TREES & plants

Saucer Magnolia

The elegant, goblet-shaped flowers of these handsome small trees are among the beauties of spring. Large leathery leaves, smooth gray bark, and yellow fall color add to the seasonal interest. Flowers appear before the leaves, which makes them more vulnerable to late spring frosts and freezes. Many cultivars of saucer magnolia are available, with a wide range of flower colors and shapes.

Botanical name: 
Magnolia x soulangiana
All Common Names: 
Saucer Magnolia
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • Pink
  • Purple
  • White
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Spreading
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Mixed border
  • Patio/sidewalk
Time of Year: 
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
More Information: 

Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)photo: John Hagstrom
Size & form

20 to 30 feet high and 25 to 30 feet wide.
A  shrubby, low-branched tree. Upright in youth, rounded with age. Can be trained as a single trunk.

Tree & Plant Care

This shallow rooted plant has a fleshy root system and is best spring planted only.
Prefers a sunny, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Avoid windy sites.
Water in  dry periods and will benefit from a layer of organic mulch to moderate a cool root environment and conserve moisture.
Prune dead wood and crossing branches as needed.

Disease, pests, and problems

Can be subject to early frost damage.
Magnolia scale, chlorosis in high pH soils, powdery mildew, and verticillium wilt.

Native geographic location and habitat

Hybrid of Asian species

Bark color and texture

Attractive silver-gray smooth bark.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, simple, 3 to 7 inches long, elliptical with a sharply pointed tip.
New leaves are reddish bronze, medium green with lighter underside in summer and a yellow-brown fall color.
Terminal leaf bud is 1/2 inch long , very silky and pubescent to the touch.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Large, cup-like, white, pink, or purple blossoms in mid- to late April.
Typically a heavy bloomer at a young age,

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A  4 inch long aggregate fruit with a knobby surface, reddish-orange seeds emerge from slits in August and September.
Typically few fruits are produced each year.

Cultivars and their differences

‘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.