Dwarf Southern Magnolia

By Richard Flowers, ACCNP-Green Thumb Nursery-Ventura

Looking up through the canopy I see the helical distribution of branches. Between the thick foliated stems I observe patches of blue sky. Attached to these branches and stems are what appears to be almost like thick plastic; russeted underneath with a “felty” feeling, dark green above giving them a two-tone coloration, and appear to be fake. But these large, leathery, glossy, oval to rounded leaves are alive, real, and are attached to a tree that has limbs spanning 30 foot long. It towers 20 feet over a 2 story house and during the summer, large white perfume scented flowers graces the Southern Magnolia tree.This grand tree gives the large yard and big house character, charm and, an old fashioned southern feel. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the best of both worlds; a rustic feeling but with a  much smaller stature tree to occupy a limited space? Your wishes have come true, welcome Dwarf Southern Magnolia!

Botanically known as Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ or otherwise known as Dwarf Southern Magnolia. Some people refer to it as Magnolia Little Gem. Dwarf Southern Magnolia provides you with smaller dark green leaves and a compact, round, narrow, and pyramidical form. This Magnolia has white, fragrant blossoms that appear from late spring through summer that is followed by decorative, large (1.50 – 3.00”) prolific, purple or red follicles (inedible fruit) in Summer or Fall. This species is naturally a small tree that is perfect for small gardens.What I like about this tree is that it puts on its glorious floral display at a younger age than many other Magnolias. Dwarf Southern Magnolia is a smaller growing form that grows slowly to 20 to 25 ft. tall and 10 to 15 ft. wide.

In the landscape try using Dwarf Southern Magnolia as a captivating espalier against a wall or fence. This species can be used as a fire-wise plant and is ideal for privacy. Because Dwarf Southern Magnolia likes regular water, it would thrive in a very wet area as long as the soil drains well. If you are looking for an easy care, long lived small tree that provides you with year-round interest that attracts birds bees, and butterflies, then this is the plant for you.This Dwarf Magnolia is perfect to separate city homes, townhouses, condominiums, and block unattractive views on narrow lots without crowding them. The big leaves are useful to help absorb sound. I find it effective and pleasing paring Dwarf Southern Magnolia with Camellia, Azalea, Gardenias, Pittosporum (Mock Orange), Indian Hawthorn, Hydrangea, and Viburnum ‘Spring Bouquet’. This selection would also look outstanding and even smaller in a large decorative pot.

Dwarf Southern Magnolia requires full sun and moderate to regular water. It is best to water deeply, regularly, and more frequently in extreme heat. This selection tolerates both clay and sandy soils, heat, cold, and thrives in interior valleys and coastal areas.It will even tolerate brief periods of drought. For this species to do best, it is wise to  provide deep, nutrient-rich, acidic soil. Because it has shallow roots, it is best to minimize foot traffic over the root zone area and to provide a healthy layer of mulch under the canopy but not touching the trunk to help keep the roots shaded, cool, and to help conserve water loss though evaporation. When feeding, do so in early spring with an acid based fertilizer before new growth emerges. In our soils, it is common to experience chlorosis (yellowing leaves between the veins). To help remedy this condition, use iron chelates and a slow release acidic fertilizer. One caveat is the litter issue of flowers, dry fruit, and leaves, other than that it is an attractive addition to your landscape.

We carry Dwarf Southern Magnolia as well as a wide variety of trees for smaller spaces, please call your favorite Green Thumb Nursery for exact availability.

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