TREES & plants

Saucer magnolia

Flowers of 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.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name: 
Magnolia soulangiana
All Common Names: 
saucer magnolia
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Patio/sidewalk, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet), 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet), 
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet)
Mature Height: 
20-30 feet
Mature Width: 
20-30 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Showy fruit, 
  • Showy flowers, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early spring, 
  • Mid spring, 
  • Late spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant, 
  • Pink, 
  • Purple, 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Sapsuckers
More Information: 

Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)photo: John Hagstrom

Tree & Plant Care

This shallow rooted plant has a fleshy root system and is best planted in spring.
Prefers a sunny, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Avoid windy sites.
Water in dry periods and apply 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.

Magnolia soulangiana or Saucer magnolia