Magnolia × soulangeana in Bloom
Magnolia × soulangeana in Bloom

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

The Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) in the period of flowering is one of the more imposing beauty plants can enjoy the flower lover, thanks to the size, shape, color and abundance of its flowers, which at the same time unfurled in the air its delicate fragrance, filling almost completely the senses.

Small tree or large shrub the Saucer Magnolia is the fruit of many years significant breeding work by a French horticulturist, who lived from the late 18th century until almost the mid-19th century, and for which will be discussed later in this article so as to increase the interest of the 27 permanent readers of Kalliergeia with the risk of still remaining 26 and / or less.

Of course, the main topic of this article is not the mysterious as yet breeder but the Saucer x Magnolia as much as itself, this beautiful hybrid, that from the very first years of its creation spread to almost all continents, proclaim it into a real star of garden and landscape, and particular, in the early Spring.

The flowering season of Saucer Magnolia does not go unnoticed. 

Magnolia × soulangeana - A Saucer Magnolia Tree in Full Bloom
Magnolia × soulangeana - A Saucer Magnolia Tree in Full Bloom
Share on print
Τυπωθήτω | Print

Saucer Magnolia Origin

Magnolia × soulangeana (Saucer Magnolia) - Map of Origin
Magnolia × soulangeana (Saucer Magnolia) - Map of Origin

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Brief Description

Family: Magnoliaceae

Genus: Magnolia

Scientific Name: Magnolia x soulangiana Thiéb.-Bern.

Common Name: Saucer Magnolia, Chinese Magnolia

General Characteristics

Leaf Persistence



Tree or large Shrub



Growth Rate


Flowering Period

Late Winter – Spring

Fruiting Period

Late Summer – Autumn


5-8 m (16-26 ft)


5-8 m (16-26 ft)

Shapes and Colors

Leaves Shape

Oblong – Elongate

Foliage Colour

Deep Green

Autumn Foliage Colour


Flowers Shape

Cup Shaped

Flowers Colour

White – Purple




Soil Type: Excellent drainage, sandy, loamy, clayey

Soil pH: 5-6,5

Watering: Moderate

Exposure: Sun, Half-Shade

Hardiness: – 23.3 °C (-10 °F – USDA Hardiness Zone 6a)


Specimen, parks, gardens, pots & containers

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

The Open Flower of Saucer Magnolia
The Open Flower of Saucer Magnolia

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Etymology

Etymology of the Genus Name

The name of the genus Magnolia has been given in honor of the great French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638 – 1715), by the distinguished compatriot and colleague, Charles Plumier (1646-1704) – with Pierre Magnol still alive.

The same name of genus is used by the English botanist William Sherard, 1659 – 1728) when he was making the plants nomenclature which were described in the Hortus Elthamensis of his friend and similarly colleagues German botanist Johann Jacob Dillenius (1684 – 1747), from where he found it, accepted, and then established the Carolus Linnaeus. (Carl von Linné, 1707 – 1778), using it in his work titled Species plantarum.

Etymology of the Species Name

The name of the species gives credit to one of the two surnames of the conceiver and inventor of the hybrid, the Frenchman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846).

Étienne Soulange-Bodin was a Cavalry officer in the army of Napoleon, Political Adviser to the viceroy of Italy prince Eugène de Beauharnais, and an excellent and active horticulturist of his time, having contributed greatly to the organization and development of professional horticulture in his country.

He had studied medicine but was more interested in botany, which was then part of it.

About 1814 he bought an area of 70 hectares, the Château de Fromont, which he converted, among others, in a space of experimentation and planting of new ornamental and edible plants, while gradually the space became one of the most high-level botanical gardens of his era.

There, in 1826, he created the hybrid that would take his surname,  Magnolia × soulangeana. However, the godparent of the plant species was not itself but some of the Société Linnéenne de Paris members.

The secretary of the society, Arsène Thiébaud de Berneaud adopted the proposed name and described the plant in Relation de la première (-cinquième) Fête Champêtre célébrés par la Société le 24 Mai 1822 (-1826).

And although some writers insist on writing the scientific name of the plant as Magnolia × soulangeana Étienne Soulange-Bodin or Magnolia × soulangiana Soul.-Bod. [denudata × liliifolia] (from USDA – NRCS), this is not correct, since the correct name of the hybrid is Magnolia × soulangeana Thiéb.-Bern [denudata × liliifolia].

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Origin & Life Span


Étienne Soulange-Bodin for the creation of the hybrid  Magnolia  x  soulangeana used the M. denudata and M. Liliflora.

These plants both originate from the China, and in Europe introduced the first in the 1780’s by the Englishman Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820), and the second in 1790 by the Swedish Carl Peter Thunberg (1743 – 1828) – both important botanists.


