How to care for a little gem magnolia

Updated February 21, 2017

Little Gem is a dwarf variety of Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora "Little Gem") that grows 30 to 35 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. The erect, yet compact form of the plant gives it the appearance of a multistemmed shrub instead of a tree. Little Gem produces 5- to 6-inch-wide white flowers that bloom during the spring and summer. The slow-growing plant produces a dense growth and is commonly used as a screen or natural hedge in the landscape. Grow the Little Gem magnolia outdoors in U.S. Department of Hardiness zones 7 to 9.

Plant the Little Gem magnolia in well-draining soil with full sunlight to partial shade. After Mix equal amounts of compost, quality topsoil and peat moss and back fill the planting hole with the mixture.

Water the plant immediately after planting. Afterward, provide the plant 1 inch of water every week, unless supplemented by rainfall. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system that provides a steady and controlled amount of water at the base of the plant, as opposed to a garden hose that also wets the foliage.

Feed the Little Gem magnolia tree a well-balanced 20-20-20 fertiliser every spring for the first three years. Follow label directions for application rates according to trunk diameter. Spread fertiliser granules on the soil at the base of the tree, directly above the root zone, and irrigate deeply to release nutrients in the soil. Stop fertilising the tree after three years, by which time it should have become established.

Inspect the Little Gem magnolia leaves, roots and bark for diseases such as leaf spots, verticillium wilt and cankers. Caused by fungal diseases and pests, leaf spots appear as green to yellow spots on patches on leaf surface. Symptoms of verticillium wilt include wilting branches and curling leaves, while circular abrasions on the bark indicate symptoms of canker diseases. Apply a registered fungicide or insecticide to treat leaf spots, prune infected parts of the plant and maintain good cultural practices to treat the diseases.

Prune the tree when it stops flowering, preferably in fall. Use sharp, sterilised pruning shears to clip damaged, diseased and wayward branches from the tree. Also cut selected branches from the tree's interior to improve air circulation. Collect clippings and discard.


Trim the tree to feature a rounded or square top using electrical hedge trimmers.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Topsoil
  • Peat moss
  • Soaker hose
  • 20-20-20 fertiliser
  • Fungicide
  • Insecticide
  • Pruning shears
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About the Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written numerous articles for various online and print sources. She has a Master of Business Administration in marketing but her passion lies in writing.