This miniature magnolia is truly a jewel. If you love the beautiful foliage and huge, sweetly scented blossoms of the Southern magnolia but don’t have room to plant a standard tree or would love to add more magnolias in a smaller space, consider the Little Gem cultivar.
This plant displays all of the characteristics of magnolias that home gardeners have come to love in a compact, multi-trunked shrub. Perfect for potting or for planting outdoors, the Little Gem brings the magic of Southern summer evenings to smaller properties in a short amount of time.
Like its larger cousin, the Little Gem magnolia is an evergreen. The narrow oval leaves are 5 to 6 inches long, dark green and glossy with lightly furred, rust-colored undersides that add visual interest. The Little Gem grows upright at a slow pace, eventually reaching an average height of 14 to 20 feet with a narrow spread. The flowers are miniature replicas of standard magnolia blossoms, 6 inches wide, creamy white and deeply fragrant. Flowers first appear in the second to third year after planting, and in Florida the Little Gem blooms continually throughout the summer and into fall. Removing spent blossoms can stimulate new flowers to appear. The fuzzy cones contain bright red seeds that birds find enticing.
The Little Gem does best in well-drained acidic soils but tolerates other soil types well. Plant in full to partial sun and keep evenly damp without overwatering. Applying mulch around the roots can help retain moisture during dry periods. The Little Gem doesn’t require pruning but tolerates it well and can be trained to grow flat against fences or walls or limbed into a single-trunked tree. Pests rarely bother the Little Gem, and the beetles often spotted among the flowers are its main pollinators and generally not invasive.
Plant the Little Gem in flowerbeds as a backdrop to other blooming plants or cultivate it as a hedge. Its petite stature and slow rate of growth make it perfect for potting. Use it near patios, porches or swimming pools where the sweetly scented blooms can perfume the evening air.