The Q&A Archives: Magnolia Blight?

Question: I have two Magnolias purchased from Kindergardens here in Othello, WA. Both produce flower buds but the bud dries and turns brown before it can open. One is a yellow and one is a star in pink. Help! Is this a fungus or blight of some kind? Is there a cure? Is the garden center responsible for this? I have two others, a white star and red tulip, that bloom profusly and were bought from a different shop. Thank you for any help you can offer.

Answer: It's difficult to diagnose a plant problem long distance, but here are a few things to explore:
Has the Magnolia bloomed in the past? If so, you probably have frost damage from last spring. This is only temporary and new flower buds for next year should be showing.
One other cause could be too much shade. Is it an under story tree or in the open? Do you fertilize? Sometimes using a fertilizer high in nitrogen can cause rapid growth and inhibit flowering. Fertilize in early spring.
Magnolias like acid soil (5.0), so there might be a pH problem. Soil test kits can be found at most garden centers. Sometimes yellow or very dark green leaves can be a sign of a pH imbalance. Insects called Thrips are notorious for attacking Magnolia flower buds. This would only be the case if you had flower buds but they never opened. They can be recognized by the brown trails they leave on flower buds as they eat through the unopened petals.

If the tree has bloomed in the past and the leaves are not too dark, I think the tree is fine and the problem can be fixed. Start with the soil, have it tested for pH, and add amendments as needed. If the soil is too alkaline use a sphagnum peat, and if it is too acidic you probably could use limestone. Hopefully you can do some detective work from what I?ve told you and good luck!!

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