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What is a Magnolia Soulangeana?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Magnolia soulangeana is a hybrid magnolia tree famous for producing very large leaves. It is known as the saucer magnolia, a nod to the shape and size of the leaves, and is grown ornamentally throughout the world. Many nurseries and garden supply stores carry this plant and can also order it by request for people interested in growing it. Seeds and cuttings obtained from other gardeners can also be used for propagation, and a gardening exchange can also furnish useful information about growing these decorative plants.

Known properly as magnolia x soulangeana to alert people to the fact that it's a hybrid, this tree was originally developed in England. It blooms somewhat later than other magnolia cultivars, producing very large, showy flowers. Approximately two weeks after it blooms, the tree leafs out. The leaves will change colors and fall off in the fall when the tree goes into dormancy.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones four through nine are suitable for cultivating magnolia soulangeana. The tree tolerates harsher conditions than other magnolias, growing in windy areas and alkaline soils that would kill other trees. This can make it an good choice for gardeners working in regions where their success with magnolia trees might be borderline because of hostile climate conditions. Periodic pruning can help shape the tree as it develops, and it benefits from fertilization in the spring to encourage growth.

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In some climates, magnolia soulangeana can get confused by weather conditions and go into early bloom. The flowers are very vulnerable to frost, turning brown and mushy, and that year's flowering will be lost. Protecting trees during frosts can help limit the risks of losing flowers, as well as preventing issues like cracking tree branches and splitting bark. The magnolia soulangeana can be draped in sheets or blankets, as well as being grown in a sheltered area where frosts do not penetrate as deeply.

When magnolia soulangeana trees drop their flowers and leaves, it can get messy. It is advisable to plant them away from walkways to help keep paths tidy. Companion plantings should be chosen with the awareness that they will be shaded in spring and summer and exposed during the winter months. Bulbs can be a good choice of companion planting, as they will burst into colorful flower shortly before the tree itself flowers, and they go dormant during the winter when exposure might otherwise be a problem.

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