Environmental Studies

The Saucer Magnolia is likely to look similar to a shrub or tree, and it is refereed to both terms. When in bloom it’s considered to be one of the most significant deciduous or evergreen flowering trees. The large, bright-colored goblet or saucer shaped flowers, cover the naked stems, filling the air with a pleasant aromatic fragrance.

Scientific Name: Magnolia x soulangeana

Common Name: Saucer Magnolia

Family: Magnoliaceae

Origin: France

Physical characteristics

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Leaf: The Saucer Magnolia has leaves which are deciduous, simple, obovate, and alternate. They can grow to be three to six inches in length and about half as wide. During the summer the leaves are typically a a dark green color, that turns into an attractive brown color in the autumn. They tend to taper to the base and sprout from the twigs with a coating of pubescence.

Flower: The flower buds are big and fuzzy about 2 cm. long; from the buds blooms a perfect flower, has male and female parts in each flower. Each bloom is composed of six waxy petals of a pinkish-purples color on the outside and a white color on the inside. The flowers petals are arranged in a goblet or saucer shape, hence where the common name derives from. The petals and sepals are sometimes referred to as “tepals” because they are indistinguishable, as are their stamens and pistils which are arranged along the central seed-bearing cone.

Shape: The Saucer Magnolia has a rounded, upright, and erect shape. It looks like a small shrub while growing, then soon it becomes a large tree which can provide great shade.

Trunk | Bark: The trunk and bark is a gray color with coarse texture. The tree grows to be 20 feet to 30 feet high and a spread of 25 feet at full maturity.

Life span: The shrub or tree has a lifespan of longer than 20 years.

Fruit: The fruit is elongated, 1 to 3 inches long; they appear in August and have small, pointed, red or dark pink colored seeds. The fruit is considered to be very attractive to the birds but cause a minor amount of litter.

Art Knapp Plantland

Ecological characteristics

The Saucer Magnolia is a hybrid of the Magnolia heptapeta and the Magnolia liliiflora, which are both native to Japan. In the Deep South the tree blooms in late winter and as late as mid-spring in colder zones. It is considered to be one of the most flowering trees in the United States, and planted wildly in both America and Europe.

Climate: This particular plant prefers excellent, rich soil with organic matter. It is capable of growing in acidic, moist, rich, sandy, well drained, or clay soils. The amount of light needed is typically a full sun in the morning with filtered shade in the heat of day. The Saucer Magnolia can tolerate poor soil and air pollution yet it is often used as an ornamental.

Saucer Magnolia Distribution

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Importance to the ecosystem

The Saucer Magnolia is considered to be used as an ornamental tree and not yet for any medicinal or industrial uses, it does have a few good uses. For example the large logs can be of use for manufacturing machines for cabinet or millwork. Or the wood has also been used for making paper.

Relationship with other species

Non-human | Pests: The wildlife use the tree’s larger dead branches as a nesting site, and it’s also susceptible to Aphids, Scales, and Spider Mites. These insects may also cause damage to the tree, however the perfume of the flowers attract beetles. The beetles are pulled to the flowers in order to seek protein – rich pollen on the inside.

Humans: The only possible health hazard for the humans from this plant is that it may cause allergies. Also, the human population prefers to use the

Disease: The tree is mostly disease free, but it can be subject to leaf spots that are caused by bacteria or fungi. Cankers can cause the branches to die, but with regular fertilization and watering during dry weather the Cankers may be avoided.

Other interesting facts

  • The creator of the Saucer Magnolia was Etienne Soulange-Bodin. He was a Parisian soldier that turned into a horticulturist, that cross bred plants.

  • Many of the shrubs and trees from the Magnoliaceae family have been existent for millions of years, while the Saucer Magnolia is a hybrid created by man.
  • The magnolias make a wonderful floral display, with the emergence of flowers in an abundance, fills the canopy before the leaves can emerge.





Page drafted by Erika Beishen

Magnolia x soulangiana: Saucer Magnolia1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


Saucer Magnolia is a multi-stemmed, spreading tree, 25 feet tall with a 20 to 30-foot spread and bright, attractive gray bark. Growth rate is moderately fast but slows down considerably as the tree reaches about 20-years of age. Young trees are distinctly upright, becoming more oval, then round by 10 years of age. Large, fuzzy, green flower buds are carried through the winter at the tips of brittle branches. The blooms open in late winter to early spring before the leaves, producing large, white flowers shaded in pink, creating a spectacular flower display. However, a late frost can often ruin the flowers in all areas where it is grown. This can be incredibly disappointing since you wait 51 weeks for the flowers to appear. In warmer climates, the late-flowering selections avoid frost damage but some are less showy than the early-flowered forms which blossom when little else is in flower.