The Magnolia denudata (syn. Magnolia heptapeta), which the Soulange-Bodin reported as Magnolia yulan used as the female parent, while the Magnolia liliflora, which is reported as Magnolia discolor, was used by its pollen as the male parent.

The M. denudata is a tree cultivated since the 6th century CE in the Buddhist temples of China for the beautiful white flowers and its superb fragrance.

The M. liliflora, which is a small tree or shrub, is similarly cultivated for many centuries in both China and Japan, and has a slightly aromatic fragrance purple flowers on the outside and white inside, as well as remarkably abundant flowering.

Considering  that the M. denudata blooms from February to April and the bloom of the M. liliiflora occurring from mid-April until June, there is little chance that there will be natural hybrids of Saucer Magnolia, since the time window concurrence of plants bloom is very short.

On the other hand, the hypothesis made about the existence of the hybrid, whether in the gardens of Buddhist Chinese, Japanese, or Korean temples, or in the nurseries of those countries, remain hypothesis without – most probably – the possibility of proof.

The New Species

The Soulange-Bodin started the breeding project, in 1820. The inexhaustible horticulturist having astute in the selection of parental plants, finally sees his attempt to be crowned with success, and in 1826 in Bulletin des Sciences Agricoles et Économique, Tome VI, published the announcement on the creation of a new hybrid Magnolia.

Life Span

The Magnolia × soulangeana despite its "hybrid" origin encounters a thorough understanding of nature that allows it to live for several decades – without missing the verified cases of supercentenarian trees.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Morphological Elements

The Saucer Magnolia is a deciduous tree of small size or large size shrub.

Has moderate growth rate, the shape is initially pyramidal with upright appearance, and after the first decade of its life becomes oval, until finally, the plant acquires spherical form.

The crown is asymmetrical and open, has a moderate density, an Irregular outline, and its texture is coarse.

It reaches a height of 5 to 8 m within a period of just 20 up to 50 years after its planting.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Magnolia × soulangeana Fruits
Magnolia × soulangeana Fruits

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Botanical Description


The leaves are simple, obovate, and are alternately arranged. They reach a length of 13 to 20 cm while their width is about half their length. They are more conical at the base and sprout from the shoots covered a with a coating of pubescence.

Their color is deep green which the autumn turns into a rather neutral brown.


The flowers are hermaphrodite (bisexual), single and terminal appearing on the edge of shoots from fuzzy big flower buds 2 cm long.  

They consist of 6 petals, the surface of which is waxy, and of 3 sepals. Of course here the terms petals and sepals are probably used  abusive  because in fact they do not distinguish one from the other, and therefore it is correct to refer to them as tepals of the flower.

So the tepals, are overlapping and spirally arranged, measuring 9 by 10 cm in length and 2.4 by 3.3 cm in width, with the smallest size observed on the outer parts of the perianth .

The receptacle is elongated, carry the carpels at the upper part and the stamens in the lower, and has a length on the flowering period of approximately 23 mm and a width of 5 to 6 mm.

The stamens are 10 to 11 mm long, numerous, with introrse anthers, consisting of two-celled pollen-sacs which dehisce longitudinally.

The carpels (pistil) curve out, they have a relatively long stigmatic surface on oneside, while the length of the style ranges between 3 and 4 mm.  

The floral formula of plant is P9 A∞ Gor Ca3 Co6 A∞ G


Saucer Magnolia is entomophilous species. Observations that have been made show that a key role in the native reproduction and pollination of the tree is played by beetles. The beetles find shelter inside of the perianth, on the 3 tepals which curve slightly covering the reproductive organs.

But once have being done the dehiscence of anthers pollen-sacs, these tepals open, leaving exposed the beetles, which, however, now carry on them the pollen.

Since the beetles are not more protected, they move to other flowers of the plant where the male segment is at an earlier stage of maturation, and as there the stigma of the pestle is already receptive, they deposit the pollen and pollinate the flower.


The numerous stamens and ovaries of the Saucer Magnolia cling to a spindle elongated shape aggregate organ. During the ripening this turns into a leathery, cone-shaped organ consisting of multiple fruits called follicles .

Each follicle contains one to two seeds that remain long on the follicle after it is dehisced along the dorsal suture, hang by a thread-like structure, and each seed contains a small embryo and a very well developed endosperm.

The length of follicle is 12 mm and the width is 10 mm, while the multiple fruits organ’s size ranges between 7 and 8 cm.

The follicle color is red.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Climate and Soil


The Saucer Magnolia is adapting to a wide temperature range. As for the low temperatures, the plant tolerance can reach up to – 23.3 °C, while relative to maximum does not have problems even in those areas where they reach 40+ °C.

