Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist
I consider saucer magnolia an eternally optimistic harbinger of spring today on Southern Gardening.
Saucer magnolia, known botanically as Magnolia x soulangiana, is by far the most popular of the flowering magnolias and normally flowers from early to late spring. Even though spring may be in the air, I wouldn’t recommend that you go out and start planting your tomatoes based on the flowering of your saucer magnolia. Saucer magnolia is considered a small tree, maybe eventually reaching 20 feet by 20 feet. Driving around Mississippi I have seen specimens that have achieved sizes larger, much larger than this. I think multi-stemmed specimens are the most attractive. The size of the plant can be maintained and controlled by pruning. The best time to prune this spring flowering tree is immediately after flowering. The leaves can be quite variable depending on the selection and add textural interest. The leaves have an elliptical shape and can be up to eight inches long. But since they bloom before the leaves emerge the flowers are the main attraction. They are huge! Some selections can have flowers up to ten inches across. The colors will vary from white to pink to a bold purple depending on the variety. Saucer magnolias 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. It’s important to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. Applying a couple of deep irrigations during times of drought stress will help to ensure a beautiful spring next year. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.