Now is a Good Time for Planting Saucer magnolia
If there is a Saucer magnolia in your neighborhood you’ve surely noticed it by now. It’s like a beacon of color amidst the winter landscape. The end of February through early March brings forth the gorgeous blooms of these beautifully floriferous specimen trees. Although they may go unnoticed most of the year their arrival is a burst of glory that will brighten up even the most mundane of settings. The grand display of large, lavender, pink and white blooms is announcing that spring will soon be here!
Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana), sometimes called Oriental magnolia, is a hybrid that was born in France and has been a longtime favorite of gardeners and landscapers throughout the south. It is a deciduous tree whose broad leaves arrive in early spring after flowering has occurred. The absence of leaves during flowering serves to make the floral display even more noticeable. The open, saucer-shaped flowers may reach 6 inches in diameter and are typically lavender pink on the outside and creamy white to pale pink inside. The blooms are pleasantly fragrant.
Not all cultivars of Saucer magnolia are the same. ‘Lennei Alba’ has ivory-white flowers. ‘Alba’, has white flowers with a basal pink blush. The flowers of ‘Susan’ are deep red with lemon fragrance. Probably the most popular cultivar of Saucer magnolia is ‘Alexandrina’. Its flowers are rose-purple on the outside and pure white on the inside. ‘Alexandrina’ is usually available at garden centers in late winter and early spring.
The growth habit of Magnolia soulangiana is typically upright when young then gradually shifting to pyramidal or rounded with age. Often it is grown as a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree. At maturity, it may reach 30′ tall and 20′ wide.
Saucer magnolia performs best in full sun in a well-drained spot where its roots can spread out. It will tolerate a relatively wide range of soil pH from 5.0 to 6.5. It’s often planted along the edge of the property line in combination with evergreen shrubs where it may get lost in the crowd until the showy blooms arrive in late winter. Saucer magnolia looks good in combination with other small trees and shrubs yet it does quite well when used as a specimen or accent plant. To enhance plant growth, fertilize in late winter or early spring with a balanced fertilizer.
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