Magnolia tree dropping leaves

annweilerSeptember 9, 2007

We have a 15-foot-tall magnolia on the parkway in front of our house. For the past few months, it's been dropping an unusual numbers of leaves.

The leaf-drop has progressed from the lower branches and from the trunk, with leaves turning a spotted yellow before falling. The lower branches are looking pretty dead and bare now. It's been a very rainy summer, but we have fairly sandy and well-draining soil.

Anyone out there have an idea what might be the matter? All theories much appreciated!

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Magnolias are susceptible to both verticillium wilt and pseudomonas. Look images of these diseases up and see if any of the pics look like the symptoms on your plant.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 4:19PM
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I'm afraid verticillium wilt describes it to a T. I appreciate the help!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 8:31AM
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I'm glad i could help, and sorry about the tree.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 7:45PM
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I have a similar magnolia problem, but I just planted mine, and naturally I assume that the planting itself is the problem.

The tree is a Magnolia 'Butterflies' - tree-form, about 9 feet, with a HUGE rootball. I planted it the best I could, with a starter fertilizer. It was hot that day, the rootball was exposed to some sun. Also, some of the rootball broke just a little on the sides, but nothing major. Anyway, this was all last weekend. Now, most leaves are yellow or brown -- not looking good. I've soaked the rootball several times this week, but don't know what else to do.

Is there hope that the tree will settle in? Maybe it's just shocked for a while? This is my hope. It is only
my third tree planting, so I'm somewhat inexperienced here. I'd appreciate any diagnoses and/or suggestions!


    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 10:58PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Dwight, without seeing the tree, I can only suggest that it is suffering from "transplant shock". While you say "I've soaked the rootball several times this week,", how much water have you actually put on it, for how long? You really need to soak the whole root ball well, and it may be that you aren't doing that. If it's been really hot or windy, that's an aditional stressor for the tree, as much as being moved. I would truly soak it for several hours on a slow drip, and then wait and seee what it looks like - you don't want to drown it any more than you want to dry it out.

If you didn't mulch it, I would do so, as widely as you can manage, no more than 4" deep, and no mulch in the 2-3" next to the trunk. Any organic mulch will be fine.

'Butterflies' is a deciduous magnolia, so it would loose its leaves this fall anyway. As long as the cambium layer - just under the bark - is still green, on the branches - scratch lightly at a branch to see - then I wouldn't worry too much. Just don't run out weekly to check, you may scratch off all the bark. Trim off any winter-killed branches come spring.

Keep the roots watered - stick a finger down in the soil to be sure it needs it - the top 2-4" of soil will be dry - don't water on a set schedule. Keep it watered until the ground freezes, and if you get any really warm spells in the winter. Treat it as a newly planted tree, and keep it well watered for the next 2-3 years. Don't feed it now, nor for another year or so, and use a fertilizer rated for trees and shrubs, that lists magnolias.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 6:27PM
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Thanks dibbit,
The cambium layer is green, so I'm ok there. Flower buds, also, look healthy. I'm relieved, but will 'baby' it until winter (and after, I'm sure).
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 8:22AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if its a deciduous mag ... like all the ones i can grow in zone 5 ..... and you had any extended heat waves ... or drought ..... or recent soil disturbance or transplant ....

it might just be early dormancy due to stress ...

in which case.. relax .. its ma nature at work ... closing up shop a little early.. and planning on a good long rest ...

water it deeply ... use a hand trowel to see how water moves through your soil into the root area ... and keep it well watered through about thxgiving [which isnt all that much with cooler days.. and cold nights] ... if your soil is sandy and well drained .. as you claim .. you probably can NOT drown the plant... if it were clay .. i would be careful to let it dry before ground freeze ... plants cant live in cauldrons of ice ... roots need air ...


    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 9:10AM
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Will do, Ken, thanks. I've stopped freaking out!

I do have one more concern I forgot to mention earlier: part of the wire cage is still on the rootball (long story). Should I go back in deep and try to cut it with wire cutters? Of course, I'm concerned about making things worse, e.g. more stress, exposure, etc. Thx.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2007 at 10:06AM
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