet high and 10-15 feet wide with an upright form; multi-stemmed tree; cup-shaped, deep rose-purple flowers with white interior.

‘Lennei’  (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Lennei'): Grows 15 to 20 feet high and wide with a broad, pyramidal form; goblet-shaped, deep magenta purple flowers with white interior; dark green leaves; flowers slightly later than the species.

‘Lennei Alba’ (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Lennei Alba'): Grows 15 to 20 feet high and wide with a broad, pyramidal form; pure white, globe-shaped flowers; ideal for small gardens; flowers slightly later than the species.

‘Rustica Rubra’ (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Rustica Rubra'): Grows 15 to 25 feet high and 15-20 feet wide with a broad, pyramidal form; small-size tree with open habit; rose-red flowers.

‘Verbanica’ (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Verbannica'): Grows 20 to 25 feet high and wide with an upright, broad, pyramidal form; cup-shaped, rosy-pink flowers with white interior. It blooms later than other varieties. Lustrous dark green leaves turn coppery brown in fall.

Pruning

Saucer magnolia trees can sometimes produce multiple stems. For the grower who wants a "tree look" rather than a "shrub look," this is a problem. You can correct it through pruning so as to favor one, dominant trunk. Such drastic pruning may be done while the tree is still young. You may also shape the crown in later years by pruning lightly after the flowering period.

Common Pests and Diseases

Saucer magnolia don't suffer from any serious insect or disease issues. However, it can be affected by leaf spot and canker.