Magnolia buds in fall

Yellow Magnolia Leaves: What To Do About A Magnolia Tree With Yellowing Leaves

Magnolias are magnificent trees with early spring flowers and glossy green leaves. If you see your magnolia leaves turning yellow and brown during the growing season, something is wrong. You’ll have to do some troubleshooting to figure out the problem with your tree since there are many causes of yellow magnolia leaves, ranging from natural to nutritional. Read on for some tips on how to figure out why you have yellowing leaves on magnolia.

Reasons for Magnolia Tree with Yellowing Leaves

If you see yellow magnolia leaves on the tree in your backyard, don’t panic. It might not be very serious. In fact, it might be natural. Magnolias shed their old leaves all year – it’s part of their growth cycle, and those older magnolia leaves turn yellow and fall to the ground. Look carefully to determine whether new leaves are growing in to replace those yellow magnolia leaves. If so, you can relax. If not, continue troubleshooting.

Another reason you might have a magnolia tree with yellowing leaves is soil acidity, or lack of it. Magnolias do best when the soil is neutral to slightly acidic. Buy a soil pH tester in the garden store. If your soil is alkaline (with a high pH), you may want to consider a transplant to another location or a soil amendment to raise the acidity.

Poor irrigation is another reason you might have magnolia leaves turning yellow and brown. Too little water can cause drought stress, which results in yellowing leaves on magnolia. Too much water, or soil that doesn’t drain well, can drown the tree roots. This can also cause yellow magnolia leaves.

Yellow magnolia leaves can also be a symptom of sunburn or insufficient light. Evaluate the tree’s placement and figure out if sunlight could be an issue. Generally, the trees prefer a growing site that gets good light.

Sometimes an iron or other nutrient deficiency can result in yellowing leaves on magnolia. Get a thorough nutrient test done on your soil and figure out what the tree lacks. Buy and apply a fertilizer that offers the missing nutrient.

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Search Results for: Magnolia grandiflora | Search the catalog for: Magnolia grandiflora

  • Plant Answer Line Questions: 6
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Magnolia grandiflora, Trees

I was reading an article in the local paper that mentioned Magnolia grandiflora ‘Alta’ and was hoping that you could tell me more about and its hardiness in the Pacific Northwest and what its mature dimensions would be.


Magnolia grandiflora ‘Alta’ is a trademarked Monrovia introduction. According to their website, it is “very slow growing to 20 ft. tall, 9 ft. wide in 10 years.” Since this is a relatively recent introduction, there is not going to be much information about its hardiness in our area until more gardeners have grown it and shared their experiences. The longevity of the species Magnolia grandiflora and its cultivars can only be estimated (between 50-150 years, according to SelecTree.) Trees grown in urban settings are often affected by root disturbance, pollution, and the like, so their lives may be somewhat toward the short end of the expectancy range.

The local website of Great Plant Picks lists two different cultivars of Magnolia grandiflora, which may give you some idea of how well they do in our area. Here is an excerpt:
“Provide southern magnolias with good drainage and full to partial sun. They thrive in hot spots, where the extra heat encourages better flowering. These flowering evergreens prefer well-drained, sandy soil, but they tolerate average garden soil. Best growth and flowering requires occasional summer watering, but once established, southern magnolias withstand considerable drought. Garden gently under magnolias, for they have fleshy roots that can easily be damaged. The best approach for companions plants is to tuck in natural spreaders and let them flourish untouched.”

From my observations, they do not do well in the occasional winters when we have heavy snowfall, as their evergreen leaf-laden branches are prone to breaking under the weight of snow. Otherwise, they seem to survive here.

Date 2019-09-19

Keywords: Trees–Diseases and pests, Magnolia grandiflora

I have a very tall, well-established Magnolia grandiflora. The tree is located on the southeast corner of the lot. Every summer it has produced large white flowers, but last summer that there weren’t as many blooms, almost none. It’s left alone and watered spring through summer by a sprinkler system. I have also noticed yellowing of the leaves at the ends of the branches. Usually the leaves have been dark and green. I’m wondering if it is a lack of nitrogen or food of some sort.

