Magnolia x soulangeana: This update is more of a premonitory post yearning for soft spring breezes and vibrant statements from spring flowers. The Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) is one of those late winter early spring bloomers in the south. Unfurling mauve and subtle pink petals before it leafs out its light green foliage.
Saucer Magnolias can be interchanged often with Lily Magnolia – M. liliifloria (One of saucers’ two parents) and Star Magnolias – M. stellata. These magnolias vary slightly in size, habit, and color.
Native to China, hybridized in Europe, this specimen has become an eastern U.S. fixture.
Size/Habit/Lifetime: Generally seen as a 5-10’ medium – large shrub. Often maturing to a small – medium tree with rounded to pyramidal form. Grows as large as 20-30’ height with variable spread. Slow-medium growth rate.
Culture: Zone 4-9. Light shade to full sun. When in open sun, best if protected from late frost. Best grown in fertile, highly organic soil, well drained and deep. Slightly acidic with leaf mold and heavy organic matter. Moisture should be evenly wet and watered well during drought.
Leaf/Stem: Alternate, simple leaves 4-8” long. Ovate to broad oblong shape. Pubescent below. Light green in early spring darkening into summer. Fall color not great but occasional yellow brown interest.
Flower/Fruit: The flowers are complete, consisting of 9 tepals (tepals being the term used for petals and sepals being one). Purplish-Pink on the outer tepals (petals) fading towards white in the center. Flowers bud out before the leaves in early spring or late winter in the Deep South. Like other magnolia species. The fruit is a follicle, but not as showy as Magnolia grandiflora.
Use: Best as a small specimen tree but well suited for massing or back of border planting. There is no doubt to the beauty of a Saucer Magnolia in flower, but like all other plants, it can and has been over used in areas.
Notable facts: Pruning should occur after flowering into the summer as not to disturb budding shoots later in the fall and winter. Soulangeana is named after its creator, Frenchman Soulange-Bodin. Who hybridized M. denudata and M. lilliflora.