Forum home Problem solving

Magnolia Tree - young leaves dying

Hi all,

I was gifted a Magnolia Genie in June 2018. The tree was initially planted in suitable pot and replanted in current position in the ground in October 2018. Not sure of age but tree is 1.8m tall.
Last summer all leaves dried and fell off. Only flower buds remained dormant over winter. Last few weeks young leaves start sprouting and flower buds opening. Unfortunately all leaves are affected by brown discoloration with some of them dying undeveloped. The flower buds have some brown discoloration too.
The magnolia is planted in a spot which receives at least 6hrs of sun and in well drained soil.

Any advice to what’s happening to the tree and how to proceed would be much appreciated.
Many thanks in advance 



  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    edited April 2019
    I don't know where you are, but that looks like typical frost damage.  The same happened to several of my magnolias after last week's frosts.  The damaged leaves and flower will fall off but new ones will grow.  This happens in years when we have an early warm spell of weather which breaks the tree's dormancy, like we experienced in February in the UK this year.  It has also been an extremely dry spring in my location and I'm having to water lots of trees and plants this year which doesn't help.  The fact that all of the leaves fell off last summer means the tree probably didn't get enough water, so is already weak.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • RubytooRubytoo Posts: 1,373
    I don't really know but it looks like it has been caught by frost with the brown ends and the flowers look similarly damaged.
    Early morning sun will do it.

    What is your soil type?
    I think some magnolias are more "fussy" with the ph levels than others.
    Some like a little more acidity, and that could be part of the problem.
    This is shown by yellow leaves like yours has.

    Look up your magnolia type and see if it is listed as needing more acidity. You can buy and use a feed especially for this and see if it helps.
    Also check up on Sequestered Iron which I understand is used as a booster for this problem and also look up Epsom salts.

    There may be several contributing factors, so any question you can answer will help to give more advice.

    Also did you water your plant last year to help it establish, it was dry at times so may have been lack of water contributing.

  • Hi Bob and Rubytoo,

    Firstly many thanks on your prompt response and advices.

    I am based in Essex and this is my first magnolia - actually my first garden to be honest with you. 
    I was under impression that magnolias are resistant to frost so didn’t worry much when frost was forecasted two weeks ago.

    Regarding soil type, haven’t checked it yet but it looks like I will have to do it ASAP if I want to keep my plants healthy.

  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,700
    edited April 2019
    You mentioned leaves dropping off prematurely last year. That will indicate that the young tree has not been watered enough last year, and from your recent photos, the tree is still struggling.

    There is frost damage, but the leaves are tatty and very yellow, so follow Rubytoo's advice on the sequestered iron. You may need to lay more organic matter over the planting area to hold moisture in and continue to water it through the warmer months. Six hours of sun for a young tree like a Magnolia at this time of year means, it will dry out pretty quick. 
  • I am planning to install automatic irrigation system with soaker hose for magnolia tree watering. From your experience how much water a young magnolia tree require?
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,700
    I don't have any experience with automatic irrigation systems, so can't advise, but looking at your tree size and only planted in last year, I recommend you only water them deeply once a week in more warmer weather. Any slow drip watering for shrubs and big plants may encourage shallow roots and encourage them to stay just below the surface. Not ideal in the long-run.

    Example, the next few days we are expecting temperatures around 22C. That is when I would look into watering deeply. 4-5 litres slowly into the base area. Water in the early mornings or evenings to get the best from the watering. That done once a week and a little more frequent if temperatures get much higher. You can ease off if there is rain in between and into the autumn/winter months.

    The more mulch you put down in spring the better it will be for your plant roots. Not only are the roots less stressed, they are able to deal with hotter temperatures and have less weed growth competing with it.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,151
    I also live in dry East Anglia ... during the drought last summer/autumn I was giving a young tree, planted the previous year,  two full buckets of water every other day. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Hi, I'm not sure if you will see this but I'm wondering if your magnolia survived & if so, what did you do?? 
    I'm having a similar problem with mine. I dug it up from 1 area of the garden & kept it in a pot for just short of 2 years. I have re-planted it in Oct (19) & it is now losing all its leaves. They started going yellow & brown & then dropping off. It is almost leave less now. The furry buds are still remaining but do come loose when touched. I have scraped a branch gently & there is still healthy green in the branch but concerned the move has been too much or possibly a problem where I have put it. The soil is clay & I'm wondering whether it is getting root rot. Would I cause more distress if I dug down around the roots, checked them & added a better compost/peat to improve drainage or am I best to leave it over the winter & hope new life comes in spring?? Any tips would be great as I'm quite a new gardener. I had it looking so lovely in the pot as well! It's a similar size to the one described & pictured above.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,009
    That may just be a bit of transplant shock @sutton_ja - and trees are shutting down for winter now, so it would be losing the foliage anyway.
    If the new planting hole was well prepped, and it was planted at the same level as in the pot, it should be ok. I'm also assuming it had been well cared for in the pot.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hi, thanks for responding. It was doing really well in the pot, healthy green leaves & new growth. It was better than it was when I dug it up. We were moving all plants & trees to put a lawn area in as the clay soil was causing quite alot of mud. This & a large hairy dog was causing a lot of mess in the house. I used the end of a bag of compost/peat on this magnolia & I'm wishing I had waited till I had bought fresh now & taken more care. Everything else I have re-planted using grit & fresh compost/peat & so far they are looking ok. I'm kicking myself as after bringing it back to life whilst in the pot I'm worried now I re-planted without enough care. This is why I am wondering whether to dig down & add more fresh healthy compost around the roots. 
Sign In or Register to comment.