The Q&A Archives: magnolia little gem

Question: My sister gave me a magnolia tree she bought in FL. I left it on our deck and I think it got some frost damage. The leaves on the top are turning brown. Do I need to worry or what should I do? Also can I plant it now or should I wait till spring? It's been in the upper 20's over night. Thank you.

Answer: Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' is hardy to zone 7 and your zip code places you in the warmer part of zone 7 or 7B. So the tree should be able to withstand your winter weather easily, however if it was just brought up from Florida it may not have been acclimated to the season changing and would not have been hardened off (ie slowed its growth and undergone internal seasonal changes) in preparation for the cold weather you are having. So the black tips could certainly be cold damage or a combination of cold, wind and possibly dry soil as well as oscillating soil temperatures. A deck is really not a good place to leave it because it will not have the insulation around the roots that it would have if planted in the ground. At this point, if you have a sheltered location out of the wind that is cool and bright, that would be the best place to keep it until spring. It should be cool, say between 35 and 45 degrees. Water as needed to keep the soil from going bone dry. In the spring as soon as the weather moderates, plant it. Alternatively, plant it now but provide a wind break of burlap fence around it and apply a generous layer of mulch over the roots. Make sure to keep the soil moist (damp like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet) at any time it is not frozen. You may find that it defoliates over the winter, but hopefully it will survive. Good luck wiht your tree!

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