Little Gem Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’) may just be the tree you didn’t know you were looking for. If you’ve spent any time in the South, you’ve most likely seen massive Southern magnolias. At places like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the magnolias are so huge they seem to crowd out the sky. You may have thought “gosh golly gee whizz, I would love those beautiful white flowers and that dark, glossy foliage, but my yard is too small.” I have some good news.
Little Gem Magnolia is a Southern magnolia, BUT it’s a dwarf cultivar. With an eventual mature height of 20 to 25 feet, and a narrow spread of only 10 to 15 feet, it’s like getting a pocket-sized magnolia. Big glossy leaves? Check. Creamy white blooms that make you happy just to look at? Check. Massive growth habit that eats your yard? Heck no buddy!
Little Gem Magnolias can be a little temperamental, so I recommend planting them where they get a little protection from winter winds. Additionally, we have a policy of not planting Little Gems in the fall. Those big leaves cause the tree to lose moisture super fast in the winter, and we find that fall planted Little Gems (and a lot of broadleaf evergreens, actually) will be just a sad pile of dead sticks come spring.
Little Gem Magnolias have a lot of uses. My neighbors planted them as a privacy screen along the road. I’ve seen them espaliered onto trellises (which looks particularly stunning against a brick wall). And, of course, they just serve up the awesome in any landscape.