There are a number of reasons that plants may fail to flower, and it would be difficult to pinpoint precisely why the Magnolia made such a weak show this past summer. Sometimes, cold temperatures kill off flower buds (and there were some cold snaps last winter). The tree is not immature, and it sounds as if it is not pruned improperly, so those potential causes can be excluded. You also indicate that it is not fertilized, so it is probably not receiving excessive nitrogen which can lead to lots of leafy growth at the expense of flowers. I wonder if anything else in its environment has changed: has the amount of light changed (any new construction obstructing sun?), or has anything happened to the soil where it is planted? You might wait and see if flowering returns to normal this year.

As for the yellowed leaves, that might be a result of winter injury (desiccation) or drought stress. However, yellow leaves can also be a symptom of sunburn or lack of light, or nutrient deficiency. See the link here to University of California, Davis’s page on Magnolia problems. Excerpt:
Mineral deficiencies: Certain nutrients, in relatively small amounts, are required for healthy plant growth. Deficiencies can cause tip chlorosis or necrosis or cause foliage to discolor, fade, distort, or become spotted, sometimes in a characteristic pattern that can be recognized to identify the cause. Fewer leaves, flowers, and fruit may be produced, and these can develop later than normal and remain undersized. More severely deficient plants become stunted and exhibit dieback. Commercial laboratories can conduct foliage tests or soil analysis to verify deficiencies.
Identification/Solutions: Nitrogen and iron are the only nutrients in which woody landscape plants are commonly deficient. Poor root growth caused by water-logged soil, root diseases, and nematodes can also cause iron deficiency symptoms. Fertilize only as needed and only if other problems have been eliminated as the cause of poor growth. Avoid overfertilization, especially with high-nitrogen fertilizers. Slow-release formulations of nitrogen or organic fertilizers reduce some risk of overfertilization. Correcting deficiencies of minerals is tricky. Apply only the mineral found to be deficient. In some cases, soil characteristics may exacerbate deficiencies. Alkaline soil (high pH) often makes iron or manganese less available; reducing alkalinity with sulfur or organic amendments (peat moss) may be all that is needed. Some minerals such as iron, manganese, and zinc are absorbed more rapidly as a foliar spray than a soil application.

If the environmental causes don’t ring true with your tree’s situation, you may want to do a soil test to see if there are nutrients which need to be supplemented.

Date 2019-11-14

Keywords: Magnolia grandiflora, Tree roots

I recently built a 2-foot tall boulder retaining wall in my front yard. I have a small landscape bed along the top of the wall. I want to plant a small evergreen tree in the landscape bed to provide privacy from a busy intersection at the corner of my property. I’m pretty much settled on a Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem.’ Do you think the roots of this tree will interfere with/knock-down my boulder wall, if the tree is installed in a location where the trunk of the tree is approximately 2 feet behind the wall?

Two feet from the edge does not sound like enough space to me. Although it grows relatively slowly, Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ will reach at least 20 feet, and dislikes root disturbance. From the tree’s point of view, the boulders might be a problem. Below is a link to general information about the tree, from Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute.

The following, from University of Florida Extension, describes the root system of this tree:
“The root system is wider spreading than most other trees, extending from the trunk a distance equal to about four times the canopy width. This makes it very difficult to save existing Magnolia trees on construction sites.”

It is possible your tree might coexist peacefully with the retaining wall, but my recommendation would be to plant it as far away from the wall as you can, and leave the bed at the edge for perennials and small shrubs. Here is general information on the needs of tree roots, from Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Tree Care Primer by Christopher Roddick (2007):
“Out of view, and usually out of mind, roots make up almost a third of a tree’s mass. Trees need a serious amount of underground real estate. Unfettered by subterranean obstacles, their root zones easily spread far beyond the tree’s dripline, the perimeter of the tree’s branches. If roots are curtailed by obstacles that inhibit their spread, the amount of water, nutrients, and oxygen to which they have access will be limited.”

Date 2019-08-07

Keywords: Failure to flower, Magnolia grandiflora, Frost

I have a Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ – I’ve noticed it is not flowering very much any more and when it does produce flower buds, they turn brown and start to die before they have fully bloomed. Can you tell me what causes this and what I can do to keep this from happening. The tree itself seems quite healthy and is growing very well.

There are a number of reasons that plants may fail to flower, and it may be difficult to pinpoint precisely why for your Magnolia grandiflora.

If this is a newly planted Magnolia, it may be too young to flower. Magnolias are somewhat notorious for being slow to flower.

