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Disappointing magnolia cleopatra advice

FfoxgloveFfoxglove UkPosts: 534
Hi everyone, 
Im not sure if I’m just being impatient or a bit fussy but I bought this magnolia from burncoose earlier in the year and it wasn’t cheap: £70. I planted it in my parents garden. 

I was disappointed with the shape when it arrived because it isn’t really branching out but now it doesn’t seem to healthy either. The leaves have blackish brown patches. 
My magnolias Susan and Betty are healthy and fully leaves - what’s wrong with this one? 

Should I write to burncoose because it just doesn’t seem value for money - but maybe I’m wrong! It is about 5ft tall, just extremely skinny! 

Thanks in advance! 


  • UnqualifiedUnqualified Posts: 14
    I bought a Magnolia Cleopatra 2 years ago (a little larger) and have been disappointed with its growth. Mine has a similar branching habit and the leaves on mine look similar at the moment too – I put it down to late frost damage but could be wrong. It’s had damaged looking leaves previously and it’s gone on to grow new leaves and has still flowered in spring. 

    I researched the tree more (after it wasn't growing) and struggled to find any pictures of a mature single stem specimen. I realised I’d bought the wrong tree for the location (as I wanted something much larger) and moved it this winter to an area of the garden where I don’t mind it being small. 

    I’ve possibly been too impatient and they may take a few years to settle in before putting on any significant growth but I’m not sure there’s necessarily anything wrong with yours.  
  • FfoxgloveFfoxglove UkPosts: 534
    Hi @Unqualified thanks for your response. 
    I wanted a liliflora nigra but they had no stock and so I changed for cleopatra... my choice but In my head I wanted it to grow to an attractive tree, with the nice shape of a magnolia.  if it won’t then I’ve chosen poorly 😿
    have you any pictures of yours? 

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,574
    First of all, I would say it looks very dry there and I don't like the look of that teeny stick and those tight ties.  It needs a sturdier stake and proper, flexible tree ties that protect the bark from damage and allow the trunk to expand without being strangled.

     A young tree will need plenty of moisture while it gets its roots established and will spend energy on that before it starts to put on new top growth.   It has been a very dry spring so I'd suggest you water it generously, once a week, giving it 10 to 15 litres, poured slowly so they sink in rather than run off.   Do this all thru its first growing season and especially in any hot, dry spells, think of giving more over summer when it has more leaves and thus greater transpiration.

    It will branch out later as it matures.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • UnqualifiedUnqualified Posts: 14
    I’m sure it will be an attractive tree eventually, I just think it will take some time to get there. 

    I haven’t got any recent photos (with the brown leaves) but here’s one from when it was first planted a couple of years ago. Please excuse the greenhouse door - the holly bush was preventing it from blowing away whilst the door runner was repaired!

    I’ve been consciously watering mine lots his year due to its move in winter, which is why I think the brown leaves on mine are due to frost (plus the leaves initially grew fine in early spring then went brown with a late cold spell).

    The local garden centre that I got mine from actually advised me not to stake it (not sure why and I didn’t question it at the time).

  • FfoxgloveFfoxglove UkPosts: 534
    Hi @Obelixx thank you for replying. 
    I have struggled with the soil in my folks’ garden. I put topsoil down when I cut the border but it’s clay and it just looks so dry all the time. I mulch all the plants... the magnolia in particular and my dad promises that he waters religiously but it still looks like that!!! 

    I had conflicting advice about staking so that’s why it isn’t  staked. I threw away the one it came with 🙄
    do you mean an angled sort of stake as opposed to a bamboo cane? Or a sturdier straight cane? 
    Thank you! 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,574
    If it needs staking it's best done low down with an angled stake so that the wind can blow the crown about a bit whilst the base of the trunk is securely held to stop root rock.  Being blown about a bit will strengthen the trunk but, TBH, the crown on that plant is thin as yet and won't be giving much wind resistance anyway.

    Your dad need to be giving it 15 litres at a time, once or twice a week and poured slowly so it soaks in round the roots and encourages them to go down deep.   
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FfoxgloveFfoxglove UkPosts: 534
    Thank you @Obelixx for the advice and @Unqualified for the picture. I think your tree looks nice so there’s hope yet and I just need to be more patient! 
  • Cambridgerose12Cambridgerose12 Posts: 1,044
    Yes, just be patient... people are rather used to instant gardening but the best fun comes from watching your young’un develop into a tree that towers above you. All that’s wrong with your Cleopatra is the combination of the late frosts nipping the leaves and the fact that it’s still young. While you’re looking at its branches, down in the soil its roots are getting well established and ranging around much more widely than if you’d bought it as a mature specimen. In the long run this will mean a more resilient plant to both wind and drought. This is a slow process. But come back and report in a few years’ time... you’ll be glad you waited!
  • ElferElfer Posts: 329
    Obelixx said:
    ..... so I'd suggest you water it generously, once a week, giving it 10 to 15 litres, "poured slowly so they sink in rather than run off." 

    Just thought I highlight this bit of advice  from @Obelixx in case anyone missed it (and as a note to myself).
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