March 14, 2015
Have you ever been driving down the street in the spring and noticed a small tree that’s blazing with purplish pink flowers? You’re seeing saucer magnolia, one of the stars of the spring landscape. Saucer magnolia, known botanically as Magnolia x soulangiana, is by far the most popular of the flowering magnolias. They bloom before the leaves emerge so the flowers are the main attraction. The flower buds develop on the ends of the branches and are pubescent and silky to the touch. The buds swell and begin to open revealing the first glimpse of the coming colorful show. When the flower petals unfurl and finally open they are huge! Some selections can have flowers up to ten inches across. The outside of saucer magnolia flowers are mostly pinkish purple while inside is creamy white. Other selections can have flowers with bold and bright purples. There are many selections and cultivars to choose from and the decision may be hard to make. Saucer magnolia is considered a small tree, maybe eventually reaching 20 feet by 20 feet. They are a good choice as a low maintenance, easy to care for plant. Be sure to plant in the full sun in well-drained soil. Saucer magnolia is a cross from Europe between different deciduous magnolias dating back to the 1820s. The story goes that the saucer magnolia was developed to bring beauty back to the European landscape after the Napoleonic Wars. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern gardening.