Having a small yard doesn't have to stop you from making the magnolia's fragrant pink blooms part of your home's spring landscape. Bush varieties, like Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem,' fit comfortably into smaller landscapes that can't accommodate a full-size magnolia tree. This shrub isn't just for southern gardens, either. Although some varieties prefer the warm climates of USDA zones 7 to 10, others, like star magnolia (Magnolia kobus var. stellata) can grow as far north as Minnesota.
Plant bushes with burlap-covered roots between August and October. Plant container-grown shrubs any time of year. The planting area should receive full sun to light shade and have loose soil with a slightly acidic or neutral pH. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and equal in depth. Set the root ball in so the top is level with the soil and refill the hole with soil.
Apply 3 to 5 inches of acidic mulch, such as pine needles, under the shrub's entire leaf canopy. This holds in moisture and encourages root growth. Keep the mulch about 6 inches away from the trunk to prevent disease.
Fertilize the bush only once it's putting on new growth. In the first year after planting, apply 1 cup of 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 fertilizer around the planting area in March, May and July. The next year, in the same months, sprinkle 2 cups of fertilizer around the shrub starting from the edge of the canopy and ending several feet out. In the third growing season, apply 4 cups to the area from the canopy's edge to 6 feet out.
Water once a week or every other week during dry periods. Water long enough to moisten the soil to about 1 1/2 feet deep. If the bush's leaves wilt between waterings, water more deeply.
Prune the shrub immediately after flowering to remove dead branches and create an aesthetically pleasing shape.