Why Is My Magnolia Tree Dying?

Figuring out what is causing the plants in your garden to die can feel stressful. Do you have a sickly magnolia tree that doesn't seem to get better, whatever you try?

Why is your magnolia tree dying? Well, we've researched this question extensively and have the answers below. Let's check them out.

If a magnolia tree begins to die, this could be for a few reasons. Usually, magnolia will die if there is too much or too little water in its root system.

Additionally, magnolia trees will look like they're dying if the winds have been high, which is a less severe case.

Regardless, you must act quickly if you notice anything unusual happening to your tree.

As we begin, we will cover all things magnolia trees and discuss why they will start to die. Whether this is your first time experiencing issues or you regularly struggle with your tree, we're here to help. With that said, let's dive right into this topic!

What Causes A Magnolia Tree To Die?

Generally, a dying magnolia tree is because of the ground conditions and moisture levels around it. If your tree gets too much water and can't drain it, this can cause death.

Considering this tree species prefers moderate watering, overdoing it can lead to severe problems. For example, when a magnolia tree becomes waterlogged, it will begin to discolor and die.

Backlit white magnolia in spring at sunset

If the soil your tree is in can't drain this water fast enough, you will likely lose your tree forever. Furthermore, if you don't water a magnolia tree at all, this will also cause it to die.

The common theme here is water, so be extra careful with your routine. You must monitor the ground conditions surrounding your magnolia to avoid waterlogging and root rot.

As mentioned above, high winds can also burn a magnolia, so if your tree seems adequately watered, this may not be as serious.

Typically, extremely windy weather can cause the leaves to fall from your magnolia and turn them brown. If that happens, your tree is not in critical danger but needs time to heal.

Can You Save A Dying Magnolia Tree?

Magnolias blooming in a dying tree

Yes, if you work quickly, you should be able to save a dying magnolia tree. In general, a dying magnolia can be blamed on its watering.

Therefore, you need to assess whether your tree is over or underwatered. Next, it's essential to either give your magnolia a thorough watering or work to improve the drainage in its soil.

If your tree's base feels soggy, too much moisture is present. In that case, we recommend letting your magnolia dry out for 1-2 weeks before watering it again.

You may also want to amend the soil around your tree. Begin by assessing your soil's specific needs, whether it's sandy, compacted, clayey, acidic, alkaline, or in need of nutrients, via a comprehensive soil test.

Select the proper soil amendment accordingly:

  • For Clay Soil: Use coarse sand, compost, organic matter, or gypsum to improve drainage.
  • Sandy Soils: Enhance water retention with compost or organic matter.
  • Adjust pH: Lime for acidic soil, sulfur or peat moss for alkaline soil.
  • Address Nutrient Deficiency: Use specific fertilizers based on soil test results.

Gravel and sand enhance drainage but do not provide nutrients. Always use them with organic matter and avoid mixing sand with clay, which can create a dense soil structure. Aim for balanced soil amendments to support healthy tree growth.

Magnolias are pretty hardy, so if one becomes sick, it can usually bounce back.

For anyone with a severely underwatered tree, make sure not to drench it all at once. Instead, it's better to ease your tree into health by watering it every few days with an inch or so of water.

The worst thing to do, whether your tree is drowning or thirsty, is to shock it.

What Does A Dying Magnolia Tree Look Like?

Magnolia tree (Magnolioideae) are now dying after being exposed to cold and frost

If you suspect something is wrong with your magnolia tree, there are some signs to watch out for. Typically, a sick or dying magnolia will lose more leaves than usual.

Additionally, the foliage on your tree will turn colors, starting with yellow and then eventually brown, before falling off.

Your tree may also have brittle wood, cracks on the trunk, and areas of decay, so there are many tell-tale signs here. A sick magnolia will generally start with discoloring leaves and then move on to the more severe symptoms.

If entire sections of your tree die, this is when it may be too late to save it. You can try removing these dead sections to preserve your magnolia's energy, but this can be hit or miss.

Sometimes, a magnolia will get sick and die naturally, so you can't always keep one alive forever.

Can Magnolia Trees Get Diseases?

Blooming magnolia bush

For the most part, no, magnolia trees won't contract serious or life-threatening diseases. However, that's not to say this is impossible, so don't count it out entirely.