On the other hand it is not at all bad idea to avoid the tree planting in those areas where occure in late winter and spring early frost, as flowers are susceptible to frost damage

Soil and pH

The Saucer Magnolia grows in wide range of soil types except the very heavy clayey. Although it can withstand poor soils, it thrives on medium textured ones, which are well drained and equipped with plenty  quantities of organic matter.

As for pH could be said that prefer acidic to slightly acidic soils, which receives values between 5 and 6.5 .     


Saucer Magnolia seeking full sun or partial shade positions, which means that the plant wants a minimum of 3 hours of direct exposure to the solar rays in order to thrive and present satisfactory flowering.

Especially on warmer regions, the most suitable planting sites, are those in which it receives direct sunlight in the morning, while at midday the light filtered passing through.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Pests & Diseases

Without wanting to panic the 27 or/and fewer readers of "Kalliergeia" who would want to plant the tree (but following the incomprehensible  guidelines of the W.H.O. and the deliberate SHOCK measures of most governments to  deal with the so-called Coronavirus Pandemic) it is our great joy to set immediately after an endless list of pests and diseases of Saucer Magnolia, saying only that rarely or a few times will confront its populations the real danger of these.


Quod erat demonstrandum and here we go!

Various Insects
  • Odontopus calceatus
  • Phyllocnistis magnoliella
  • Rhadopterus picipes
Wood Boring Insects
  • Euzophera magnolialis
  • Xylosandrus crassiusculus
  • Xylosandrus germanus
  • Icerya purchasi
  • Eulecanium cerasorum
  • Neolecanium cornuparvum
  • Toumeyella liriodendra
  • Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli
  • Lopholeucaspis japonica
  • Caliothrips striatus
  • Meliodogyne incognita
  • Meliodogyne arenaria
  • Meliodogyne hapla
  • Meliodogyne javanica

The good news is, that with the use of appropriate formulations the treatment of insect pests is effective and relatively easy except the wood boring insects as well as nematodes.


As to the diseases things seem – and indeed are – more tidy.

Verticillium Fungi
  • Verticillium albo-atrum
  • Verticillium dahliae
Phytophthora Fungus
  • Phytophthora cinnamomi
  • Xanthomonas sp.
  • Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae
  • Pseudomonas cichorii
A Few More Fungi
  • Colletotrichum gloeosporioides
  • Phyllosticta magnoliae
  • Microsphaera alni

With the timely use of appropriate formulations the management will be satisfactory except bacteria that are difficult to control.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Toxicity & Allergenicity


Saucer Magnolia is not toxic for humans and pets.


Although the plant is characterized as a moderately allergenic (low-allergenic), this is not completely verified. In addition, it is entomophilous plant species and at least the use of it in landscape plantings don’t seem to be a burden on the surrounding environment with allergens and the allergics with problems.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Varieties

Being extremely popular plant Saucer Magnolia has several dozens of varieties with lots of color gradations of flowers, that range between white and purple.

For these the varieties we promise – it costs nothing after all – a special tribute. For the time being let alone the full understanding 27 or/26 readers of "Kalliergeia" in the simple recording of the most important of these.

Saucer Magnolia Varieties

  • Magnolia × soulangeana ‘Alexandria’
  • Magnolia × soulangeana ‘Burgundy’
  • Magnolia × soulangeana ‘Just Jean’
  • Magnolia × soulangeana ‘Norbertii’
  • Magnolia × soulangeana ‘Rustica Rubra’
  • Magnolia × soulangeana ‘Triumphans’

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana)

Saucer Magnolia in a Summer City Park
Saucer Magnolia in a Summer City Park

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - Use

The Saucer Magnolia utilized mainly in the garden and in the landscape, where either as specimen either in groups creates stunning visual and attractive olfactory effects.

Industrial & Craft Use

Although except the ornamental, other uses of the plant is not widespread, however, sometimes used large logs to create wood construction, and for the production of paper.

Use in Garden and Landscape

In areas suitable for its growth, it can be planted both on the ground and in large pots and plant containers.

So, it could be said more generally that Saucer Magnolia is being exploited:

  • Planted alone as a plant of particular beauty
  • In plantings for createtree line
  • In group plantings in gardens and parks
  • Incombination with large and very large growth trees
  • In combination with other plants, such as, for example, with Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), evergreen Irises (Iris japonica), Cornelian Cherries (Cornus mas), Plantain Lilies (Hosta ), and Forsythias (Forsythia × intermedia)


Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) - References

The References of the article bearing the pure spring title Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) are presented by the unique – although many – Allman Brothers Band with their excellent song Ramblin’ Man. 

Play Video


The use of the material, where third-party rights are not mentioned or implied (such as photos or audiovisual files – with the exception of those belonging to "Kalliergeia"), is absolutely free. Its sharing, possibly, useful.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on tumblr
Share on reddit
Share on digg
Share on stumbleupon
Skip to content