Flowering Tree: Tulip Tree

Magnolia blossoms blogpostEvery time I pass the saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) outside my house, I have to stop and admire its splendor. During most of the year, this tree blends into the background, but in mid-to late winter or spring (depending on your climate) it produces a riot of gorgeous, purplish pink flowers that look like tulips, which is why it’s also known as “the tulip tree.”

This flowering tree literally “pops” with color because instead of producing its leaves first like most deciduous trees, it produces flower buds that bloom alone. The saucer magnolia (Magnolia X soulangeana) makes a great shade tree that does well in lawn. If you’ve always wanted one for your yard, now is the time to plant! (actually, anytime of year is fine, but why not do it now while you are still inspired?)

One thing to note is that although this tree is sometimes referred to as a tulip tree, there is another tree called by the same common name. To avoid confusion, it’s best to refer to the saucer magnolia by that name. The true tulip tree is Liriodendron tulipifera and is a much larger tree that has tulip-shaped leaves with big yellow blossoms. Also, there is yet another type of magnolia that is in the magnolia genus that is an evergreen tree that has glossy leaves, white flowers and red cones.

USDA Zones: 4-9
Height: 20-30′
Width: 25′
Sun/Shade: Full Sun
Water Requirements: Regular water.
Pruning: Prune for shape after flowering, major pruning in dormant season.




  1. I truly do love the Magnolia, but in what is now Zone 5B, this beauty blooms in the sometimes cruel environment of April in central Iowa. A glorious day in April can quickly be replaced with a blustery day of 30 degrees and driving sleet, which will certainly cut the the beautiful bloom period short. The last I read, we get to enjoy the full beauty of its bloom about one year out of seven, but it is still worth it! As we say in Iowa (and probably the rest of the Midwest, if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour and it will change!:)) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Monique Lallemang

    March 19, 2012 at 5:00 am

    Hi. I have a Magnolia and for the moment he’s not looking so great. He has no leaves coming and nobuts for the flowers, others around are doing this. I noticed that he has some white spots over the trunk. I searched around but have no idea what it really is or wht to do about this and about his sd look…
    Is there any help what I can do for my tree?

    • Hi Monique, where do you live? Also, can you tell me about the weather and how much water the tree has received in the past? (how often, how much, sprinkler water, deep water, etc). If you could also post a photo of the white spots that would help. Sorry to ask so many questions!

  3. We have a tulip tree in the front of our house. Full sun. It is about 10 years old and we are living in Va. We have noticed that in the last couple of weeks the tree is blooming. It has never bloomed at this time of the year before. It is also almost doubled in size this year. About 8′ tall and now has bussed out in all directions. Is this something that we should expect from now on? We love the tree and are trying to make sure that it continues to grow and give us these beautiful blooms.

    • Hi Sue, I apologize for my late reply. I was locked out of my website for a while! I’m trying to become more tech savvy but it’s not my forte! Very strange about the bloom time for your tree. It’s possibly due to changes in weather patterns, and my guess is you might expect the same thing to happen if climate change continues. They are absolutely gorgeous trees and as long as you give them deep water during the dry season should continue to be beautiful. To deep water, place a soaker hose around the base of the three about 2-3 feet away from the trunk and water for several hours each month. As soon as winter rains appear, let nature take over the water unless there is a dry spell.

  4. I just move to Houston Missouri last year in August…..Just last week I have found that i have a glorious Tulip tree….Standing at 10-12 feet only to have about 30 blooms…does it need special care food watering ect ect. Thanks so much Can you contact me via facebook also God Bless

  5. My husband used to live in Crocker, MO and fell in love with one of these trees. We live in north Florida now and we would love to have one, will it live?

  6. I have a beautiful saucer magnolia in my yard in Atlanta, Ga. I have never seen one before. It bloomed last week ( Jan 30, 2017). We had a warm spell recently, but I’m sure the cold is coming again. I hope to enjoy it again.

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