Generally, these diseases will affect a magnolia tree:

  • Crown gall
  • Leaf spot disease
  • Powdery mildew
  • Wetwood/slime flux
  • Wood decay

Of course, many of these diseases can be treated with the help of a professional, so if you can't figure out your magnolia's cause of illness, reach out to an expert.

On top of these common diseases, magnolia can also contract fungi. These include Septoria, Phyllosticta, and Coniothyrium. Again, it's not usually as prevalent for this to happen, so check for over or underwatering before diving into tree diseases.

How Much Water Should I Give A Magnolia Tree?

White star magnolia in the garden

Watering makes a massive difference for those wanting to keep their magnolia as healthy as possible. Ideally, you should give a magnolia tree water every week during the first two growing seasons and every two weeks after.

Of course, these amounts can vary depending on your tree's soil and the environment it is growing in. For example, someone in the desert growing a magnolia may have to give it more water than someone in Florida or the coast of California.

Also, magnolias in sandier soils require more frequent watering, so that's something to remember. On the other hand, magnolias in clay soil won't need as frequent watering but fewer deep sessions.

That said, your tree shouldn't need more than an inch per watering. Considering this tree species is prone to root rot and water-related death, using less moisture is better than more.

However, some magnolias in hotter, drier climates will need more water and higher amounts, so environmental impacts play a significant role here.

Again, this all comes down to where you live.

Are Magnolias Drought-Tolerant?

Surprisingly, more established magnolia trees are somewhat drought-tolerant. On the other hand, younger, less mature trees won't respond well to a lack of moisture.

In general, this tree species prefers more moderate watering schedules. So that doesn't make them super needy, to begin with, which is why many desert gardeners enjoy growing them.

Furthermore, the amount of water a magnolia tree needs can depend on how much sun it gets. A tree in the full sun will require more frequent watering, while one in partial shade may be better during drought.

If you are trying to save more water, you can always add mulch or compost around the base of your magnolia, which should help it retain more moisture through the summer months.

How Much Sun Should A Magnolia Tree Get?

Most gardening experts recommend giving a magnolia at least six hours of sunlight daily. Considering this tree species doesn't like wet or soggy soil, the more sun one gets, the less chance of it drowning.

In addition, you want to make sure you choose a magnolia variety that can handle the sun (or lack thereof) your garden experiences.

As mentioned earlier, magnolias will need varying amounts of sun exposure depending on the climate. For example, a tree in Arizona may not need six hours of complete contact, but instead 3-4 and partial shade.

On the other hand, a magnolia in Washington may require closer to eight hours of direct sun, with little to no shade. Knowing exactly how much sunlight your tree will get can be challenging, so check various locations around your property before making the final decision.

Furthermore, if the sun isn't shining into your yard for six-plus hours daily, you might want to consider reducing the amount of water you give your magnolia.

Remember, too much moisture and too little sun can kill this species.

Can A Magnolia Survive In Full Shade?

In general, it's not realistic to expect a magnolia to grow in full shade. As we covered, these trees require a bit of sun to grow and be healthy, so not having any is unfavorable.

Even if you live somewhere dry and hot, the sun benefits a growing magnolia tree. Most importantly, your tree's soil won't dry correctly without direct contact with the sun.

You also want to consider that diseases and fungi thrive in damp, wet environments, which means a fully shaded magnolia is more likely to get sick.

Again, finding the "perfect" spot to grow a tree is not always easy, so as long as there is some sun each day, your tree should be fine.

You may even need to transplant your magnolia if it starts to die in the shade, so don't feel like you are out of options if the time comes.

To Wrap Things Up

Whether you have a magnolia growing in your garden or want to plant one, knowing how to care for one is essential. From what we found, a magnolia tree will begin to die if it has too much or too little water.

Generally, this tree species will start by losing its leaves and changing colors, moving to a more severe level of sickness as time passes. We recommend inspecting your tree regularly and testing its soil moisture levels to prevent this.

Regardless, make sure to plant your magnolia somewhere that gets at least six hours of daily sunlight, and don't be afraid to contact a professional if you see symptoms of a disease.

Made it this far? Check out these helpful related posts!

Where Is The Best Place To Plant A Magnolia Tree?

How Fast Do Magnolia Trees Grow?

A magnolia flowers damaged by frost in spring, Why Is My Magnolia Tree Dying?

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