Answer: The Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' is described as being hardy only to zone 7; a new plant will be more susceptible to winter damage than an established plant would be. Based on your description I would guess that the plant is suffering winter damage, especially if it is in a windy or otherwise exposed location and/or is located in full sun. These plants will do best in a sheltered spot with partial shade and since they are evergreen, are especially sensitive to drying out of the soil during the fall. They need to go into winter well hydrated, and this can be tough if its root system hasn't been fully established. Make sure to keep the soil moist this summer, keep the root zone mulched, and hope for the best. Next winter, wrap the plant with burlap or use antitranspirant spray to prevent the leaves from suffering from the elements. Good luck!
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