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Magnolia x soulangiana 'Cupcake' 'Cupcake' Saucer Magnolia

Edward F. Gilman


Young Japanese or saucer magnolia are distinctly upright, becoming more oval, then round, by 10 years of age (Fig. 1). Blooms open in late winter in the southern part of its range to early spring in the northern part of its range before the leaves emerge. Flowers are large, shaded in light pink on the outside of the petals and white on the inside, creating a spectacular flower display. The flower buds may look their best just before they open. A tree at this stage full of opening blooms looks like it is filled with lighted candles. However, a late frost can often ruin the flowers in all areas where it is grown. In warmer climates, the late-flowering selections avoid frost damage but some are less showy than the early-flowered forms, which blossom when little else is in flower.
Figure 1. 'Cupcake' saucer magnolia
Figure 1.  'Cupcake' saucer magnolia


General Information

Scientific name: Magnolia x soulangiana 'Cupcake'
Pronunciation: mag-NO-lee-uh x soo-lan-jee-AY-nuh
Common name(s): 'Cupcake' saucer magnolia
Family: Magnoliaceae
Plant type: shrub
USDA hardiness zones: 5 through 9A (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 7: year round
Planting month for zone 8: year round
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: near a deck or patio; container or above-ground planter; espalier
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant
Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.



Height: 20 to 25 feet
Spread: 15 to 25 feet
Plant habit: upright; round
Plant density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: undulate
Leaf shape: obovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Fall characteristic: showy


Flower color: pink
Flower characteristic: spring flowering; winter flowering
Figure 3. Flower of 'Cupcake' saucer magnolia
Figure 3.  Flower of 'Cupcake' saucer magnolia



Fruit shape: irregular
Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches
Fruit cover: dry or hard
Fruit color: red
Fruit characteristic: rarely fruits

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: no thorns; typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: brown
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic;
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

The tree is best used as a specimen in a sunny spot where it can develop a symmetrical crown. It develops an open canopy but flowers fine in a partially shaded spot. It can be pruned up if planted close to a walk or patio to allow for pedestrian clearance but probably looks its best when branches are left to droop to the ground. The light gray bark shows off nicely, particularly during the winter when the tree is bare.
Transplant in the spring, just before growth begins, and use balled and burlapped or containerized plants. Pruning wounds may not close well, so train plants early in their life to develop the desired form and to avoid large pruning wounds.

Pests and Diseases

It is generally pest free, but scales of various types may infest twigs and foliage. Magnolia may be subject to leaf spots. Canker diseases will kill entire branches.

Publication #FPS-369

Date: 8/18/2015


    • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
    Organism ID

    About this Publication

    This document is FPS-369, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

    About the Authors

    Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville 32611.


    • Gail Hansen de Chapman