The Q&A Archives: Magnolia Tree

Question: I planted a magnolia tree in Salt Lake City, I'm pretty sure we have clay soil the leaves are turning brown not because it is fall, and I don't think it has a disease. My Question is can magnolia's grow in clay soil or not, and if so is there something I can do to amend the soil? Or what can I do?

Answer: The problem is most likely related to drainage, and perhaps some root damage at planting time. Magnolias prefer a well-drained, humusy soil of a slightly acidic pH (5.5-6.5), and moderate, consistent soil moisture. Their fragile roots are prone to transplant damage so that might be what's showing up on the leaves. Clay soil doesn't drain well and can become compacted, which might make root growth/extension difficult for your tree. But, once it becomes established, it should adapt to the growing conditions. The only drawback to clayey soil is that your tree will grow more slowly than it would if planted in loamy or sandy soil. There's not much you can do to amend/improve the soil now that you've planted your tree but in the spring you can feed it with an acidified fertilizer (such as once manufactured for acid-loving plants like camellias and azaleas). Use in amounts as suggested on the label. Best wishes with your magnolia!

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