Figure 1.

Middle-aged Magnolia x soulangiana: Saucer Magnolia

General Information

Scientific name: Magnolia x soulangiana Pronunciation: mag-NO-lee-uh x soo-lan-jee-AY-nuh Common name(s): Saucer Magnolia Family: Magnoliaceae USDA hardiness zones: 5A through 9A (Fig. 2) Origin: not native to North America Invasive potential: little invasive potential Uses: specimen; deck or patio; container or planter; espalier; shade Availability: not native to North America Figure 2.



Height: 20 to 25 feet Spread: 20 to 30 feet Crown uniformity: irregular Crown shape: upright/erect, round Crown density: open Growth rate: moderate Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3) Leaf type: simple Leaf margin: entire, undulate Leaf shape: obovate, oblong Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome Leaf type and persistence: deciduous Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 8 inches Leaf color: green Fall color: yellow Fall characteristic: showy Figure 3.



Flower color: pink, white/cream/gray Flower characteristics: very showy Figure 4.



Fruit shape: elongated, irregular Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches Fruit covering: dry or hard Fruit color: red Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns Pruning requirement: little required Breakage: resistant Current year twig color: brown Current year twig thickness: medium Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; well-drained Drought tolerance: moderate Aerosol salt tolerance: none


Roots: not a problem Winter interest: yes Outstanding tree: yes Ozone sensitivity: tolerant Verticillium wilt susceptibility: susceptible Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

The tree is best used as a specimen in a sunny spot where it can develop a symmetrical crown. It can be pruned up if planted close to a walk or patio to allow for pedestrian clearance but probably looks its best when branches are left to droop to the ground. The light gray bark shows off nicely, particularly during the winter when the tree is bare.

Saucer Magnolia grows best in a sunny location in rich, moist but porous soil. It will tolerate poor drainage for only a short period of time. Growth will be thin and leggy in a shaded spot but acceptable in part shade. Saucer Magnolia dislikes dry or alkaline soil but will otherwise grow very well in the city. Transplant in the spring, just before growth begins, and use balled and burlapped or containerized plants. Older plants do not like to be pruned and large wounds may not close well. Train plants early in their life to develop the desired form.


Generally it is pest free. Scales of various types may infest twigs. Magnolia scale is the most common scale and can be one half-inch-across. Overwintering scales are usually controlled with horticultural oil applied in the spring.

Tulip-Poplar weevil (sassafras weevil) feeds as a leaf miner when young and chews holes in the leaves as an adult.


The tree is generally disease free. Magnolia may be subject to leaf spots caused by bacteria or a large number of fungi. Leaf spots rarely require chemical controls. Rake up and dispose of infected leaves.

Canker diseases will kill branches. Cankers on branches can be pruned out. Keep trees healthy with regular fertilization and by watering in dry weather.

Verticillium wilt may cause death of a few branches or may kill the tree. Prune out dead branches and fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer.


This document is ENH-545, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

Magnolia x soulangeana

It was in 1826 when the very first bloom of this famous saucer magnolia came into the world. It was bred by French botanist Etienne Soulange-Bodin who 6 years before that success made a cross between m.denudata and m.liliflora. It blooms on bare branches with beautifully scented, goblet- or saucer-shaped flowers that are white inside and light pink or light ruby coloured on the outside. Flower buds are quite large and fuzzy, and appear on the plant in late summer the previous year. It starts blooming when 6-8 years old and since then blooms profusely and reliably every year. Leaves are mid to deep green, stiff and slightly wavy. When in full leaf magnolias are the densest deciduous broadleaved shrubs. Unlike its parents it flowers very early, we therefore suggest planting it in a position that is not the warmest in your garden to avoid premature flowering and thus escaping damage by mid-spring frosts. The soil must be rich in organic matter, slightly acidic, definitely lime-free, always moist but not wet, permeable and preferably light (add peat). It needs to be mulched in summer to retain as much moisture as possible. Bear in mind that this magnolia will be a substantially large shrub. Fully hardy to USDA zone 5.

