I have 5 little gem magnolias that were approximately 10 feet high when they were planted two years ago Each year, they get a little more barren inside the branches. The tips of the branches are leafy and full, but one can see the bare branches and the trunk of the trees because after shedding their leaves, they aren't growing any inner branches or leaves. Is there any solution? I live in Indiana, and we had a terrible draught this summer. I saw to it they had plenty of water. I fertilized last fall and this spring with Hollytone following the directions on the package.
This summer the trees bloomed beautifully and put on new leaves on the tips but none in the center of the trees. Now some of the leaves are yellowing and falling. I'm concerned that the trees will look skeletons before long.
I'd say they went through a drought and lost the inside leaves in the past. You can tip prune them and get them to bush out a bit. If I were you, I'd build little soil moats around the drip-line of the trees so that when you water, the water goes into the root zone properly. You may have purchased them as root-bound and the water wasn't getting into the centre of the roots.
I'd offer that mtvernon34 go visit the local zoo. You have a horticultural bonanza there at the Mesker Park Zoo, and a chief horticulturist that knows no bounds. Observe how the Southern Magnolia specimens there are grown, and imitate that performance.
You should know that broadleaf evergreens keep their leaves only for a set amount of time, and each species drops an older year's worth of leaves EACH YEAR. Those would be interior leaves. Southern Magnolias (as a rule) do not regrow leaves on old wood (interior to the tree). You would have to shear the plants (like the production nursery would have, to produce unnaturally dense plants) to force dormant bud break on older branches. You probably would not like what that looks like.
You need to see what older mature Little Gem Southern Magnolia trees look like, and then you'll have an idea of what to expect yours to grow into.