Sometimes, cold temperatures kill off flower buds. This could cause bud browning and failure to flower. Magnolias can be quite sensitive to cold temperatures and to wind, in particular (see the picture of another Magnolia species with frost damaged flowers here). In some cases, frost damage can be severe enough that the flower buds die entirely.

There is a chance that the M. grandiflora’s failure to flower could be related to fertilizers, as well. Making more phosphorus and micronutrients available to the tree, or avoiding adding nitrogen, can help balance this out. Rankin’s book says that a Magnolia which is mulched once or twice a year does not need supplemental fertilizer, and adding it can encourage excessive vegetative growth at the expense of flowers. When there is a high quantity of nitrogen, plants tend to grow leaves rather than flowers. For example, flowering trees planted in lawns that are heavily fertilized with nitrogen may flower much less or not at all.

Finally, M. grandiflora tends to need a fair amount of sun in order to blossom. On one gardening web page, I found an anecdote where the author talks about a M. grandiflora tree they own, half of which is shaded and flowerless, and the other half of which gets sun and flowers profusely. According to Magnolias: A Care Manual by Graham Rankin (Laurel Glen, 1999), any Magnolia planted in heavy shade will flower very weakly at best.

Date 2019-05-23

Keywords: Magnolia grandiflora, Canker (Plant disease), Parrotia, Pruning trees

I have two questions. When is a good time to prune Parrotia persica?
What can I do about a canker on the trunk of a Southern Magnolia?

According to the American Horticultural Society’s Pruning and Training (edited by Christopher Brickell; DK Publishing, 1996), Parrotia persica should not need a great deal of pruning, but if you do prune, it should be from fall to early spring.

If you are growing it as a shrub-like shape, you should not thin or shorten laterals, as this will cause congested growth. If you are growing it in a tree-like form, the trunk can be cleared to about 5 feet, allowing the crown to branch. If needed, you can shorten pendulous tips to give clearance for walking beneath the tree. Once established, this tree should not be pruned. If the tree was a grafted specimen, remove any suckers.

This information from University of Florida discusses Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), and says that cankers may kill branches, but the affected branches may be pruned.
“Canker diseases will kill branches. Cankers on branches can be pruned out. Keep trees healthy with regular fertilization and by watering in dry weather.”
Magnolias by Rosemary Barrett (Firefly Books, 2002) says that “various cankers, such as nectria canker, dieback and trunk decay can all be dealt with by cutting out the dead or diseased wood. Rarely will any of these diseases cause the death of the plant.”

Date 2019-05-18

Keywords: Cold protection of plants, Magnolia grandiflora

We are looking into growing evergreen Magnolias as part of our nursery stock. Do you know what varieties will be the most cold hardy in the Pacific Northwest, and will be able to handle heavy snow the best?

You may have already come across this garden forum discussion on this very topic on GardenWeb.

Great Plant Picks suggests the variety ‘Edith Bogue:’
“The slow growth and controlled size of ‘Edith Bogue’ make it a good choice for courtyard and patio plantings, and its branches have strong resistance to breaking in wet winter snows.”
Their site also claims the variety ‘Victoria’ is resistant to damage from heavy snow.

This article from the Arnold Arboretum mentions Magnolia virginiana ‘Milton,’ also evergreen and supposedly resistant to breakage from snow loads because of its smaller leaves:
“The leaves are smaller in all dimensions than those of M. grandiflora, better suited to dealing with the snow loads that can be the death of the larger species, even for those cultivars that are otherwise quite hardy.”

I looked at several of our books on Magnolias, but snow load doesn’t appear to be a consideration for the authors–perhaps they’ve never walked around the Pacific Northwest after a snowstorm, and seen all the sorry-looking evergreen Magnolias bent and broken in the parking strip gardens! I suspect that even the snow-load damage-resistant varieties are susceptible to a degree. I’ve been observing the ones in my neighborhood. Those with a more upright, narrow structure seem to fare just a little bit better (gravity may make some of the snow fall off the foliage?) than the really wide-branching ones.

Date 2019-09-19

Magnolia Trees Not Flowering

Q: I have a magnolia tree in the backyard that is about 9 years old. It is very tall and seems to be in fair condition but hasn’t bloomed. It is facing the east side and I do use the tree and shrub stakes. We do have water restrictions, but I do use a tree ring for watering. Can you suggest anything? Also, when do you prune Magnolias?

