Chinese Magnolia Tree


Hello, I have had the magnolia tree for 12 years. It had blooms & a lot of green leaves. I’ve noticed in the past two years that my magnolia tree is not thriving some of the branches are dead and not producing as many flowers. It’s situated in the front lawn and has early morning sun for approximately 5 hours then its in shade the rest of the day. The soil is sandy & I water it regularly and I also add mulch at the base of the tree. I’m not sure if it needs pruning, fertilizer or its slowly dying,. Please help me to resolve this issue. I hope I given enough information. Sorry I cannot provide a photo. Thank you. Lee


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master gardeners regarding your Magnolia tree.

Chinese magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) produces beautiful dark pink-light pink saucer shaped blooms in early spring and this hybrid is a cross between Magnolia denudata and Magnolia liliiflora.

In general Magnolias grow best when planted in full sun ( 6hrs) to light shade in rich, well-drained slightly acid soils but  slightly alkaline soils are also suitable for growth. These trees are not fussy when it comes to soil texture. They are adaptable to clay, loam or sandy soils. One of the main features to a magnolia’s demise is wet, poorly drained soils.

According to the University Georgia Extension magnolias only require fertilization during the first three years of growth. Once the tree is established usually by the fourth year the tree should have a well-established root system and should be able to forage for nutrients on its own.

You mention that your soil is sandy which is great for drainage; however, since magnolias prefer a rich soil, my suggestion would be to improve the texture of your soil by adding a couple of inches of compost yearly to the surface of your soil. This will give your tree much needed nutrients and improve the moisture holding potential of your soil. The Toronto Master Gardeners have an extensive Garden Guide on Soil Fertility.

Adding a couple of inches of mulch around the tree will help retain much needed moisture especially during periods of drought plus help with soil erosion and has the added bonus of weed suppression. When adding your mulch ensure that you are 6” away from the trunk of the tree.

Yearly pruning by a certified arborist may be required to keep branches from growing together and limiting air flow within the canopy which can contribute to a higher instance of disease. My suggestion would be to have a certified arborist come in to give you an assessment of your tree. You can find a certified arborist in your area here.

Magnolias are susceptible to a number of diseases especially  magnolia scale. Have you noticed small bumps on the branches of your tree? If so, this could be a sign of magnolia scale. This link from a previous archived post gives you a photo and treatment options.

Lastly, you may be interested in some of our  archived posts on Magnolias trees. Simply type Magnolia into the Find It Here window located to the right of the page.

Good Luck with your Magnolia.

May 6, 2022