SelecTree: Tree Detail

General Notes

Utility friendly tree.

Saucer Magnolia is a popular flowering accent tree, usually as a multi-trunk or low-branching specimen for gardens or lawns. It requires loose, fertile soil and moderate moisture, where it flowers best in full sun. It blooms at a young age. Many named varieties are available, with white, pink and purplish or lilac flowers. It may eventually require regularly scheduled light top trimming (but not necessarily shearing) of vigorous top shoots to maintain its height below 25′.

Has fragrant Flower.

Native to France.

Family: Magnoliaceae


Magnolia × soulangiana

Additional Common Names


Tree Characteristics

Erect or Spreading with a Low Canopy.

Rounded, Umbrella or Vase Shape.

Has Deciduous foliage.

Height: 25 feet.

Width: 25 feet.

Growth Rate: 24 Inches per Year.

Longevity 50 to 150 years.

Leaves Obovate, Medium Green, Bronze or Gold, Deciduous.

Flowers Showy. Fragrant Pink, Purple or White. Flowers in Spring or Winter. Has perfect flowers (male and female parts in each flower).

Rose Follicle, Large (1.50 – 3.00 inches), fruiting in Summer.

Bark Light Gray, Smooth.

Shading Capacity Rated as Dense in Leaf.

Shading Capacity Rated as Moderate out of Leaf.

Litter Issue is Flowers.

Plant Database


  • a hybrid of Magnolia heptapeta x Magnolia quinquepeta
  • hardy to zone 5 (warmer parts of 4)

Habit and Form

  • a deciduous small tree
  • grows up to 30′ tall
  • upright and spreading branching
  • rounded to irregular habit
  • multi-trunked or with low main branches

Summer Foliage

  • deciduous leaves 3″ to 7″ long, half as wide
  • leaves elliptical with a sharply-pointed tip
  • leaf color is dark green
  • new leaves are reddish bronze
  • foliage maintains a high quality through the summer

Autumn Foliage

  • leaves turn yellow-brown before falling
  • not highly ornamental


  • white, pink, or purple
  • cup-like, large blossoms
  • blooms in mid- to late April
  • sometimes fragrant
  • flowers at young age
  • typically very showy; a heavy bloomer


  • 4″ long aggregate fruit with knobby surface
  • typically few are produced
  • seed emerge reddish-orange from slits
  • mature in August and September


  • smooth, silver-gray
  • quite attractive


  • moist, fertile, deep soils with high organic matter are best
  • fairly adaptable and easy to grow providing conditions are not harsh
  • plant in locations that are not prone to late spring frost
  • full sun

Landscape Use

  • as a specimen
  • patio tree
  • very effective in groupings when space allows
  • desired for impressive spring bloom display


  • flowers prone to damage form late spring frosts
  • magnolia scale
  • sooty mold associated with scale
  • moderately susceptible to limb breakage
  • heavy snow and ice storms
  • common nearly to the point or overuse

ID Features

  • flower buds and vegetative buds very distinct
  • hairs on flower buds are dense and short
  • silver-gray smooth bark
  • pink-tinged, white, saucer-shaped flowers in spring
  • multi-trunked or with main branches low on the trunk


  • by seed
  • cultivars by cuttings


‘Alba Superba’ (also known as ‘Superba’ and ‘Alba’) – This old form possesses large white flowers shaped like cups that open early. It has an upright, dense habit.

‘Alexandrina’ (also listed as ‘Alexandrina Dark Clone’) – Popular and considered one of the finest, this selection is covered in spring by flowers that are colored rose-purple outside and white inside. The flowers may measure 10″ wide on this upright, rounded tree.

‘Brozzonii’ (also listed as ‘Brozzoni’) – An old cultivar, this plant is probably still one of the best. It blooms up to two weeks later than other forms, thus avoiding the late frosts that plague many magnolias in New England. The flowers are pure white and up to 8″ across. It is a vigorous grower to 30′ tall.

‘Lennei’ – This variety is unusual in that it forms an upright large shrub 20′ tall and wide. The flowers are deep purple outside and white inside. They appear sporadically through summer amidst the large, dark green leaves. It may not be as hardy as other selections.

‘Lennei Alba’ – This selection is similar to ‘Lennei’, but with pure white flowers that may appear a bit later.