A: Magnolias and other spring blooming trees are usually grafted to ensure that the buyer is getting a particular variety of tree. Grafted trees usually bloom sooner than trees grown from seeds. Is it possible your tree was started as a seedling — as a school project perhaps?

I have a grafted magnolia. The top portion died and the root system sent up a new trunk that took more than 10 years to bloom just a few pathetic flowers. Maybe the original top died on yours as well. When it does bloom, check the flowers to see if they are what you wanted. Mine were supposed to be bright yellow and all I got after a decade of waiting was a dull white flower.

Are the tree stakes you are using designed for flowering trees? The fertilizer in the stakes should not have a high nitrogen level. The first of the three numbers on the package should be half or less of the either of the other two numbers such as a 10:20:20 or 10:20:15. If the first number is higher, the fertilizer is promoting the tall growing trunk and leaves at the expense of promoting flowering. If the wrong fertilizer has been used, switch, but don’t overdo fertilizing.

Keeping the soil around the tree damp during the hottest and driest time of year can help the tree set flower buds. If the tree dries out too much it may not produce flower buds in order to try to stay alive.

Magnolia flower buds are set at the end of the branch in the fall proceeding the spring they will bloom. Any pruning done over the fall or winter will cut off flower buds. The flower buds are usually much larger than the leaf buds, so they should be easy to spot. Prune magnolias in the month or so after they bloom or at that time, if they didn’t bloom.

Many magnolia species have flower buds that are more sensitive to frost or cold snaps than the leaf buds. If the tree has flower buds, but they don’t open, they may have died due to cold. They can also die due to a tiny insect called a thrip. It sucks the sap out of the flower buds, killing them. They are so small they can go unnoticed, unless you look for them. Take any dead or dying flower buds to your local extension office to see if thrips can be diagnosed.

It is sad to cut down a healthy tree. But if you are using the right fertilizer, watering and pruning correctly, and there are no flower buds for frost or insects to damage, then it may be time to start over with a better tree. Check the trees at the nursery for one that already has flower buds or has seedpods visible, so you know that it is of a blooming age.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Magnolia Flower Buds Stock Photos and Images

