The Q&A Archives: The Difference between Saucer and Star Magnolias

Question: I recently bought a "saucer magnolia"; it is not growing from a central trunk but numerous little trunks. How can I accurately determine whether this magnolia is a true saucer or a stellata (star) magnolia?

Answer: There are many "true" magnolias, including both Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) and Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata). Both of these magnolias can be multi-stemmed, looking more shrub-like. Saucer magnolia will ultimately reach about 25 feet tall, while Star magnolia will reach only about 15'. The leaves of both are similar, with Saucer's slightly larger and coarser. The flowers are dramatically different. Star magnolia's white flowers are smaller and many-petaled, as many as 18. The saucer magnolia's flowers are much larger, 5 to 10" in diameter, with half as many petals as the star magnolia. The flowers of Saucer can be pink to purplish as well as creamy-white.

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