The Q&A Archives: My Alexander Magnolia's new leaves are yellow and tree is small.

Question: History: I purchased a Monrovia Alexander Magnolia tree over a year ago from a local nursery here in Fresno. The tree hasn't grown much at all and the leaves last summer had some yellow with some brown spots and some falling off. I tried not to water too much, but we have had a lot of rain both seasons. I did plant it in a large biodegradable container that takes at least a year to decompose.

Current condition: It has rained a lot this winter/spring. I did mulch top with new balanced garden soil, some fertilizer, and coffee grounds when buds appeared in February.
This spring the blossoms didn't last long at all and started to brown before falling off. The tree's new leaves are somewhat yellow, and some leaves are curling with brown dry edges.
Question? Do you think all the rain is hard on the young tree? Do you think the biodegradable pot is inhibiting the young trees growth and possibly causing some root rot?

Answer: Your magnolia is definitely showing signs of stress. The premature browning of flowers can be a result of winter injury or a fungal disease (especially if it rained while the blossoms were fully open). Yellowing leaves can indicate over- or under-watering and brown edges can indicate salt build-up (over-fertilization). I suspect your magnolia would prefer to be planted directly in the ground where the roots would be protected from winter cold and summer heat and where the moisture level is a little more consistent. Plant it in-ground if possible. If not, replant it in a larger, more substantial container using fresh potting soil. A wooden container which will be thick enough to insulate the roots a bit more than the pressed paper pot that you're currently using.

Best wishes with your magnolia!

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