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  • Purple blooming magnolia flower buds on the branch with young leaves in botanical garden
  • Magnolia ‘Randy’ flower opening in spring. UK
  • purple magnolia buds beauty in nature fine art photography Jane Ann Butler Photography JABP434
  • Germany, Stuttgart, Magnolia flower buds on tree against sky
  • Magnolia flower bud
  • Magnolia Flower Buds Opening in Winter
  • Pink Magnolia flower buds in early spring, England, UK.
  • Magnolia Flower Buds opening in early Spring
  • Magnolia flower buds
  • Several magnolia flower-buds are situated against the blur background. Magnolia flowers are pink.
  • Magnolia Flower Buds
  • Branch with blooming pink magnolia flower buds on natural background
  • Two Magnolia buds.
  • Magnolia flower buds blooming in the spring
  • Magnificent showy beautiful pink and white Magnolia flower buds on a sunny spring day as a sign of spring.
  • Pink magnolia flower buds in the spring sunshine
  • Double magnolia flower buds side by side just prior to full staged spring bloom
  • Purple and white magnolia blossom with buds in early spring
  • magnolia kobus flower buds unopened bare branches early spring attractive furry bud budding
  • White blooming magnolia flower buds on the branch with young leaves in botanical garden
  • Magnolia tree Magnolia grandiflora Magnolia tree in full blossom Magnolia tree buds Magnolia tree flower flowering blue sky UK England
  • emerging magnolia flower buds Jane Ann Butler Photography JABP1660
  • Brunch with blooming white magnolia flower buds. Copy space.
  • Magnolia flower buds are silky fluffy as the sit in the spring sunshine
  • Magnolia Flower Buds Opening in Winter
  • Magnolia flowers and flower buds, bright pink, closeup.
  • Unopened flower buds of Magnolia ‘Apollo’.
  • Magnolia Flower Buds
  • Magnolia stellata, buds and flowers of Star magnolias in the formal garden of Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton, Devon, England.
  • Magnolia Flower Buds
  • Branch with blooming pink magnolia flower buds on natural background
  • Dark necrosis caused by cold damage to the flower bud of Magnolia x soulangeana, Berkshire, April 2018
  • Magnolia flower buds blooming in the spring
  • Huge showy beautiful pink and white Magnolia flower buds on a sunny spring day as a sign of spring.
  • Buds on a Magnolia tree against a blue sky
  • Magnolia x Soulangiana tree flower buds at Oxford Botanical Gardens. Oxfordshire, England
  • Purple and white magnolia blossom with buds in early spring
  • Magnolia stellata frost covered flower buds frosted frosty winter hardy tree RM Floral
  • Purple blooming magnolia flower buds on the branch with young leaves in botanical garden
  • magnolia flower buds isolated on white
  • emerging magnolia flower buds Jane Ann Butler Photography JABP1664
  • Branch of magnolia flower buds in the garden
  • Magnolia buds about to flower in spring churchyard Cambridge England
  • Magnolia Flower Buds Opening in Winter
  • Looking up into the canopy of a large Magnolia tree, filled with bright pink flowers and buds.
  • Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’ flower bud.
  • Magnolia Flower Buds
  • Magnolia stellata, buds and flowers of Star magnolias in the formal garden of Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton, Devon, England, UK.
  • Magnolia Flower Buds
  • Magnolia, spring pink flower branch and buds
  • Dark necrosis caused by cold damage to the flower petals and structure of Magnolia x soulangeana, Berkshire, April 2018
  • Magnolia flower buds blooming in the spring
  • Flowering Magnolia buds in the spring: Springtime purple flower buds on a magnolia tree in front of an arched window.
  • Magnolia ‘Susan’ flower buds
  • Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Crimson stipple’ tree flower and buds in spring. UK
  • magnolia flower on the blur spring greens background
  • White Magnolia Flower
  • Purple blooming magnolia flower buds on the branch with young leaves in botanical garden
  • magnolia flower buds isolated on white
  • Close-up of a beautiful magnolia flower on a garden background
  • Single white with light purple petals Magnolia flower on top of tree branch next to small branch with closed flower buds on green leaves
  • Magnolia in blossom. White magnolia buds. Blurred background. Close-up, soft selective focus
  • Yulan Magnolia Flower Buds Opening in Winter
  • Looking up into the canopy of a large Magnolia tree, filled with bright pink flowers and buds.
  • Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’ flowers.
  • Magnolia Flower Buds
  • a close up of three 3 white with pink centre center Magnolia bloom blossoming on a branch with bud buds, against a clear blue sky, UK
  • Magnolia Flower Bud opening in early Spring
  • magnolia (Magnolia cylindrica), buds
  • Flowers of Magnolia stellata a small white spring flowering ornamental tree
  • Magnolia flower buds blooming in the spring
  • Magnolia denudata Fragrant Cloud / Dan Xin twigs with buds enclosed in a bract against blue sky in late winter / early spring
  • Magnolia campbellii
  • Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Crimson stipple’ tree flower and buds in spring. UK
  • Magnolia UK – a magnolia bud in a UK garden beginning to flower in spring 2018.
  • A magnolia flower
  • Purple blooming magnolia flower buds on the branch with young leaves in botanical garden
  • Magnolia ‘Serene’. Large deep pink flower buds of characeristically late blooming Magnolia ‘Serene’ in an English garden – April, UK
  • Magnolia, pink spring flowers and buds
  • Buds on a well-established Magnolia tree about to burst into flower on a sunny spring day with clear blue skies
  • Magnolia in blossom. White magnolia buds. Blurred background. Close-up, soft selective focus
  • Yulan Magnolia Flower Buds Opening in Winter
  • Looking up into the canopy of a large Magnolia tree, filled with bright pink flowers.
  • Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’ flowers.
  • Magnolia x soulangiana, Soucer magnolia, buds
  • a close up of three 3 white with pink centre center Magnolia bloom blossoming on a branch with bud buds, against a clear blue sky, UK
  • Magnolia bud just bursting into flower
  • Southern Magnolia, Bull Ray, Evergreen Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), flower bud
  • Flowers of Magnolia stellata a small white spring flowering ornamental tree
  • Detail of Blooming Magnolia Flower on the Branch
  • Magnolia pegasus (M. cylindrica x M. denudata) twigs with buds enclosed in a bract against blue sky in late winter / early spring
  • Buds and blossom .
  • Magnolia ‘Ruth’ flower
  • Magnolia UK – a magnolia bud in a UK garden beginning to flower in spring 2018.
  • A magnolia flower and branches against a blue sky
  • Opening Buds of Magnolia
  • Pink Magnolia buds grow in spring
  • In the foreground are the first buds of magnolia, in the background is a garden.
  • Magnolia stellata flower branch and buds isolated against white
  • Magnolia in blossom. White magnolia buds. Blurred background. Close-up, soft selective focus

