The Q&A Archives: Maintaining a Magnolia grandiflora

Question: Last year I purchased a magnolia grandiflora about 6' tall and planted it at the same level as in the container. Although it is growing new leaves and several bloom pods, quite a few of the leaves are much yellower in color than normal before they drop. Is there something I need to add to the soil or spray it with to maintain it's health? How does one care for these beautiful trees? Any advice or web-links would be greatly appreciated because I see that out local PBS station does NOT broadcast your program!

Thank you very much,
Sharon Hawks

Answer: These trees normally lose a number of leaves in the spring, they do turn brown or golden and drop. Some years they will drop more than others, it depends somewhat on the growing conditions the previous year. Transplanting would be a stress, as would drought for example. As long as the new growth seems healthy I don't think there is a problem. These trees may continue to drop an occasional leafor two from time to time during the rest of the season as well. These trees do well in an evenly moist yet well drained soil, meaning not sopping wet or soggy. The pH should be slightly acidic which I would expect it to be naturally in your area. An annual top dressing of good quality compost and possibly an application of a complete, granular or slow release fertilizer with an analysis of 10-10-10 or similar proportions should be adequate. Be sure to read and follow the label instructions. For a more detailed fertilizer recommendation you would need to run some basic soil tests and then fertilize as indicated by the test results. Your local county extension should be able to help you with the testing and interpreting the results with an eye on growing a magnolia tree. Enjoy your tree!

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