The Q&A Archives: Transplanting a young Columbus Magnolia

Question: I recently purchased a Columbus Magnolia and transplanted the tree into a large pot. The tree seems to be having a lot of trouble continuing to grow, the leaves have been turning brown and dropping off. I used a mix of potting soil and planting mix. Whenever I water the tree, the new soil stays moist, but the root ball dries out and it doesn't appear as if the roots are growing into the new soil. What am I doing wrong and how can I encourage the tree to take root?

Answer: If the soil is not becoming uniformly wet, some of the roots will die. You may need to unpot the magnolia, thoroughly wet the potting soil (soak it completely and then allow it to drain until it is moist but not soggy wet), then gently pull the rootmass apart (without severing too many roots), and repot the tree. While the potting soil is draining you can loosen the rootmass with your fingers or with water from the hose. Spread the roots out in a natural fashion and then set them into a planting hole that you've made in the potting soil. Fill in around the roots with moist potting soil, then water the tree in well to help settle the potting soil. This technique should help your tree's roots become well established. Best wishes with your magnolia.

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