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Search Results for Magnolia Flower Buds Stock Photos and Images

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DEAR JOAN: For the first time in 40 years, I am awakening to large magnolia bulbs all over the patio. I find up to five each day.

We have the usual assortment of animals visiting us — birds, squirrels, skunks, roof rats. I know skunks don’t climb trees, but is it possibly the roof rats? How do we stop them from destroying our magnolia blossoms?

Cara Hartenbach

Walnut Creek

DEAR CARA: I suppose creatures scurrying over the tree could cause some bud drop, but I don’t think your problem is animal related.

Instead, I think your tree may be reacting to the drought.

Magnolias produce their flower buds in the summer and then they have to survive the fall and winter before opening in May and June. Magnolias are not native to California and are not particularly drought resistant.

They don’t like wet soil, but they do need routine deep watering. Our dry winter might have put stress on the tree, which is showing it by dropping its buds.

Stressed trees also are attractive to insects. Check your tree for scale. If you see a lot of ants in our tree, you likely have scale. The ants actually protect the scale because they like to farm the honeydew that the tiny insects produce.

If your tree shows no other signs of stress — yellowing leaves or dying branches — you’ll probably be OK. Give it a good long drink and then add a lot of compost and mulch around the base, but not too close to the trunk. You want to make sure the tree is healthy in order to produce next year’s buds.

Even though your tree is 40 years old, magnolias can live 80 to 120 years.

DEAR JOAN: This is what works for me to deal with noisy crows.

I have an air horn on my bicycle. Sometimes when I’m riding back and forth on the block, the crows are making an awful racket. It drives me nuts. I toot my air horn once and the crows are quiet for about a minute. Then they start up again and I toot my air horn a second time. They are now quiet for about two minutes. Then they start up again and I toot the air horn once again. The crows fly away.

It works.



DEAR JEANETTE: I guess you could call that a drive-by tooting.

Free pets. Seriously

Tony La Russa’s Aimal Rescue Foundation is trying to empty its Walnut Creek shelter by finding homes for every cat, kitten, dog and puppy there. And it’s doing that by waiving adoption fees throughout June.

“In summer,” says Elena Bicker, ARF’s executive director, “public shelters are overwhelmed with cats and dogs in desperate circumstances with little chance for survival.

“Through the help of generous supporters and volunteers, ARF is able to take these death row pets and give them the second chance at a forever home. The more we send home, the more we can rescue.”

You can view available pets at, or drop by the shelter to view them in person, 2890 Mitchell Drive, Walnut Creek.

All animals are spayed or neutered, microchipped and vaccinated. Standard adoption criteria applies.

Adoption hours are noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and noon to 7 p.m. Fridays.

Contact Joan Morris at [email protected] Follow her at

Closed Magnolia Buds: Reasons For Magnolia Blooms Not Opening

Most gardeners with magnolias can hardly wait for the glorious flowers to fill the tree’s canopy in springtime. When the buds on a magnolia don’t open, it’s very disappointing. What is going on when magnolia buds won’t open? Read on for information about the most likely causes of the issue, plus tips on how to make a magnolia bloom.

About Closed Magnolia Buds

When you see abundant magnolia buds on your tree’s branches, you’ll be hoping for a canopy full of flowers in spring. When those magnolia buds won’t open, the first things to look at are cultural practices, including the amount of sun and irrigation the tree is receiving in its current location.

Magnolia trees need lots of direct sun in order to produce flowers. The more shade your tree gets, the less flowers you will see. Even if you planted it in a clear, sunny site, nearby trees may have grown tall and currently be shading it. If those closed magnolia buds are not getting much sun, you’ve figured out the problem.

Likewise, magnolia trees don’t do well with too much nitrogen fertilizer. If you notice magnolia blooms not opening, check to make sure your trees get enough, but not too much, feeding.

