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My magnolia looks like it is dying - help!

I have two magnolia trees (not quite sure of the variety but can look it up if it's important) and to me, one looks like it is dying.  The leaves are all curling up at the edges, going brown and eventually falling off the tree.  I've attached some pictures, the first two are of the same tree, which doesn't look particularly healthy, whilst the third picture is of the other tree, which seems healthy enough (albeit, it has provided dinner for someone by the looks of it).

Both trees get exactly the same treatment, with a good soaking at least once a week (a full watering can each) and a feed at the same time with some general liquid fertiliser.  Last year, this tree seemed really healthy and had the biggest leaves on it I'd ever seen but now it looks sick.  Please help!


  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,963
    Hello Jonathan,  I would suggest you stop feeding your trees (they don't need it every week) and increase the watering to 2 water cans full per tree twice a week in this very hot weather. I can't see from the photos whether they are in pots or planted in the ground?  You may wish to look up the varieties and check on the height and spread to make sure they've got ample space where they are, some magnolias are huge! 
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • Hi Lizzie,

    Many thanks for your reply.  The variety is Magnolia 'Sunrise' which then reveals another surprise as I think the flowers are supposed to be cream with red stripes, however the flowers on this one are white!  Is that a sign of another problem?  They were described as being perfect for being grown in pots when I bought them and I've got them in what I would consider to be a fairly big pot (41 litres from memory).

    I will cut back on the feed and increase the water, although the leaves being yellow when the buds opened was the reason I started feeding originally as I thought they might be low on nutrients?  Are magnolias susceptible to disease?
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    Hi @Jonathan Craig Magnolias are generally pest and disease free, apart from sometimes getting aphids feeding on the young leaves.  The young leaves are often yellow before they unfurl and get greener as they age, so that was probably nothing to worry about.  I agree with @Lizzie27 and suggest that much more water is needed.  I would first use 4 or 5 canfuls to flush out any excess food which may have concentrated in the soil; The leaves on your tree do seem to show signs of both nutrient deficiency (which is, somewhat perversely, more often caused by over-feeding than underfeeding) and drought.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Hi, I also bought the two sunrise magnolias last year ( very cheap late bare roots) 
    Only one of them has flowered this year but it was definitely not the sunrise, it's white and pink! Who knows what the other one is. It also flowered about two months ago and is now flowering again.  Its lovely anyway. 
    Did you plant yours with a mix of ericaceous soil? They apparently like a partly acidic soil so I did half regular, half ericaceous mix. It might also be worth clearing a patch of soil around the base of the trees. 
    Mine are in pots so different to yours but I'm needing to water them every day in this heat at the moment although that will be different for yours I'd imagine in the ground. 
  • Thanks all, I've added another watering can to them today although the soil seemed moist enough and most of it ran out the bottom of the pots.  However, I'll keep on doing that daily and see of there is any improvement.

    I planted them in regular compost, could that be an issue?  Do I need to do something to make it more acidic?
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,963
    I'm not certain of the soil type @Jonathan Craig, perhaps others can advise. I have a Magnolia Stellata planted in the ground about 15 years ago by a previous owner and we have clay soil over limestone here, it looks healthy enough and flowers beautifully.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    If you mean multi-purpose compost then that isn't suitable - look for a John Innes #3 which is a soil-based compost designed for long term plantings and won't run out of food in 6 weeks as MPCs do.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Liz.S.Liz.S. Posts: 55
    There is too much competition from everything else in the pots clear stuff out.
    "Life returns. Life prevails. Resistance is futile" Rusty the dalek
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353
    The reason the water's running out the bottom is because the compost's dry. You need to soak them by putting them in another container, and then allow them to draw the water back up, until they're properly dampened. Then water every other day at least.  A canful once a week is nothing in this weather. Bucket of water at a time.
    Whatever else the problems are, having them right up against a wall isn't doing them any favours. They don't have any access to rain to help them, so they're totally reliant on you for water. 
    There seems to be a lot of other planting/weeds round the base too. All competition for moisture. 
    The soil needs to be right, as @BobTheGardener says. Compost alone is no use.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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