‘Little Gem’ is winter hardy to USDA Zone 7. It is not considered reliably winter hardy in the St. Louis area. If grown in St. Louis, it should be sited in a protected location (e.g., southern side of a building) that is sheltered from wind. This small tree may become somewhat deciduous in hard winters. It is best grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. Part shade may be best. It is generally intolerant of soil extremes (dry or wet). It is also intolerant of many urban pollutants. Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ is a cultivar that is reliably winter hardy to USDA Zones 5b and is generally considered to be a much better selection for St. Louis landscapes, although it is much larger in size.
Magnolia grandiflora, commonly called southern magnolia, is a broadleaf evergreen tree that is noted for its attractive dark green leaves (to 10” long) and its large, extremely fragrant flowers (8-12” diameter). It typically grows to 60-80’ tall with a pyramidal to rounded crown. It is native to moist wooded areas in the southeastern United States from North Carolina to Florida and Texas. By contrast, ‘Little Gem’ is a much smaller and slower growing cultivar that typically grows as a compact upright multi-stemmed shrub or small tree to 20’ tall over the first 20 years. It features glossy green leaves (to 5” long) that are bronze-brown underneath. Leaves typically drop to the ground in spring as new foliage emerges. Fragrant white flowers (to 4” diameter) bloom in summer. Flowers give way to spherical, cone-like fruiting clusters that mature in late summer to early fall, releasing individual rose-red coated seeds suspended on slender threads at maturity. Genus name honors Pierre Magnol, French botanist (1638-1715). Specific epithet is from Latin meaning large flowers.
No serious insect or disease problems. Not reliably winter hardy to St. Louis.
Small evergreen flowering tree for USDA Zones 7-9 where it is effective in lawns, near decks/patios, small street tree or in containers. Also may be grown as a screen or hedge. If attempted in St. Louis, it must be grown in a protected location.