Magnolia buds set in the fall to open in the spring. During their wait, a lot of weather happens that can result in magnolia blooms not opening. If winter weather is wet, the closed magnolia buds can rot.

Cold fall weather can bring frosts earlier than usual, before the buds are prepared for it. This can prevent flowers in spring. If the closed buds are falling from the tree in spring instead of opening, this may well be a sign of damaging spring frosts.

Another possible cause of this problem is an attack by an insect called a thrip. If thrips attack magnolia buds, they won’t open. Check buds for brown trails on petals and apply an appropriate pesticide.

How to Make a Magnolia Bloom

If you are wondering how to make a magnolia bloom, there is no one secret to success. However, selecting a cultivar appropriate for your hardiness zone is essential.

If buds on a magnolia don’t open for several years in a row due to weather, you might want to transplant your tree to a more weather protected area. You can also try using protective covering during frosts of autumn and spring.

If you discover that your tree is in shade, you know why you see magnolia blooms not opening. You need to trim back neighboring trees or move the magnolia to a sunnier location.


There could be any number of causes to the Magnolia bud drop. Below, I have outlined some of the most common causes of this situation:

* This mature tree may not have enough root space any more in the small bed. * The soil in the raised bed may be depleted of nutrients. * Construction damage to roots – injury from digging machinery. * Soil compaction from heavy equipment diminishing soil particle space, therefore limiting oxygen & water retaining qualities and creating a hostile environment for root penetration & growth . * Inadequate watering / drought stress. * Sudden change from wet cool spring to very hot weather conditions. * Magnolia scale – attracted to already stressed trees, check for presence of honeydew & ants.

To help the tree recover from its trauma & stress, I would suggest the following:

* Deep thorough watering now and continuing until freeze up. * Remove any competition from around the base of the tree such as grass, other perennials or weeds. * Topdress with well rotted compost or sheep manure. * Add 1-2 inches of mulch around the base of the tree but not right up against the trunk bark. This will provide moisture retention & weed suppression.

* Any pruning or shaping should be done between mid-summer and early fall. Do not prune in late winter or early spring as cuts will bleed.

* Extra feeding of fertilizer high in potassium (K), low in nitrogen (N) & phosphorus (P) in the fall. This will help with overall plant health. * Spring feeding of a general rose bush fertilizer in the spring such as 5-10-5. * If signs of Scale are detected, a certified arborist or tree care company should be contacted to determine the best course of action.

This tree sounds like it has been put under stress from one or more factors, so it is putting its energy into protecting & healing itself rather than making flowers, hence the aborted buds on the driveway. If it is pampered a bit now, it may be fine but flowers next spring will be sparse. Magnolia trees, if they are cared for well, can live to be 80-120 years old. Good luck.

Magnolia flowers fall apart beautifully

Things fall apart. That is the essence of a plant. I don’t mean the kind of falling apart of decay, but rather, the wonderful falling apart of the regular shedding of plant organs after they have served their given tasks. Bud scales after bud burst in the spring, petals after a flower is pollinated, leaves in the autumn before winter sets in. Although I often find myself aiming to see a flower at its “peak,” just after it has opened, the intricate beauty of a flower persists long after most of the floral parts have fallen away. Such was the case yesterday with the Magnolia ‘Freeman’ specimen (830-75*A – map here) in the Centre Street Beds.

Stripped down to its elemental female parts (left image), after all of the other floral organs have fallen away, the scars still tell the tale of the once fully assembled flower. The precise spirals of scars in the purple region of the floral axis (left image) speak to the dozens and dozens of stamens that recently shed their pollen, abscised, and fell into the embrace of the petal-like organs (upper right), to eventually be scattered by the wind. Below the stamen scars (left image), the large beige scars of the formerly magnificent white tepals (petal-like organs in a magnolia; upper right). And at the top (left image), the coiled and desiccated brown stigmas (parts of the flower that receive pollen) that days ago, sprung from the flower in a Medusa-like head of purple-striped snakes (lower right).

The Freeman magnolia is an interspecific hybrid that resulted from crosses between Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay magnolia) and Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia) at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. The scent is extraordinary. So if you visit this tree, lean into an open flower and inhale. And for a great Arnoldia article on magnolia hybrids, head here.

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