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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.

  • Family (English) Magnolia
  • Family (botanic) Magnoliaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet), Medium tree (25-40 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 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Pink, Purple, White
  • Shape or form Pyramidal, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Sapsuckers
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

Saucer magnolia is a hybrid of Asian species.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is smooth and an attractive silver-gray.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

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

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Large, cup-like, white, pink, or purple flowers bloom  in mid- to late April. This tree is 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.

Plant care:

This shallow rooted plant has a fleshy root system and is best planted in spring. It 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.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

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

Alexandrina saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Alexandrina’): 

Growing 15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide with an upright form, this multi-stemmed tree has cup shaped, deep rose-purple flowers with white interiors.

Lennei saucer magnolia  (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Lennei’):  

This cultivar flowers slightly later than the species. It grows 15 to 20 feet high and wide with a broad, pyramidal form and goblet shaped, deep magenta-purple flowers with white interiors. The leaves are dark green. 

Lennei Alba saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Lennei Alba’):  

Ideal for smaller gardens, this cultivar grows 15 to 20 feet high and wide with a broad, pyramidal form. Pure white flowers are globe-shaped and bloom slightly later than the species.

Rustica Rubra saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Rustica Rubra’): 

A small size tree with an open habit and rose-red flowers, Rustica grows 15 to 25 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide with a broad, pyramidal form.

Verbanica saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Verbanica’):

Grows 20 to 25 feet high and wide with an upright, broad, pyramidal form. Cup-shaped, rosy-pink flowers have a white interior. It blooms later than other varieties.  Lustrous dark green leaves turn coppery-brown in fall.


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