sick magnolia

(Question)

i have a 12 year old magnolia that is not blooming at all at present. almost all magnolias are currently in full bloom (May 4/15). last year it had a half bloom and summer leaves were not as full and the whole tree looked unhealthy. our magnolia has white flowers when in bloom (don’t know the technical name). hope someone has some suggestions on how to save her!

(Answer)

From your description of the white flower, my guess is you have a Star Magnolia or Magnolia stellata. According to the Magnolia Society, this magnolia is one of the best known species because it is very cold hardy, widely adaptable and blooms when very small. It is a slow growing tree, ultimately reaching 15 feet tall or more.

Does your tree have the proper growing conditions? Magnolias love full sun. Most grow best in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soils but they will grow in neutral to slightly alkaline soils as well. They are adaptable to clay, loam or sand soils, but do not like poorly drained soils.  Your tree could be stressed from not getting the water it needs to produce healthy buds and leaves.  Giving it a long and low watering, perhaps with a soaker hose, would be recommended.  Magnolias prefer deep watering once a month, rather than frequent shallow watering. If it is a hot, dry summer, you may need to water twice a month depending on your soil type.

All plants, trees and shrubs can benefit from the addition of compost and mulching.  Try adding a well rotted compost around the base of the tree and out to the drip line and a layer of mulch a couple of inches away from the trunk.  This will feed the tree and keep moisture in with the added benefit of suppressing weeds.

Finally, you may wish to have an arborist assess the health of your tree, if you are concerned. You can find a list of arborists in your area on the Landscape Ontario website, see https://landscapeontario.com