St. Augustine campus


'Little Gem' Southern Magnolia

Magnolia grandiflora

This cultivar of Southern Magnolia has a compact, upright growth habit more typical of a multistemmed shrub than a single-trunked tree. It grows at a slow rate to a height of perhaps 30 to 35 feet with an 8 to 12-foot spread and flowers at two or three years old. It is surprising to see a Magnolia flower when it is only three or four feet tall. `Little Gem' Southern Magnolia forms a dense, dark green oval or pyramidal shape, making it suited for screen or hedge planting.

The five to 8-inch-long, leathery, oblong, shiny leaves are shed as new foliage emerges in the spring. The large, slowly-decomposing leaves drop on the sidewalk or patio and are considered by some people to be messy or a nuisance to clean up. The underside of the leaves is covered with a fine, red-brown fuzz which is more prominent on some selections than others. In late spring and sporadically throughout the summer, huge, 8-inch-diameter, waxy, fragrant, white blossoms open to perfume the entire garden. Fuzzy brown cones follow these blooms, ripening in fall and winter to reveal bright red seeds which are used by a variety of wildlife.

Long-used as a striking garden specimen, Southern Magnolia can also serve as a dense screen or windbreak or street tree where there is plenty of soil space for root expansion. Its ease of growth and carefree nature make Southern Magnolia ideal for the low-maintenance landscape. With proper pruning, Southern Magnolia trees can also be used as an interesting espalier. They are tolerant of pruning and can be shaped into a screen or hedge of almost any form. This is a nice Southern Magnolia for residential properties since it stays small, has small leaves and flowers early.

'Little Gem' Southern Magnolia trees were planted in Honor of our Retirees' and their years of Services:
Bonnie Aspinwall, 10 years
Mark Breidenstein, 24 years
Todd Dixon, 6 years
Nell Freeman, 27 years
Yvette Harbison, 18 years
Buster Harvey, 15 years
Sandi Landis, 30 years
Paula Shepherd, 17 years
Tom Stone-Erdman, 30 years
Beryl White-Bing, 6 years

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Southern Magnolia Little Gem
Credit: Ed Gilman

Southern Magnolia 2

Southern Magnolia 3

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Tree Campus information provided with permission of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Publication #ENH-534, one of a series. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. For more information visit the EDIS website at