Tree Profiles: Saucer Magnolia Cultivars, Part 1

This is the first half of a two part series on saucer magnolia cultivars.


Saucer magnolia is a popular selection for cultivation. Numerous cultivars have been developed, and are available for purchase in nurseries and garden centers across the United States, Europe, and Canada. Saucer magnolia cultivars are differentiated by their growth habit, leaf color, and flower color. The following examines some of the most frequently selected varieties, including ‘Alba Superba’, ‘Alexandrina’, ‘Brozzoni’, ‘Grace McDade’, and ‘Jon Jon’.

‘Alba Superba’: ‘Alba Superba’ magnolia, also referred to as ‘Superba’ or ‘Alba’, is one of the oldest, and most popular cultivars of saucer magnolia. It has a dense, upright growth habit, and develops at a medium rate, reaching heights of 20 to 30 feet, with a 15 to 20 foot spread. Large, fragrant blooms open in spring, creating a striking floral display. The flowers are goblet-shaped, and flushed with purple-red. When young, the flowers may be collected, and pickled. Once pickled, they may be consumed as a treat, or used as an ingredient in salads. Due to its relatively compact stature, ‘Alba Superba’ is often selected for planting in garden settings. Dark green foliage turns greenish-yellow in fall.

‘Alexandrina’: ‘Alexandrina’ magnolia was first cultivated in France around 1831. It is a small tree, or broad spreading shrub that reaches 20 to 30 feet tall, with a 20 to 30 foot spread. Depending on the geographic location, purple-pink flowers with white interiors emerge in late winter or early spring. The flowers produced by ‘Alexandrina’ are some of the most vibrant of all magnolia plants. ‘Alexandrina’ seldom produces fruit. Large medium green leaves appear in spring. Leaves are oblong, and measure 4 to 8 inches long. Foliage turns greenish-yellow in fall.

‘Brozzoni’: ‘Brozzoni’ magnolia, also referred to as ‘Brozzonii’ , is one of the oldest cultivars of saucer magnolia in circulation. It has a dense, upright growth habit, and reaches heights of 20 ro 30 feet, with a 20 to 30 foot spread. ‘Brozzoni’ blooms up to two weeks later than the parent species. It produces rose-purple flowers that have a white interior. The flowers measure up to ten inches in width. Dark green foliage emerges in spring. The leaves turn greenish-yellow in fall.

‘Grace McDade’: ‘Grace McDade’ magnolia is a multi-stemmed tree. It develops at a medium rate, reaching 20 ro 30 feet tall, and 25 to 30 feet wide. In spring, large, fragrant blooms emerge. These white goblet-shaped flowers are tinged pink, with purple centers. Large pointed leaves appear shortly thereafter. The leaves are initially dark green, but deepen to bronze in fall.

‘Jon Jon’: ‘Jon Jon’ magnolia is a vigorous, deciduous tree. It has a medium growth rate, reaching heights of 25 to 30 feet, with a spread of 20 to 30 feet. When mature, ‘Jon Jon’ has an upright to rounded form. ‘Jon Jon’ produces flowers later than the parent species, enabling it to avoid frost damage to the blooms. Large, fuzzy flower buds develop into goblet-shaped flowers. The flowers are white, with a purple blush. They measure up to twelve inches in diameter. Medium green leaves emerge in spring. They range six to eight inches in length. Some leaves turn yellow before being shed in fall.