Southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) are grand trees in full bloom, but mature specimens top out at 60 to 80 feet tall, and can overwhelm a small yard. The cultivar "Little Gem" (Magnolia grandiflora "Little Gem") can give you the same classic evergreen leaves and fragrant white blossoms at about one-third the size in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. Though the plant starts flowering at about 3 feet tall and has a longer flowering period each year than most magnolias, it has a tendency to get leggy without pruning each spring.
1 Clean the blades of your pruning tools with household antiseptic cleaner to decrease the potential of transferring disease or fungus from the last plant pruned. Dry the blades with a paper towel.
2 Cut back any dead or broken branches, and any branch tips and buds in late spring after all danger of frost has passed. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle 1/4 inch above a leaf, leaf bud or side branch.
3 Trim one-half the length of approximately one-third of the stems coming off the main trunk in early summer after the first flush of bloom. This encourages more branching for a fuller plant.
4 Clip off seed pods when flowers fade to encourage even more new growth.
Items you will need
- Bypass pruners
- Household antiseptic cleaner
- Paper towels
- Use pruners for branches up to 3/4 inch in diameter and loppers for branches from 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
- Magnolias are considered safe for planting in areas where kids and pets play.
- Handle and store pruning equipment with care.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Magnolia Grandiflora "Little Gem"
- Calloways: Ask the Plantmaster - How Can I Force More Branches to Grow to Make My Little Gem Magnolia Trees Fuller?
- National Garden Association: Pruning Little Gem Magnolia
- Peter Fudge Gardens: Evergreen Magnolia Hedge
- Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs; Michael Dirr
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County: Pruning Tools - The Basics
- California Poison Control: Know Your Plants
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images