‘Lilliputian’ – A very unusual plant that grows slowly with a tight form to reach proportions one-half the size of the species. The flowers are light pink. This cultivar does not appear commonly in catalog listings, but is notable for its dwarf habit.

‘Verbanica’ – A fine choice for cold New England climates, this selection is hardy and blooms later than the species, thus avoiding late frost damage. The flowers are rose outside, lighter inside. It forms a bushy, rounded tree 25′ tall with good glossy green foliage.

Saucer Magnolia Growing Conditions – Caring For Saucer Magnolias In Gardens

Shortly after the Napoleonic Wars in Europe in the early 1800s, a Calvary officer in Napoleon’s army is quoted as saying, “The Germans have encamped in my gardens. I have encamped in the gardens of the Germans. It had doubtless been better for both parties to have stayed home and planted their cabbages.” 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. Continue reading for saucer magnolia information.

Saucer Magnolia Growing Conditions

Hardy in zones 4-9, saucer magnolia prefers well-draining, slightly acidic soil in full sun to part shade. The trees can also tolerate some clay soils. Saucer magnolia is usually found as a multi-stemmed clump but single stem varieties can make better specimen trees in gardens and yards. Growing about 1-2 feet per year, they can reach 20-30 feet tall and 20-25 feet wide at maturity.

Saucer magnolia gained its common name from the 5- to 10-inch diameter, saucer-shaped flowers it bears in February-April. Exact bloom time depends on variety and location. After saucer magnolia’s pink-purple and white blooms fade, the tree leafs out in leathery, dark green foliage that beautifully contrast its smooth gray bark.

Caring for Saucer Magnolias

Saucer magnolia does not require any special care. When first planting a saucer magnolia tree, it will require deep, frequent watering to develop strong roots. By its second year, however, it should only need watering in times of drought.

In cooler climates, flower buds can be killed by late frost and you may end up with no flowers. Try later blooming varieties like ‘Brozzonii,’ ‘Lennei’ or ‘Verbanica’ in northern areas for more reliable blooms.

Magnolia x soulangiana

  • Attributes: Genus: Magnolia Family: Magnoliaceae Life Cycle: Woody Wildlife Value: Is the larval food source for saddleback caterpillars. Magnolia soft scale produces honeydew that bees love. Play Value: Attractive Flowers Fragrance Dimensions: Height: 15 ft. 0 in. – 33 ft. 0 in. Width: 15 ft. 0 in. – 25 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Shrub Tree Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Habit/Form: Erect Multi-trunked Rounded Spreading Growth Rate: Medium Texture: Medium
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Brown/Copper Red/Burgundy Fruit Value To Gardener: Showy Display/Harvest Time: Fall Fruit Type: Aggregate Follicle Fruit Length: 1-3 inches Fruit Description: Fruits are a multicelled, cone-like aggregates. They are 2″ long. Seeds are red-orange in color and emerge from slits.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Pink Purple/Lavender White Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Showy Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Shape: Cup Flower Size: > 6 inches Flower Description: Flowers are cup-shaped, solitary, slightly fragrant, terminal, erect, cupulate, and 4.7″-10″ in diameter. They have 9 perianth segments, are obovate-spatulate, and are concave at the tip. In mid-spring before leaves emerge, showy tepals are white on the inside and pink-purple on the outside, and grow up to 4″ long and 3″ wide. Buds are silky pubescent, and are less than an inch long.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Leaf Color: Green Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Brown/Copper Gold/Yellow Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Oblong Obovate Leaf Margin: Entire Hairs Present: Yes Leaf Length: 3-6 inches Leaf Description: Alternate, simple, entire margins, acute, rotund, entire, obovate to oblong, 3″-6″, and the apex is pointed. They are dark green above and velutinous pubescent below. In the fall, leaves turn yellow-brown before abscission.
  • Bark: Bark Color: Dark Gray Light Gray Surface/Attachment: Smooth Bark Description: Smooth, gray, shows sapsucker damage (horizontal rows of 1/4 inch holes)
  • Stem: Stem Color: Brown/Copper Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Lenticels: Conspicuous Stem Surface: Hairy (pubescent) Stem Description: Stems are brown and glabrous with gray lenticiels. Large terminal flower buds that are hairy appear on stems one year ahead of bloom.
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Lawn Patio Recreational Play Area Landscape Theme: Children’s Garden Design Feature: Flowering Tree Specimen Resistance To Challenges: Deer Pollution

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