The Q&A Archives: Magnolia tree problems

Question: Four years ago, we bought our home with a magnolia tree already planted there. It is about 3 ft. tall, but each year, the tree looks sicker and sicker. The branches turn a very black color and the leaves, the few that there are, turn brown and dried-up looking and fall off the tree. The branches have sort of white blotches on them. I have tried various pesticides on it, but even if they seem to work, it is only a temporary stop gap. Not sure if I should cut the tree down or what. At times, I do see large ants on the tree itself. Would appreciate any help that you might be able to give. Would really like to keep the tree--it did bloom (one flower) last year.

Kay Woolbright

Answer: Magnolias suffer few pests and diseases but it sounds as though your tree has developed lots of problems. Pesticides will kill insects but won't help with fungal or bacterial diseases. If you want to try to save the tree, prune away anything with spots, anything off-color, and anything that is dried out and obviously dead. If the roots are healthy, new branches and leaves will grow.

It might be better to simply dig up and dispose of the tree. It may be sickly its entire life. Replace it with a healthy specimen this fall and you'll have flowers next spring.

Best wishes with your tree.

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