The Little Gem Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem') is a variety of the Southern Magnolia that is smaller and more compact. It has an upright shrubby form, rather than a tree form. It grows 20 to 30 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The showy fragrant flowers of the Little Gem Magnolia are creamy white and measure 3 to 5 inches across. They appear in the spring and sporadically throughout warm weather. The Little Gem Magnolia is a slow-growing evergreen tree and needs little pruning.
Use lopping shears to cut limbs that measure ½ to 1 inch in diameter. Use a bow saw or pruning saw to cut larger limbs. Saw off large branches just outside of the branch collar, a region of raised bark at the base of the branch.
Prune out crossed or bent limbs with the lopping shears or saw.
Remove dead, damaged and diseased limbs and branches with the lopping shears or saw.
Trim wayward branches or limbs that spoil the shape of the tree with lopping shears.
Little Gem Magnolias can be easily trimmed and trained as espaliers or trimmed as hedges.
If a Little Gem Magnolia needs major pruning, or the area that needs pruning is extremely high, contact a certified arborist for assistance. Consult the local Yellow Pages or call your local county extension office for contact information for certified arborists.
Little Gem magnolias, which reach up to 20 feet in height and grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, require full to partial sunlight. If a tree is not getting enough sunlight, its leaves may fall off. Magnolia trees are drought-tolerant, so lack of water is not a likely cause of leaf drop.
Magnolia trees are susceptible to leaf spot disease, which is caused by a parasitic alga. Leaf spot begins as a round and fuzzy colony on the leaf's surface, but the spots turn gray and the leaves die and fall off.
Leaf spot most often affects weak magnolia trees, so trees that are properly watered and fertilized will be less susceptible. The application of a copper hydroxide fungicide every two weeks during wet and cool weather may prevent the disease.