The Q&A Archives: Browning Flowers on Magnolia

Question: I bought a magnolia from our local Home Depot (so I assume they thrive here), though I'm not sure what kind. Every time the blooms look like they are going to open, they turn brown and stay closed until they fall off. What am I doing wrong? How aften/much should I water them?

Answer: Actually, magnolias are not well-suited to our hot, dry climate, alkaline soils and salty water. Bud blast is the drying up and failure of flower buds to open. It's a physiological condition with many possible causes, such as root injury, cold soil, high temperatures, dry conditions during formation, and others. As for watering, always water deeply through the root system, but don't let roots sit in overly wet soil. A layer of organic mulch around the tree (but not touching the trunk) can help maintain consistent soil moisture and moderate soil temperatures. You didn't say where the tree was planted, but protection from hot afternoon sun and drying winds could help. Finally, I'm assuming you chose a magnolia because of the flowers. If this tree doesn't work out, you might want to consider a silk floss tree (Chorisia speciosa) or an anacacho orchid tree (Bauhinia lunariodes). Both have exotic looking flowers but thrive in our growing conditions. Good luck!

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